The government said Thursday that after considering the relevant laws in countries such as Singapore it had decided to lower the maximum prison sentence of three years in the latest version of its animal protection bill to just one year.
Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan made the remark to the media after attending a meeting of the Second Standing Committee of the legislature to continue reviewing the government’s bill on public servants’ employment contracts.
Asked by reporters as to why the government changed the maximum prison sentence in the animal protection bill from three years to just one, Chan said the government had studied related laws in foreign jurisdictions such as Portugal and Singapore where the sentence for animal cruelty is one year.
“While reviewing the bill with the First Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL), lawmakers of the committee expressed the same view as the government [on the maximum prison term],” the policy secretary said.
The legislature passed the outline of the animal protection bill in October. The 1st Standing Committee is tasked with reviewing the bill article by article before a second and final plenary vote.
“I believe that it [one-year imprisonment] is a deterrent…but it is not the final decision [on the bill’s wording],” Chan said, adding that during the upcoming revision the legislature will continue to collect public opinion on the matter.
According to the original version of the bill, in Article 30, those who cause grave bodily harm to animals or violate Paragraph 1 of Article 4 – which deals with the killing of animals – faced a maximum three-year jail term.
Asked by reporters as to why the government also changed its stance on the release of captive animals, Chan said that the government respected people’s freedom of religion.
Life release is a Buddhist tradition of saving lives of animals that are destined to be killed, particularly fish, turtles and birds.
The bill’s original version banned the practice.
However, Chan said the government would ensure that the animals are returned to their original living environment when they are released.
Meanwhile, the 1st Standing Committee held its first meeting to discuss the revised version of the bill. Officials from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM), including IACM President Alex Vong Iao Lek, attended the meeting.
After the meeting, directly-elected lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang, vice-chairwoman of the Macau Federation of Trade Unions, who chairs the committee, said that during yesterday’s meeting lawmakers had not yet started reviewing the new version of the bill.
“The newly proposed prison sentence of one year will be the last topic we’ll discuss,” she said, adding the committee agreed with the government’s proposal to delete the term “pets” from the bill’s wording so that animal protection did not just focus on pets but on all animals.
Kwan also said the new version classifies animals into four categories: animals for human consumption, animals used in scientific experiments, wild animals, and animals in sport. The bill stipulates how the different groups must be treated.
Regarding the new version of the bill which allows people to free captive animals, Kwan said the government should do more to teach people how to free captive animals properly.(macaunews/macaupost)