Laws alone are not enough to solve the problem of animal cruelty but must be accompanied by a change in mentality, which should be the first objective, newly-appointed Environment Commissioner Klelia Vasileiou said on Sunday.
Addressing the Animal Party’s annual conference, Vasileiou said the government had taken a number of measures aimed at further strengthening and protecting animal welfare structures.
“However, there is still much to be done because laws alone are not enough,” she said. “The cultivation of culture and consciousness is a first objective.”
When it comes to animal welfare and the protection of wildlife, the commissioner said extreme positions needed to be avoided such as advocating for one species alone without taking into consideration that nature is an ecosystem where many forms of life co-exist, including humans.
All stakeholders should use good judgement and propose balanced solutions that did not overprotect one species to the detriment of others, said Vasileiou.
“The debate should not only be about pets and more specifically dogs and cats but every life that lives and breathes in the same ecosystem as each contributes in ways we may never know,” she said.
“Anyone who seriously cares about the need to protect animals should be well aware that the reference is not only to the animals we have in our home environment.”
She said many species of wildlife contribute to making the lives of humans better from the water to the soil and the air.
Animals such as snakes, bats, foxes and hedgehogs, widely seen as pests on the island, were the “natural cleaners of the environment” in ways that can free humans from the use of chemicals.
“This also includes humans who are called upon to coexist but also to support his own ecosystem,” she added.
Vasileiou said outstanding issues across a wide spectrum of animal welfare advocates could be resolved through measured dialogue, “clear discussions, without fanaticism and extremes”, she added.
“It should be understood from the outset that only with respect to each position can we have a receptive audience and adopt the basic rules. The challenge for all of us is to lower the tones and use real arguments to see better days for animal welfare. Nature’s creatures, like every human being, have different needs that need to be respected. This requires knowledge, responsibility and real arguments.”
A message from President Nicos Anastasiades was also read out at the congress by Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis saying that animal welfare was high on the government’s agenda
“Animal welfare can only be a collective effort, as it is part of all EU values and a social issue,” he said.
He expressed his appreciation to Kyriakos Kyriakou, the head of the Animal Party.
“Through timely suggestions and constructive criticism, he is helping the government and various departments to formulate more appropriate programmes and targeted actions for animal welfare,” the president’s message added.
The government was also continuing to consult with the Legal Service to promote as quickly as possible other important laws aimed at further regulating specific issues, such as the sale and possession of pets and the operation of zoos.
Efforts were also being made to inform and raise public awareness of animal welfare with TV spots, which will also be used by the education ministry as material in schools.
Anastasiades also thanked the many volunteers that run animal shelters and said they were “essential partners” in promoting animal welfare.