MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah spoke in Parliament on Feb. 12, in support of the National Parks Board (Amendment) Bill.
The amendment will see non-food plant and animal-related issues moved under the purview of National Parks Board (NParks) from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Under this arrangement, a new unit known as the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) will serve as the main point of contact for animal-related issues, regardless of where the incidents involving animals occur.
In her speech, Lee asked for AVS to train experts to tackle wildlife issues to ensure the safety of the public.
She said that while co-existing harmoniously with wildlife is good, she touched on the increasing cases of wildlife such as snakes, wild boars and monkeys encroaching into residential areas.
There have been several incidents in recent weeks involving pythons appearing in populated areas, including the 3-metre python in Orchard Road which was supposedly “manhandled”.
On rats and cat feeding
Snippets of Lee’s speech, uploaded onto Facebook by 8World News, has ended up rallying support for community cats and their feeders.
This was the result of Lee singling out the food left out for cats by cat feeders as a root cause for rat infestations in the neighbourhood.
Here’s the transcript:
I’ve always found it perplexing that the police are always called in to handle snakes. I urge the AVS to train a group of experts who can handle wildlife and attending to residents who need help.
I give you an example. Recently, a resident saw a snake in the drain right in front of her unit, which is on the ground floor.
And she’s so worried because her grandchild was sleeping in the house. So she called ACRES. You know what? ACRES told her that the drain is a habitat for snake.
Therefore, they will not come and catch. Furthermore, she was told that that snake was a python. It is non-poisionous.
It is correct, but you imagine this poor grandmother, in front, is a snake, but behind is a grandchild.
By the time I came to know about it, I immediately call town council, send a pest controller down and catch the snake. But by the time it’s too late. The snake has disappeared.
It is good to have harmonious co-existence with animals. But we need to strike a balance. We need to consider the safety of our residents first.
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the problem that some cat feeders cause to our community. In Nee Soon south, Zone A, many residents complaining about sighting of big big rats, and I went down, at night to take a look.
True enough, I can see many rats dancing about, running about, and I activated AVA, NEA and town council. We formed a rats taskforce.
We found that the root cause is actually the food left behind by cat feeders. Several cat feeders, not just one, and when they walk away, the rats come and eat, the big cockcroaches come and eat. And I asked NEA to act.
They say cannot, there was an agreement by AVA and Cat (Welfare) Society, to leave food there for 2 hours. So many cat feeders, with many 2 hours, how to solve the rats issue?
Cat Welfare Society responds
The Cat Welfare Society has since responded to the video of Lee’s speech in Parliament.
In a Facebook post published on Feb. 13, the society said that they “advocate for responsible caregiving” and that mediators do work with NEA to find and penalise irresponsible caregivers who do not clear food after feeding.
They also expressed disappointment and remarked that “chair thumping laughter in response to a safe environment that we have fought for decades for our community animals” at the end of the clip “is not the compassionate society that we believed in”.
Community caregivers and the cats that they care for do not deserve to be mocked or laughed at. Neither do they deserve to be threatened by the possibility of the extermination of cats that we share our community with.
The responsible caregivers who feed our community cats on a daily basis and provide them with medical care when the need arises. They do this in their own time and out of their own funds. This is because, like us, they believe that these cats should enjoy a safe living environment and to be treated with dignity.
We advocate for responsible caregiving where food is cleared within 2 hours from being placed on the ground and water bowls are changed daily. We also advocate against irresponsible caregiving where food is not cleared and our mediators do work with NEA to find and penalise the irresponsible caregivers. This is to ensure that the root causes of the problem are identified and addressed without compromising on the welfare of our community animals.
CWS will continue working with all the town councils, NEA and AVA in ensuring that responsible caregiving is consistently provided to the cats.
We have always spoken proudly about Singapore being a humane society. One that is mature in thought and action as evidenced by the fact that it has adopted sterilisation over culling which has been proven to be ineffective. Chair thumping laughter in response to a safe environment that we have fought for decades for our community animals is not the compassionate society that we believed in.
The health of residents “much more important”
In the full video uploaded by Channel NewsAsia, the thumping of chairs actually occurred at the end of her speech, but it was cut and pieced together after the segment of Lee’s speech about the rat problem.
She elaborated that she would like to take the opportunity to ask for the removal of the two-hour feeding window in areas with rat infestations, citing the health of residents as a priority.
Here’s a transcript of what was said after the video was cut off to the actual end of her speech:
Rat multiply very fast as well. Town council and NEA have been working very hard.
They’ve been treating the burrows, sealing the burrows, catch the rats at least twice a week. But we don’t seem to be able to solve the problem.
I will like to take this opportunity to plead to the relevant agency, to remove the two hours feeding for areas that have rats issues. Resident’s health is much more important.
To conclude, the government’s decision to create a lead organisation for the management of animals is evident that it recognises the importance of this issue to the environment and to the hearts of Singaporeans.
It is good to take care of animals, but please do not forget to take care of our resident’s safety and hygienic living environment.
[Lee proceeds to summarise her speech in Mandarin, before stating that “notwithstanding the above, I support the bill.” Ministers thump their armrests as applause.]
Top image adapted via 8World News’ Facebook video and Tan Guan Zhen
This content was originally published here.