Acres survey finds little support for animal culling

Acres survey finds little support for animal culling
A monkey shielding its offspring from the sun along Old Upper Thomson Road on 20 October 2012.

Stray dogs, wild pigs and monkeys may have been in the news for wandering near homes and disturbing people, but only a small minority of people actually want the animals killed.

In fact, a substantial group of people think the authorities should be banned from culling the animals, while a slightly larger proportion are on the fence.

These were some of the findings of a survey commissioned by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

The animal welfare group had approached consultancy firm Millward Brown Singapore to conduct an independent survey of Singaporeans from Jan 26 to Feb 8, to better understand their thoughts about animal protection here.

The firm did so pro bono.

Of the 600 people who filled out an online survey form, less than 15 per cent said culling should be allowed when asked about each of the animals.

About half of the respondents - 42 per cent to 55 per cent - could not decide.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng said the results were encouraging, as they showed "a strong sense of compassion" among Singaporeans. While the authorities justified killing the animals in the past due to complaints and public safety risks, "the findings show the complaints are from a minority of Singaporeans", Mr Ng added.

He said the survey, which he called the first comprehensive public survey on animal protection issues here, would help Acres and other animal welfare and conservation groups to refine their strategies. The results, for example, showed that some people support culling the animals because of public hygiene and health risks.

"We want to work on strategies that will address these concerns so that, hopefully, when we do this survey again, the number of people who support culling would have dropped," he said.

He added that the wide swathe of undecided people was another opportunity. "We can engage these people and better understand why they do or do not support culling, and change our strategies accordingly," he said.

Acres said it plans to do the survey annually.

Several questions got people to respond about their feelings on anti-culling statements such as "I feel that stray dog culling should not be allowed".

Asked if this might have led to biased results, a Millward Brown representative said it had wanted a scaled question format - with which people could agree, disagree or be on the fence - for more nuanced results.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority received 750 cases of feedback regarding monkey-related issues last year, including nuisance and safety concerns, compared with 1,860 for 2013.

Mr Benjamin Ng, 66, a retired mathematics lecturer, said the survey might have shown more support for culling monkeys if it had focused on areas where there are many of the animals.

He lives in a Bukit Timah condominium where the residents, until last year, experienced many problems caused by the monkeys.

"If you don't live in an area where you are affected by the monkeys, of course you're not going to support culling them," he said. He said he was on the fence about killing the animals.

"There are other ways to control the monkeys rather than killing them. But if they are really overrunning a place, some culling may be needed," he said.

zengkun@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 7, 2015.
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