New animal rights needed in SA

Does the South African law truly view animals as sentient beings, or is there room for improvement? It’s a question that Rui Lopes, Managing Director at Lopes Attorneys, has been asking. “We are in a position where South Africa’s Constitution does not specifically cater for animal rights in the same way some other countries do. For example, in Germany and India, there are sets of constitutional standards that are far more stringent about safeguarding animal welfare. In South Africa, the neglect of animal welfare is a major concern, especially in light of the judiciary’s attitude towards considering animals as sentient beings capable of suffering,” explains Rui.

“Canned hunting is also prevalent in South Africa. The canned hunting trade is very lucrative for those involved, not only due to revenue generated by hunters, but also from the illicit trade that occurs in relation to lion bone. But we are faced with a declining lion population and animals being kept and hunted in completely inhumane conditions. The sad reality is that, often, compassion and animal welfare have given way to financial gain.”

He concludes that, unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, animals are still considered property in South Africa. “We need to start making a shift, both as a society and in the legislature, to view animals as sentient beings worthy of protection, just as humans are. That begins with community engagement and community outreach initiatives that educate and advocate the protection and care of animals. These factors are also contained in the environmental management principles outlined in the National Environmental Management Act.”


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