On January 17, protestors dressed as chickens, rabbits, pigs and monkeys descended on Taiwan’s legislature to protest the exclusion of animal protection from the constitutional amendment debate.
The costumer-garbed protestors represented an alliance of animal protection organizations including the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), Taiwan SPCA and the Life Conservationist Association united under the Animal Protection Legislative Movement Alliance (APLMA).
The protestors condemned the omission of constitutional recognition of animal protection from the agenda of the Constitutional Amendment Committee’s second public hearing, held later that day. This marked the second time that animal protection issues were excluded from discussion, with no representatives of animal protection groups invited to attend.
The inclusion of animal protection in the constitution is the only single issue to achieve cross-party consensus apart from for lowering the voting age to 18 – the signature reform of the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
Of the 75 proposals put forward by legislators to amend Taiwan’s constitution, eight proposals pertain to animal protection. The number of proposals ranks second only to the number of proposals to lower the voting age.
It is time for Taiwan to respect the life and dignity of these sentient life forms, and to protect the welfare of animals, declared APLMA spokesperson Ho Tsung-hsun at the rally.
“Our request for animal protection – these two words – to be added to the Constitution is already the most modest proposal,” he said, adding “environmental protection has been in the constitution for nearly 20 years, but we are not because of this unable to build or develop.”
APLMA urged the ruling DPP to allow debate on issues that have achieved consensus to proceed based on their merits, to avoid being held back by issues that lack cross-party support.
The rally was attended by legislator Hung Sun-han of the DPP, legislators Hung Mong-Kai and Lin Yi-Hua of the Kuomintang, and legislator Pi-Ru Tsai of the Taiwan People’s Party.
Legislator Hung Sun-han stated that he had personally put forward a proposal to incorporate animal protection in the Constitution and voiced his support to the Constitutional Amendment Committee.
Legislator Hung Mong-Kai promised “we will absolutely not stop until the day that we reach our goal,” adding that support for including animal protection in the Constitution had always been his party’s position.
“Every time animal protection groups hold a press conference there are representatives of all parties” said legislator Lin Yi-Hua, emphasizing “this is not a party-political issue.”
Legislator Pi-Ru Tsai echoed the rare nature of non-partisan consensus, backing animal groups’ calls to “discuss these issues [that have consensus] one by one.”
Wu Hung, Chief Executive of the EAST, urged the government to progress the reform, saying that a failure to do so will hinder efforts to ban unnecessary animal testing, stop cruel treatment of animals and promote more humane farming in Taiwan.
Proposals to amend the Constitution must first be passed by a three-quarters supermajority of lawmakers before being put to a referendum. They are only adopted if half of all eligible voters vote in favor of their passage. Under Taiwan’s existing Civil Code, animals are considered items or property belonging to a human owner and not recognized as sentient beings.
To date, at least eight nations and the European Union have incorporated animal protection into their constitutions including Germany, Brazil and India, accounting for around a quarter of the global population.
If successful, Taiwan would be the first country in East Asia to incorporate animal protection into its constitution.
Yu-Min Chen, Deputy Chief Executive
Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
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