Monday, January 18, 2010

Asia for Animals Conference 2010

VegVibe was at the opening ceremony of the AFA2010 that was held from Saturday (16 Jan) to today at the Furama Riverfront Hotel.

The largest gathering of international animal protection activists in Asia to date, 390 delgates representing 207 organisations in 26 countries would have attended the
Asia for Animals Conference 2010, which will be held over 5 days, including pre-conference workshops and post-conference tours, and is a remarkable achievement for a society instituted not long ago in 2001.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (below, right), the Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, graced the occasion as the guest of honour and was appreciative of the colossal effort undertaken by the ACRES
(Animal Concerns Research & Education Society) team in making the conference a successful reality.

He called on different interest groups to
have, what he called 'discourse coalitions' which he explained as people with sometimes-conflicting perspectives coming together to have meaningful conversation which could lead to effective, neutral solutions. He highlighted the September 2007 change to the Animals and Birds (Dog Licensing and Control) Rules that requires newly-licensed dogs to be microchipped, as one such example.

In his speech, Mr Seah sadly noted that all the good effort by the NGO's and the government has not resulted in the reduction of animal abandonment - even after a decade. This reality was punctuated by the fact that 22 abandoned pets are put to sleep every day.

Looking ahead, he advised the audience that whilst passion for the cause was important, the realities of the need for sustenance should not be overlooked. He encouraged animal welfare organisations to recruit and retain talented people, not only in terms of the causes they represent but also in other areas such as fund raising and public relations.

In his closing, he noted the acknowldgement by the European Union's that animals are sentient beings in its Official Journal (excerpt below) and declared that "the call is clarion. We cannot fail those who need our help, by inaction, or worse, by inattention."

Mr Louis Ng (below), Executive Director of ACRES then took the podium to welcome the audience - and duly apologise for his hounding of the delegates. It does seem that Mr Ng single-handedly managed the logistics of the delegates (i.e. registration, liaising, troubleshooting etc.) and he took a few moments to let off the steam by playfully lamenting the overwhleming past year spent organising the event.

Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was proud of the outcome and called the gathering "a conference of optimism and hope". He further noted that whilst the proportion of people who cared deeply about animal welfare was a minority, the challenge for everyone present was to "make this minority into a majority".

He followed this inspiring call to action with a comprehensive review of the regional achievements in combating animal welfare abuses. From RSPCA's good work in increasing awareness among the Australian public; the 265 bears rescued by Animals Asia in China; SPCA Hong Kong's new educational tool on pet care for schools; and the nationwide ban on the sale and display of 'Catapults' in India; to the pilot rabies vaccination programme in Indonesia; introduction of an animal welfare labelling system for the first time in Korea; creation of a coalition of Malaysian NGOs to improve the welfare of captive animals; establishment of a sanctuary for abandoned working donkeys by Animal Nepal; opening of the first and biggest animal rescue centre in the Philippines; 118 educational roadshows and talks conducted by ACRES in Singapore; Taiwan SPCA's appointment as consultants to ensure international animal shelter standards; and the establishment of the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, there was indeed much to rejoice.

He then drew attention to the fact that there was still much more work to be done and noted that the conference was part of that work. Many issues were discussed over the 3 days of papers presented, which were classified into the following broad categories:
  • Running Effective Education Outreach Programmes
  • Improving the Welfare of Animals in Captivity
  • Achieving Long Term Changes for Farm Animals
  • Effective Stray Animals Management
  • Wiping out the Wildlife Trade
  • Effective Stray Animals Management
  • Running a Sustainable Rescue Centre
  • Campaigning for Change (3 sessions)
  • Working with Government Agencies
There were also workshops conducted a day before the conference proper (on 15 Jan) and in the second half of the last day (today) which covered the following issues:
  • Running Effective Education Outreach Programmes (led by Ms. Amy Corrigan of ACRES)
  • Human – Macaque Interface (led by Dr Karthi Krishnasamy)
  • Improving the Welfare of Animals in Captivity (led by Mr. Louis Ng of ACRES)
  • Providing Optimal Veterinary Care (led by Dr. Fiona Woodhouse of SPCA, Hong Kong)
  • Advertising, Spreading the Message Creatively (led by Mr. Juggi Ramakrishnan)
  • Writing to win support for animals (led by Ms. Sharon St. Joan of Best Friends Animal Society)
  • Working with Volunteers (by Mr. Nilesh Bhanage of Plants & Animals Welfare Society, India; and Mr Abodh Aras of The Welfare Of Stray Dogs)

These issues run the gamut of concerns of animal activists, especially in Asia, and much information was shared throughout the conference proceedings. It was apparent that some ideas successfully implemented in one country could be transplanted or adapted to others as necessary - which would certainly be one of the aims of this conference.

Many of the local animal welfare were present, with the Singapore SPCA team noticably in full force and the Vegetarian Society (Singapore) being well-represented by its president Dr George Jacobs who presented on the virtures of Eating Less Meat. New friendships were forged and contact details exchanged during the breaks - the flip side being the unexpected delay in participants returning to the conference hall to continue on with the presentations. The food catered was also vegan - a refreshing change from the typical conference - and came complete with soya milk for the coffee and tea served.

The attention to detail was awe-inspiring, and all the more impressive when considering the small organising team involved. Special mention must also be made to Furama Riverfront Hotel which sponsored the venue.

An incredibly motivating and enriching experience,
there is no doubt that the awareness and support for animal welfare can only grow from strength to strength. Finally, kudos to ACRES for putting humble Singapore onto the world map with regard to animal welfare.


At January 24, 2010 at 6:39 AM , Blogger salil said...

Keep up the good work and ALL THE BEST


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