Scientists Step Up Hunt for ‘Asian Unicorn’, One of World’s Rarest Animals
January 7, 2022
Weighing 80-100kg and sporting long straight horns, white spots on its face, and large facial scent glands, the saola does not sound like an animal that would be hard to spot. But it was not until 1992 that this elusive creature was discovered, becoming the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.
Nicknamed the “Asian unicorn”, the saola continues to be elusive. They have never been seen by a biologist in the wild and have been camera-trapped only a handful of times. There are reports of villagers trying to keep them in captivity but they have died after a few weeks, probably due to the wrong diet.
In 2001, the saola population was estimated to number 70 to 700 in Laos and several hundred in Vietnam. More recently, experts have put the number at fewer than 100 – a decline that led to the species being listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list in 2006, the highest risk category that a species can have before extinction in the wild.
According to the IUCN, only about 30% of potential Saola habitat has had any form of wildlife survey, and potentially as little as 2% has been searched intensively for the species. Technologies limit the capabilities – camera traps are not good at detecting individual animals that are spread across a large area, especially in the damp, dense forest of the saola range.
Commentaries of IALA
According to the IUCN Red List, Saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis is listed as Critically Endangered in 2015. The species occurs only in Asia with a small size of population 70 to 700 in Laos and several hundred in Vietnam (estimated in 2001). The current population trend is decreasing. According to WWF, the actual size of the remaining population is unknown. Commercial hunting in the Saola's range for the wildlife trade of bushmeat and traditional medicine is the main threat to Saola. Besides, logging and wood harvesting, mining and quarrying, and other human activities also cause the decrease of the species. Saola is listed in CITES Appendix I. It is protected by national law in Vietnam (Decree 48; IB) and in Laos (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Regulation 360). The Saola Working Group was formed in 2006 in recognition of the need for urgent, coordinated action to save the Saola from extinction.
Read our blog: Animal Law in Laos and Animal Law in Vietnam
First Cage-Free Production Standard Launched in China
January 13, 2022
Cages used for housing laying hens have progressively been phased out in parts of the world, namely the EU and the U.S, where legislative bans and company commitments favor farming systems that respect animals’ freedom of movement. However, no concrete policies are currently enforced that specify housing systems for laying hens in China, the largest producer of eggs in the world.
In order to facilitate the adoption of cage-free systems in China, FAI Farms, IQC, China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), and China Animal Health and Food Safety Alliance (CAFA), jointly released the “Evaluation Guidelines of Cage-Free Egg Production” Group Standard on 13th October 2021. This set of guidelines not only informs interested producers on how to improve their farms but enables retail and catering enterprises to evaluate their suppliers and ensure best practices. A unified definition of ‘cage-free’ helps consumers and retailers to differentiate products on the market, ensuring the healthy and sustainable growth of cage-free eggs in China. This Standard is a milestone in managing production practices for producers and clarifying the previously ambiguous ‘cage-free’ label for consumers.
The Group Standard is the first set of guidelines to establish baseline measures and key components of cage-free systems, including environmental control and husbandry practices. The objectives of the Group Standard are summarised below:
Inform the industry and market of optimal cage-free production;
Facilitate cage-free layer breeders to standardize management;
Provide retail and catering enterprises a set of guidelines to evaluate cage-free egg production; and
Promote international standards.
The Group Standard for cage-free production was heavily based upon existing Chinese laws and policies, many of which correspond to food safety and environmental concerns.
Commentaries of IALA
The document “Evaluation Guidelines of Cage-Free Egg Production” (《非笼养鸡蛋生产评价指南》（T/CCFAGS 025-2021）) was released and implemented in October 2021. It aims to ensure the production, and circulation of "non-cage eggs", as well as to provide a third-party evaluation basis for the authenticity of consumption. In other jurisdictions, traditional cage eggs were banned in Sweden in 2002, Austria in 2008, the UK in 2012, and France in 2022. Different from the European issuing regulations to ban traditional cage eggs in the perspective of animal welfare, China's current stage is to encourage the development of non-cage eggs and high-quality egg industries.
Although there is no animal welfare law or general animal protection law in mainland China, the Farm animal welfare requirements: Laying hen (2017) by The International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare (ICCAW) has provided recommended standards are the requirements of the whole process of farming, transport, and slaughter of laying hens in farm animal welfare requirements.
The new Guidelines provide animal welfare production standards, emphasize the indicators of food safety products, as well as consistency, practical evaluation criteria for production, packaging, transportation, storage, and sales process.
Read our blog: Farmed Animal Welfare Group Standards in mainland China
New Guidelines for Adoption, Rehoming of Dogs in Singapore
January 14, 2022
Clearly written adoption agreements and a pre-adoption screening process covering the responsibilities and expectations of adopting a pet: these are among new guidelines aimed at standardizing practices in the rehoming and adoption of dogs in Singapore.
The guidelines, introduced on Friday (Jan 14), were developed by the Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup, comprised of veterinarians, dog trainers, and members of animal welfare groups. Formed in October 2020, the workgroup is led by Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How and supported by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) under the National Parks Board.
Under the new guidelines, animal welfare groups are advised to draw up an adoption/rehoming policy that includes considerations for when a dog should or should not be rehomed, and conditions under which ownership of the dog should be transferred to a new owner.
Animal welfare groups can also share a list of criteria for refusing the adoption of a dog, such as having reason to believe that the adoption will have a detrimental impact on the welfare of the dog, and concerns over interactions between prospective adopters and the dog.
Commentaries of IALA
In January, Singapore released the new guidelines to standardize dog rehoming and adoption practices, and dog training and behavior rehabilitation. The Guidelines for Rehoming and Adoption of Dogs cover the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in the rehoming process and post-adoption support for adopters. Rehomers and adopters are encouraged to refer to these guidelines to better safeguard animal welfare and improve communication between parties.
The purpose of the adoption and rehoming policy includes:
(1) Facilitating an effective and successful transition of animals from the AWG to an adopter with minimal stress on the dog;
(2) Giving consideration to the long-term quality of life of a dog, and protecting public safety; and
(3) Finding a home that is the best fit for each dog.
The Guidelines provide rules on the pre-adoption screening process, developing adoption agreements, information that should be provided by AWGs to supplement the adoption agreement, as well as roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.
Read our blog: Animal Law in Singapore
Hong Kong to Cull 2,000 Hamsters After COVID-19 Outbreak
January 18, 2022
Hong Kong warned people not to kiss pets and ordered a mass cull of hamsters on Tuesday, to the outrage of animal lovers, after 11 of the rodents tested positive for COVID-19.
A recent coronavirus cluster in humans traced to a pet shop worker prompted checks on hundreds of animals in the Chinese-ruled territory, with 11 hamsters found infected, officials said. Echoing the mainland's zero-tolerance policy even as much of the world shifts to living with COVID, Hong Kong ordered 2,000 hamsters "humanely" put down, and imports and sales stopped.
Various pet shops were shuttered and disinfected around the city, while men in protective gear scoured the store at the heart of the cluster in the bustling Causeway Bay district. The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs veterinary clinics, urged a rethink.
Hong Kong has also been testing rabbits and chinchillas but only the hamsters were positive. They were all imported from the Netherlands, according to local broadcaster RTHK. Around the world, there have been coronavirus cases in dogs and cats too, though scientists say there is no evidence animals play a major role in human contagion.
Commentaries of IALA
According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, the authorities have the power to order the destruction of animals. (Article 6) Any magistrate, senior veterinary officer, health officer, health inspector, government medical officer, or police officer not below the rank of the inspector who has satisfied himself by personal inspection — […] (c) that an animal, whether injured or otherwise, is trapped in such a position as to render it impracticable to effect a rescue and it is contrary to public health or safety to keep it alive or that an animal is trapped in such a position that there is no possibility of removing it without cruelty and it is cruel to keep it alive, may by order in writing direct such animal to be destroyed, […]. However, according to the current study by FAO, there is no evidence that animals can transmit the coronavirus to humans. Therefore, the animals should not be killed merely based on the protection of public safety.
Read our blog: Animal Law in China
Baghdad Animal Shelter Sets Out to Aid Stray Animals
January 24, 2022
Bella the dog can barely stand after being abused, but there is hope as she receives the care she needs at a shelter and refuge for animals in Baghdad, an organization that wants to become Iraq's first veterinary clinic for stray animals.
The Baghdad Animal Rescue opened around a week ago, and Bella, a nervous fox-like dog who raises her muzzle for strokes while still shaking in fear, seems in caring hands.
More than a decade ago, thousands of stray dogs were gunned down with automatic weapons after municipalities including Baghdad decided that their numbers were too high. For now, the shelter is home to just a handful of animals, including a black cat named Zaatar – "thyme" in Arabic – who was blinded in a car accident. Volunteers do their best to provide care, comfort, and solace to distressed creatures.
The refuge, just west of the Iraqi capital, consists of the main room where the animals receive treatment, along with a storage area and cages. It could eventually hold several hundred animals and aims to one day become a veterinary clinic for strays. But for now, it lacks funding. The United Nations says about one-third of the population lives in poverty, despite the country's oil wealth. According to the agriculture ministry, there are three reserves for wild species such as deer, but no facilities to care for urban animals.
Commentaries of IALA
Animal shelters provide basic care for homeless and unwanted animals, including food, water, medical care, and other sources. For abandoned and abused animals, the foster care and adoption programs build connections between local communities and the animals, giving the shelter animals opportunities for finding new homes and new lives. Keeping animals in animal shelters also adequately protects animal welfare, and neutralization and vaccination in shelters can reduce the number of stray dogs and cats and the risk of disease. However, for long-term operation, the capacity of the animal shelters should be carefully estimated based on financial resources, staff, and space to avoid financial and other operational difficulties. Read more about animal shelters here.
Uproar: Are Animal Portrayals in Ads a New Brand Risk?
January 28, 2022
What if the statement, 'No animals were harmed during the making of this ad campaign' is no longer good enough?
That’s a question that CMOs and other brand shepherds may be pondering in the wake of a controversy over a recent Gucci campaign. The campaign, promoting a line of products for the Year of the Tiger, showed some of the big cats not in their natural setting, but in a ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ sort of milieu—their regal presences alongside people wearing expensive clothes and accessories in homes decorated with the garish decor that signifies great wealth (in luxury ads at least).
Animal-rights groups lambasted the brand for treating wild—not to mention endangered—animals as if they were pets or accessories. What’s more, Gucci had to face the denunciation even though most critics were aware from the start that the campaign did not use real tigers, just photo editing.
The reasoning Gucci’s critics unspooled is that such campaigns glorify the cruel and dangerous misuse of animals and contribute to a sense that they’re playthings for human enjoyment, while potentially driving exploitation. Brands and agencies must consider whether their campaigns might inadvertently fuel public demand for wildlife products and experiences and whether their ads might actually drive demand for the trade of wildlife, whether legal or illegal.
Commentaries of IALA
Any form of use or abuse of wildlife animals for advertising purposes should be avoided, as the use of wildlife in advertising may mislead the consumers into believing that keeping wildlife in captivity is acceptable. Wildlife animals should not be trained and kept in captivity for commercial purposes. “Stewart of World Animal Protection advises brands to consult with animal-welfare organizations that stand against captivity, in order to be guided toward a truly wildlife-friendly approach.”
For wildlife used in advertising, questions about animals' origin, transportation, living conditions, and other basic animal welfare needs should be considered. Direct or indirect harm to wildlife would have significant negative impacts on the animal and could increase the possibility of extinction.
Read our blog: An Overview of Wildlife Protection