The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted several parliamentary questions to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, requesting clarity on whether existing conservation legislation such as the regulations on Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) will still apply to wildlife species that are commercially-bred or that have been re-classified as “livestock”. We have also submitted a question to Minister Didiza on her motivation to add endangered and threatened species for legal consumption under the Meat Safety Act.
The DA is deeply concerned by the unilateral decision taken by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, whom without any consultation with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), gazetted for comment an amendment to Schedule-1 of the Meat Safety Act for inclusion of critically endangered species such as black rhino and threatened species such as African elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe and mountain zebra.
The Meat Safety Act ensures the safety of animal products by setting out the national standards with respect to abattoirs; the import and export of meat; and meat safety schemes. Minister Didiza’s amendment seeks to add numerous threatened and endangered wildlife species such as black and white rhino, African elephant, giraffe and hippopotamus to Schedule-1 of the Act, permitting their legal slaughter and consumption. A proviso at the end of the amendment to the act points out that the slaughter for human and animal consumption will be in line with conservation provisions.
The conservation provision at the end of the act appears to render the inclusion of critically endangered and threatened species to the act redundant, as conservation legislation would seemingly always take precedence. What then is Minister Didiza’s aim in adding these iconic species to Schedule-1 of the Meat Safety Act, if indeed they will never be butchered in abattoirs and their meat and body parts never sold and exported?
In May 2019, the then Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Senzani Zokwana, in a very similar vein enacted a controversial amendment to another piece of legislation affecting threatened species: The Animal Improvement Act (AIA). The amendment saw 33 wild mammal species, commonly bred by wildlife ranchers, reclassified under Table 7 of the regulations as livestock. The AIA amendment would appear to have paved the way for the commercialisation of wildlife including meat sales which will now be legalised under the Meat Safety Act.
In the wake of the devastating global cost to life and economy brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, mitigating the risk of future zoonotic spillover should be of the highest governmental priority. Minister Didiza’s attempt to legalise the consumption of wild animals is unfathomable. The DA will continue to fight for the protection and responsible management of South Africa’s wildlife.
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