Face Off: There needs to be harsher punishment for animal abuse in Hong Kong

Face Off: There needs to be harsher punishment for animal abuse in Hong Kong

Each week, two students will debate a hot topic. This week May Huang and Lucinda Kam debate whether or not there needs to be harsher punishment for animal abuse

May Huang, 18, Chinese International School

On paper, the laws concerning animal cruelty in Hong Kong seem fair: those who cause suffering to animals are liable to a HK$200,000 fine and three years in prison. However, recent events show that a disturbing degree of leniency is being applied when it comes to punishing animal abusers.

For example, a man who killed his dog by throwing it into a washing machine in September was heavily criticised, but eventually not arrested. More recently, the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant was granted bail on April 11 even though photographs seemed to show that the restaurant was processing dog meat.

In the end, the mild and short punishments that law breakers face do not highlight the huge amount of animal cruelty or the effectiveness of the law.

University of Hong Kong law professor Amanda Whitfort points out that animal cruelty is largely caused by negligence, yet Hong Kong law says that animal abuse is relevant only once the animal begins to suffer - in other words, a cat owner who does not feed her pet is not legally responsible until her cat is in danger of dying by starvation. In this way, the law discards the "duty of care" principle, which obliges caretakers to ensure the well-being of those for whom they are responsible. Without harsher punishment that extends to the daily treatment of pets, a more penetrating form of animal cruelty will continue unchecked in Hong Kong.

The philosopher Peter Singer once wrote: "We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves." Indeed, such "speaking up" is key to better handling cases of animal abuse. By punishing those guilty of animal cruelty, we will make Hong Kong a safer place for not just some, but all, living beings.

Lucinda Kam, 19, HKUSPACE, Po Leung Kuk Stanley Ho Community College

The government is aware of the issue of animal abuse. In Hong Kong, abusers may be fined HK$200,000 and sent to prison for three years. Some people say this doesn't go far enough, and people who abuse animals should get longer prison sentences, more community service hours, or higher fines, etc.

This won't work.

First, the current punishment does a good job of warning people not to abuse animals. Since 2010, Hong Kong has supplemented laws against cruelty by making laws that specify how animals should be treated.

Departments in Hong Kong such as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), Department of Health and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) are observing the laws to protect animal welfare as best they can.

The current punishments are effective in stopping the general public from abusing animals.

Most people do not abuse animals intentionally. Generally, people with healthy minds will respect the rights of animals. However, people with mental disorders have a hard time controlling themselves, and they might do things that are not acceptable.

So, harsher punishments are not a good way to stop animal abusers - especially the ones who are mentally unwell. In this case, imposing harsher punishment would be useless and would not stop them from abusing animals again in the future.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
There needs to be harsher punishment for animal abuse in Hong Kong


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