Why It Matters

Culling: Room for other views

When the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) culled 24 free-ranging chickens in Sin Ming after receiving complaints about the noise, some people were up in arms.

They asked why the chickens, deemed an irritant by a few, had to be killed. The 20 complaints could have come from the same people calling repeatedly, said Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC and a known animal welfare advocate. Others called for tolerance, saying it is difficult to judge how disruptive the chickens' calls were for residents.

The debate highlights the challenges faced by people and animals sharing Singapore's 719 sq km of land. While both animal lovers and residents have their own points of view, they should also make room for other perspectives.

Whether it is chickens now, or wild boars and dogs in the past, the AVA too needs to understand why culling elicits an emotional response.

The AVA said it also culled the free-ranging chickens as an "unchecked population" poses a risk to public health, since bird flu is endemic in the region. But why was the culling seemingly done only in areas where residents complained about noise?

Moreover, was there a risk of contractors - hired to carry out the culling - killing the wrong birds? The AVA said the free-ranging chickens sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl, an endangered bird native to Singapore.

But there were concerns that the culled birds look a lot like the endangered species.

The authorities have shown that there are other options to culling. Town councils, for example, have selectively pruned trees to temporarily deter birds such as crows and mynahs from roosting.

As Mr Ng pointed out, euthanasia is the worst option. The authorities need to show it has done its due diligence - whether it be through scientific studies, or looking to alternatives to culling.

But while both animal lovers and residents may feel their complaints are valid, all parties need to also acknowledge the difficulties faced by those who manage the environment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Culling: Room for other views'. Print Edition | Subscribe