The Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) this morning held a press conference with Legislator Lin Shu-fen to call on the government to regulate the removal of non-native invasive species.
The animal protection organization urged the Council of Agriculture to formulate standardized procedures for the humane removal and euthanasia of animals belonging to non-native invasive species, and prohibit the commercialization of their meat and other by-products.
Currently, the removal of non-native invasive animals is entirely unregulated. Cities, counties, and contractors tasked with this exercising this responsibility have no guidelines for how removal should be conducted to minimize the suffering of animals, with some even promoting cruel and inappropriate methods. The policy vacuum has resulted in a chaotic free-for-all at the expense of the welfare of the targeted animals.
The calls for improved regulations follow countless cruelty cases documented on social media in Taiwan, that advocates suspect have been fanned by the demonization of invasive species by the government and the media. Incidents of cruelty have included green iguanas being skewered with homemade bows and arrows, lizards sliced open while conscious, and green iguanas enduring firecrackers set off inside their mouths with their limbs taped to their bodies.
“While population management of non-native invasive species plays an important role in protecting biodiversity” said Legislator Lin Shu-fen, “animal removal should that take into account animal welfare, promote conservation values, and avoid conveying anti-social messages.”
Underscoring the absence of control over who conducts the removals, since 2019 the Pingtung County Government has been gifting packets of red beans and black soybeans to anyone who kills green iguanas, while in 2017 the Chiayi County Government launched cash bounties for green iguanas and brown anoles. In the latter case, the NT$971,000 bounty allocated by the government was fully subscribed within a day of its launch, as the scheme was inundated with applications. With no verification system in place, reports abounded of villagers mistaking native wildlife for non-native species, with some reports stating villagers had gone so far as to breed invasive creatures as a result of the financial incentive.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition states that all organizations conducting removals of invasive species should provide professional training on animal behavior and capture and restraint techniques that minimize animal suffering and risk of personal injury. Personnel and training requirements are present in management policies in Australia, the European Union, and the U.S. state of Florida, but sorely absent in Taiwan.
Reports of non-native invasive species being turned into meat, leather, and other by-products is also cause for concern, particularly in the shadow of the global coronavirus pandemic, which may have emerged as a result of unorthodox human interaction with wildlife species. The emergence of a market for such products could not only promote the breeding of invasive species by reckless profiteers, but also create a transmission pathway for zoonotic diseases, posing an alarming threat to public health.
Yu-Min Chen, the Deputy Chief Executive of EAST noted that the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has already released guidelines regarding the removal of non-native invasive species, in addition to a framework for assessing the importation of non-native animals, to help countries grappling with how to deal with intersecting issues of biodiversity and animal welfare.
“Humans have introduced many non-native animal species to Taiwan—usually for our financial benefit—however poor management has resulted in these animals escaping to the wild and threatening local ecosystems,” she said.
“It is critical that the government takes responsibility by introducing animal welfare protocols for the removal of non-native invasive species, shutting down attempts to commercialize their by-products, and investigating cases of abuse according to Article 6 of the Animal Protection Act.”
Director, Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
0972-302-319 / 02-22369735