A bill of rights for animals

Raft of punishments proposed to end cruelty to animals

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Saudi Gazette report

THE Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has set up a ministerial committee to look into cases of torturing animals and birds at shops and farms. The committee will look into reports given by field inspectors. It has already fined several individuals in different regions of the Kingdom after ensuring their involvement in such cases.

According to the GCC Animal Welfare Act, which was endorsed by Saudi Arabia four years ago, anyone convicted of torturing animals could be slapped with a fine of between SR50,000 and SR400,000.

The committee will look into cases of mistreatment of animals and birds at pet shops, livestock markets and farms, said the ministry, adding that the Saudi law was drafted in line with the GCC Act to ensure kind treatment of animals.

Individuals and institutions that abuse animals by not giving them a suitable environment will also be punished. Violators of the law include individuals who beat animals or do not feed them properly. Trading in sick and endangered animals is also punishable by law.

The ministry has intensified field inspections after several reports of animal torture went viral on social media.

"Our squads have recorded a number of animal rights violations inside shops and farms," said Dr. Abdullah Abalkhail, spokesman for the Ministry Environment, Water and Agriculture, adding that these cases have been passed to the ministerial committee to take action.

He said the committee, which was formed by the minister of environment, water and agriculture, would issue punishments against violators of the law within 60 days of receiving a complaint.

"The committee's decision will be implemented as per the Animal Welfare Act," Abalkhail told Al-Hayat Arabic daily. He said efforts would be made to track down culprits who maltreat animals and birds with the support of security agencies.

Alanoud Al-Hejailan, a Saudi columnist, emphasized the importance of showing kindness toward animals in light of Islamic teachings. "The way we treat animals is a strong indication of our moral character as human beings. A person who is cruel to a helpless animal is capable of committing graver crimes," she said.

She commended the GCC Animal Welfare Act, which protects animals from mistreatment by owners and caretakers. "The definition of ill treatment also emotional aspects, such as separating a mother bird from its chicks," she pointed out.

To drive home her point, Al-Hejailan quoted an incident from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as reported by Imam Muslim in his Sahih.

A companion of the Prophet said during a trip they saw a bird with two chicks, and took the chicks from the nest. When the Prophet returned to the group, he found the mother bird circling above them, beating its wings in grief.

"Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its chicks?" the Prophet asked his companions and told them to return the chicks to the nest.

Society for animal welfare

Minister of Labor and Social Development Ali Al-Ghafis meanwhile approved Saudi Arabia's first society for animal welfare, Makkah newspaper reported.

Dr. Mansour Al-Khanezan, a lawyer who founded the society, said it would operate under the umbrella of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development as a reference for all societies as well as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture by virtue of jurisdiction.

He explained that the society's objectives were shared with officials in both ministries and they were met with satisfaction.

Al-Khanezan said the society would act as a community partner to coordinate with relevant government agencies and fill the gap of a reference authority specialized in animal welfare.

Director General of the Department of Health and Veterinary Control at the Ministry of Environment Dr. Ali Al-Duwairj said, "We are pleased with the number of people interested in animal rights and happy to see this society established. We hope it would have the support of the ministry and other concerned authorities."


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