New bill aims to ensure animal rights in Lebanon

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Several cows are kept in a small pen in Beirut's slaughterhouse which recently has been a subject of controversy due to its unsanitary conditions. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Tahtah

By: Bassam Alkantar

Published Thursday, November 27, 2014

Discussing food safety in Lebanon is pointless without the adoption of proper legislation, particularly the animal protection bill recently submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture to the Council of Ministers, which will later be voted on by parliament, if approved.

In conjunction with the current food safety campaign, Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb referred the Animal Protection and Welfare Bill to the Council of Ministers, three years after it was first submitted by Animals Lebanon and undergoing thorough review by a committee charged by the ministry to present remarks and recommendations.

The bill ultimately aims to establish a comprehensive system aimed at protecting animals and ensuring their welfare, while limiting cases during which it is allowed to inflict pain or subject them to danger or torture. The bill sets in place general guidelines regarding the treatment of animals, regulates the establishments that use animals, and punishes violators in compliance with international conventions, mainly the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the recommendations issued by the World Organization for Animal Health.

Lebanon currently lacks legislation to provide legal protection for animals, except for a small number of articles mentioned in the penal code and provisions stipulated in a legislative decree pertaining to sites classified as hazardous, dangerous to public health or causing a nuisance, and in other resolutions issued decades ago that no longer apply to the current situation on the ground.

In fact, the Animal Protection Law is an integral part of a comprehensive legislative initiative aimed at guaranteeing food safety, whether through the food safety law or other legislative and administrative resolutions issued by local municipalities or governorates. The law creates criteria that the establishments subjected to this law, such as farms and slaughterhouses, have to meet, which include suitable heating, lighting, ventilation and humidity equipment, in addition to committing to safety, preserving public peace, hygiene, and other environmental conditions, using the adequate infrastructure to provide animals with food and water, and establishing a quarantine for sick and injured animals in order to prevent the spread of diseases.

The bill also includes an article regulating animal transport, which calls for complying with IATA regulations during live animal aerial shipments, and complying with the recommendations of the World Organization for Animal Health when transporting animals by sea or land, in addition to using the most appropriate means of loading and unloading, transportation and providing veterinary procedures during import, export, and transit.

Chapter four of the bill sets in place regulations regarding breeding of animals and animal use in work, and regulates livestock slaughter which should be restricted to licensed slaughterhouses and establishments. A regulatory decree is to be issued to determine technical and health conditions in slaughterhouses and establishments that are equipped to slaughter farm animals.

In his referral letter to the Council of Ministers, Chehayeb said the bill would give the Ministry of Agriculture broad powers to implement these regulations that are in compliance with international conventions. He also mentioned the proper ways to stop violations, seize animals, shut down establishments, and escalate sanctions so they fit with the nature of the violations.

Chehayeb stressed the need for cooperation between his ministry and the private sector in order to implement the law, and hoped that concerned ministries would present their remarks soon for the Council of Ministers to approve the bill and refer it to parliament.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Jason Mier, the executive director of Animals Lebanon, said this draft law is the result of years of hard work, and called for the bill to become law as soon as possible for the sake of people’s health and the safety of their food, since it constitutes a major shift in the modus operandi of slaughterhouses, farms and other establishments that deal with animals, particularly in the light of documented video footage showing livestock slaughters that disregarded the minimum recommendations by the World Organization for Animal Health.

The constitution of the World Organization for Animal Health sets precautionary measures regarding the import and export of meat and live animals meant for slaughter. It stipulates that the beef should be derived from cattle less than 30 months of age, free from all symptoms of infectious diseases, and having undergone a test for mad-cow disease.
“Animals are tossed around brutally with their feet, heads, horns, and ears tied up, and then slaughtered in an incorrect manner,” Meir said, adding “these things are happening right now in Lebanon and they should stop for good.”

Follow Bassan Kantar: http://about.me/bassam.kantar

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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