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Home / Livestock

Why laws that touch on livestock matter

Dear Daktari

I am a fan of your articles and thank you for the public education on animal health. A good example is what you carried last week on the Animal Welfare Act. I was not aware such a law exists. But I sometimes think that these laws are too many and there to make our life difficult. I think we would do with fewer and necessary laws. Lukorito Samwel, Chwele.

Animal laws and regulations are set to protect the public, professional and business people. No law is there to harm anybody. [iStockphoto]

Dear Lukorito,

Thanks for your question, it speaks to many other farmers, people involved in agricultural business and the general public at large.

Law and Civilisation

If you are a lover of history then you must have learned that laws are as old as human civilisation. Laws are defined as principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognised and enforced by judicial decisions. Ancient civilisations had laws that governed their relationship with each even the present-day society is still governed by a collection of laws. Although viewed as punitive, they are beneficial. Laws and regulations are a hallmark of civilisation.

All professions are practised under a number of laws and regulations. The ultimate goal is to restore order, ensure effective service delivery and protect the public from quacks. The practice of any profession is multifaceted and brings together a set of interests from different stakeholders and hence the need to regulate how these professions are practised.

What are veterinary laws and regulations?

Veterinary medicine being among the oldest professions is not exempt from laws and regulations within and without the profession. Veterinary laws and regulations are many with equally strict measures and penalties because they deal with lives, properties and human food.

There are also professional code of ethics which if broken a professional body, the Kenya Veterinary Board can refer to and bring a case against a veterinary surgeon and paraprofessional. This is not only in Kenya but also in all countries where veterinary medicine is practised.

Additionally, there is a global institution - World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) - that acts a big brother to all countries to ensure that animal health professionals are trained adequately and that a country meets the minimal requirements. This is done through the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) so that you get a glimpse of the benefits of some of these laws I will mention below: 

Animal Diseases Act Cap 364

This law helps to contain the spread of infectious diseases. These diseases known as notifiable diseases include Rinderpest (currently eradicated from the globe), anthrax, tuberculosis, East Coast Fever, Foot and Mouth Disease among others. The veterinary government authorities have the power to issue quarantine notices that prevent movement into and out of diseased areas. This law also sets the minimum standards that must be met by those importing or exporting animals into the country also legislates on stray animals.

Benefits to farmers and the Public: This law is of great benefit to farmers and the public. This law serves to contain the spread of infectious diseases from one area to another and one of the ways it does this is to restrict the movement of animals out of or into a diseases area or from other countries through our ports of entry. In the current era of increased incidences of zoonotic diseases this law when aptly applied benefits the general public.

Meat Control Act 356

This Act of Parliament serves to control the quality of meat and meat products intended for human consumption. This law is exercised over slaughterhouses and other places that meat is processed either for local markets or export. Through licensing and inspection hygiene standards are enforced to protect the public from consuming harmful meat.

Rabies Act 365

This law was developed specifically to provide a legal framework for the control of rabies a fatal zoonotic disease mainly spread by infected dogs. Once again, this law is to safeguard the public against rabies while at the same time advocating for responsible dog ownership.

From these examples, it is evident that every law or regulation is set to protect the public, professional and business people. No law is there to harm anybody. These laws are open to review from time to time during which they are amended in line with the changing times.

Are laws burdensome?

Laws are often viewed negatively by the public; based on a wrong perception that they exist to punish. But on the contrary, laws exist for the good of us all and it should our civil duty to ensure they are followed and report any unlawful practices.

Dr Othieno is a veterinary surgeon and head of communications at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Kenya. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of FAO but his own.

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