Animal Law in Thailand
Animal Welfare Act
Thailand is listed as one of the countries that have the Animal Welfare Act, originally known as พระราชบัญญัติป้องกันการทารุณกรรมและการจัดสวัสดิภาพสัตว์ พ.ศ. ๒๕๕๗. The country introduced the Act in 2014, which recognizes the capacity of animals to suffer but does not explicitly define animals as sentient beings. The Act states that an animal is an animal “that is normally kept as a house animal, an animal kept for usage, an animal kept as a vehicle, an animal kept as a friend, an animal kept as a food, an animal kept for performance, an animal kept for any other purposes, regardless of the presence or the absence of its owner.” In 2018, the Minister decided to include five more species of wild animals under the scope of the application of the Act, which was the hybrid tiger, civet, pigeon, wild boar, and squirrel. Animal cruelty is prohibited by the Act, defining the conduct as “an action or no action that provides an animal physical or mental suffering, pain, illness, disability or that may result in its death.” However, Section 18 of the Act has many exemptions in terms of animal cruelty.
Chapter 7 of the Act provides penalties for any violations, e.g, a person who violates the anti-cruelty provision is punished by imprisonment for up to 2 years and/or a fine for up to 40 000 baht (1300 USD). An animal owner who fails to provide their animal appropriate welfare, abandons the animal, or fails to comply with transport and performance procedures is punished by a fine up to 40 000 baht (1300 USD).
Cruelty to animals is also covered by the Criminal Code B.E. 2499, which provides that whoever mistreats an animal or kills an animal “by subjecting it to a painful state” is punished by imprisonment of up to 1 month and/or a fine up to 1000 baht (31 USD). The same penalty is provided for unreasonable overworking of an animal or using it for unsuitable work when the animal is old, young, or sick. The Criminal Code, however, does not define the term “animal” and it remains unclear what category of animals it intends to protect.
Animals used in agriculture
Farmed animals are legally protected by Sections 381, 382 of the Criminal Code and by the 2014 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Provision of Animal Welfare Act. However, the Act does not address the concept of humane slaughter, transportation, conditions of husbandry, thus farmed animals are protected by Section 17, the general anti-cruelty provision due to the definition of an “animal” that is provided by the Act. Another instrument applied to farmed animals is the Animal Disease Act 2558 which is more focused on the animals’ health and does not contain other welfare provisions for animals.
There are also Thai Agricultural Standards and the Code of Practice for Control of the Use of Veterinary Drugs, which provides good practices for using veterinary drugs in animals and animal products for human consumption.
The Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives issued a Notification of Thai Agricultural Standards: Good Agricultural Practices which are not mandatory but intended to provide standards for agricultural commodities to meet quality standards and safety checks.
In 2011, the Department of Livestock Development passed the regulations aimed at the protection of poultry on farms during transport and slaughter, including requirements for poultry to have freedom of movement and be fed in accordance with physiological needs, with sufficient space and ventilation, avoiding pain and distress during transport, and for electrical water-bath stunning before slaughter.
Thailand also has the Good Practices for Animal Welfare: Dairy Cattle Production Systems that focus on standards for farmers, such as the environmental management, mandate to avoid the painful procedure, early weaning, breeding, stock density, and slaughter.
The Control on Slaughter and Sale of Meat Act B.E. 2535 in its Section 22 allow killing animals outside the abattoir in accordance with religious rituals and conditions issued by the Ministerial Regulations in a local area and where authorized under “appropriate reasons.” Section 18(5) of the Animal Welfare Act allows slaughter “in accordance with religious ceremony or belief.” Moreover, Section 20(8) allows such practices as cutting the ear, tail, or horn of an animal if it is done “with a reasonable cause and without any harm to the animal or its existence.”
Animals kept in captivity/used for entertainment
As for some other categories of animals, Sections 381 and 382 of the Criminal Code also apply to animals kept in captivity and used for entertainment. Section 20 of the Animal Welfare Act prohibits cruelty to these animals. Officials are authorized to inspect premises where animal ill-treatment is suspected to take place. In addition, they are entitled to seize animals in case if there is suspicion that animals might be killed or be victims of cruel treatment (Section 25).
Another legal instrument concerning animals is the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act that covers the activities of wildlife sanctuaries and public zoos. It states that public zoos have a duty to run in accordance with guidelines issued by the Minister. The Act also prohibits killing and keeping protected wildlife, thus possessing protected wildlife animals in the country. However, there is an exemption to such a rule, if a person obtained a wild animal for private keeping before the Act came into force, they are allowed to keep an animal but must file a report and undergo an inspection by a relevant officer.
Animals used in research
The Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act provides in its Section 26 that it does not apply to any official’s work for the purposes of scientific research and education. In 1999, the National Research Council of Thailand issued Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, which emphasize in Section 1.1 that “animal users should reserve the use of animals for situations of their unavoidable necessity or when there is no other available option.” It also says that animals shall be treated “with caution to avoid stress, pain, and suffering by providing optimum conditions for transportation, animal husbandry, environmental enrichment, prevention of diseases, and appropriate experimental techniques.” (Section 4) These guidelines are not mandatory.
The Animal Welfare Act does not mention animals used for scientific research, but due to its preamble stating that it is applicable to all animals kept for usage, it is presumed that animals used for research might fall within the scope of the Act.
In 2015, Thailand has passed the Animals for Scientific Purposes Act B.E. 2558, the purpose of which is to supervise and promote procedures on animals for scientific purposes in harmony with universal ethics and standard for protecting animal life and welfare. Chapter 3 of the Act covers the provisions of control for procedures on animals used in research, the requirements for the establishments, procedures on sales, import and export, transportation, storage, and carcasses of animals. The Act also covers penalties in Chapter 6.
Besides the protection by the Criminal Code, the Animal Welfare Act that covers five species of wild animals, the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535 includes “all kinds of animals either terrestrial or aquatic, fowls, insects, or arthropods which naturally exist, or things which originated from or are bound by nature and able to sustain life in the forest and includes insects’ eggs of all kinds.” Hunting, propagating, keeping, or trading in preserved or protected wildlife (or their carcasses) are prohibited unless it is performed by an official under the exception stipulated in Section 26 of the Act. In 2014, an amendment to the Act made the African elephant a protected species in Thailand. New penalties were included for conducting illegal trade or possessing African elephant ivory (up to 4 years imprisonment).
In 2015, Thailand also passed the Elephant Ivory Tusks Act B.E. 2558, which requires any person wishing to trade elephant ivory tusks to submit an application to the Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation. Section 9 authorizes an official under the Penal Code to inspect and search premises or vehicle where there is reasonable cause to assume that an offense under this Act is occurring, to seize any tusks that were obtained without an appropriate permit.