TN Sets up Animal Welfare Board But Omits Animal Welfare Activists

Keeping up with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Tamil Nadu government has finally set up the State Animal Welfare Board (AWB).

In a Government Order (GO) issued on 28 November, K Gopal, Principal Secretary to Government for the Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Department, said that Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami would serve as the Chairperson of the General Body.

“In view of the above, of the prevailing misinterpretations, violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the conflicting situation that thus arises between animal activists and general public, it has been proposed to constitute the Tamil Nadu Animal Welfare Board,” said the GO.

With its registered office at the Veterinary Hospital Campus in Nandanam, the functions of the Board would include advising the state government for “strict implementation" of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in letter and spirit of the law.

No Representation from Civil Society

However, animal welfare activists and civil society groups in the state find no representation in any of its subcommittees – the General Body, the Executive Committee or the Standing Committee.

Apart from representatives from various government departments, the General Body includes an honorary member from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). However, the SPCA, too, is a quasi-government body, say activists.

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Speaking to TNM, Vinod, General Manager of Blue Cross of India and former Assistant Secretary of the AWBI explains that the SPCA, currently based in Chennai, lacks the resources to carry out its mandate.

“The SPCA actually has the power to take animals to the infirmary and take action against any violators. The intention of the body is to be as effective as possible. However, in most states, including Tamil Nadu, it only remains a paper tiger,” he said.

While he welcomes the formation of the state AWBI, he points out, “Animal welfare NGOs have played a good role in shaping the policies of the AWB of India. High-level bureaucrats have a lot of responsibility. They cannot be expected to spend a whole lot of time on this. Being a member of the AWBI is only a small part of their job.”

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act mandates that the representatives of organisations actively interested in animal welfare ought to be represented on the board, he points out.

Echoing these views, animal activist and former member of the AWBI Antony Rubin tells TNM that the lack of civil society representatives is shocking since the body needs to be held accountable from within too.

“There are no stakeholders involved. The people who carry out the day-to-day rescue work and are experienced in animal welfare activities are not represented. The government officials and the retired government officials in this newly-formed body are not into field work. Without expert knowledge, I am not sure how this would go beyond the paper,” he said.

(This story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished in an arrangement.)

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