News analysis

Greater focus on food safety and animal welfare

New agency and redistribution of functions will mean resources are consolidated to tackle each issue

Singapore is placing a greater focus on the issues of animal welfare and food security.

Currently, both these areas fall under the purview of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), but when this is disbanded next April, animal issues will be taken care of by the National Parks Board (NParks), and a new Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will be set up.

The move will mean resources are consolidated to tackle each issue.

NParks is already custodian of Singapore's parks and nature reserves, and yesterday's announcement will ensure that it has jurisdiction over animals that move beyond the confines of Singapore's nature areas too.

Already, Singapore has seen a growing number of encounters between humans and wildlife, as the country's greening efforts take hold.

Wild boars, chickens or long-tailed macaques are just some animals that are found beyond the confines of nature areas.

Wild boars were spotted around Tuas bus interchange in June last year. Such encounters between humans and wildlife are rising.
Wild boars were spotted around Tuas bus interchange in June last year. Such encounters between humans and wildlife are rising. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

They also venture into urban areas, sometimes clashing with humans and sparking debates over whether they should be protected or culled.

A contract farm in Johor that supplies vegetables. The Republic imports over 90 per cent of its food, and climate change is threatening the global food supply. The move to set up the Singapore Food Agency will enhance regulatory oversight over all fo
A contract farm in Johor that supplies vegetables. The Republic imports over 90 per cent of its food, and climate change is threatening the global food supply. The move to set up the Singapore Food Agency will enhance regulatory oversight over all food-related matters and further strengthen the Republic's food-safety regime. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

As Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC and an animal welfare advocate, noted, even though it may be the same animal, the location in which it is found may result in differing ways of treating the animal.

It would help that wildlife management is handled by one agency, he said, as it means a better use of the limited resources and allows for a more sustained and coordinated approach.

For example, avoiding planting fruit trees in areas that usually attract wildlife could reduce the instances of animals entering homes, thereby reducing overall culling, he said.

Singapore has already made strides in safeguarding animal welfare with the roll-out of new initiatives such as a stray dog sterilisation scheme that could eradicate the need for culling.

 
 

The latest announcement seems to be another way to ensure the well-being of the other creatures that live in Singapore too.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will be a new statutory board under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food, and climate change is threatening the global food supply.

The SFA will take over food-related work currently being done by the AVA, National Environment Agency and Health Sciences Authority.

The authorities said: "The integration will enhance regulatory oversight over all food-related matters from farm to fork and further strengthen our food-safety regime."

However, while the latest announcement seems to signal the importance of animal welfare and food security for Singapore, the devil is in the details. It will be interesting to see if the agencies can advance each issue beyond what the AVA has already done.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline 'Greater focus on food safety and animal welfare'. Print Edition | Subscribe