1. What do you think of advocacy in Singapore?
Whenever I go for overseas conferences and (tell people) I'm an activist from Singapore, they always joke: "There is no activism in Singapore."
In the Western world they are taught to speak up, voice their concerns, and to question. But Asians are taught not to question. We accept what the teacher tells us, we are always taught to respect our elders.
That mindset has led us to a very silent activism here, where very few people dare to speak up. But I think it's growing now in Singapore, with Gen Y starting to speak up. I also think that if you take the Western brand of advocacy to say, Asia or Singapore, that would backfire. Asians generally don't like aggression. We try to collaborate a bit more than confront.
If you start doing protests outside some of these groups that exploit animals, it would backfire at this point. If you look at what Acres is trying to achieve and how we are doing it, we always back up what we say with good science. So we don't just say dolphins suffer in captivity, we publish a whole report citing scientific evidence on why we came up with this view.
2. How does this approach inform Acres' interactions with the Government?
The Government doesn't like confrontation, they are more into collaboration and partnerships. Obviously that is a very fair approach, but what Acres tries to do differently is that we do criticise the Government, but we always offer an alternative.
One example is the wildlife rescues we do. It was reported in the media (that) someone called (the police) about a python on the road. And the police responded by killing the python.
Yes, we could have gone on record and say: "It's really bad, the police don't know what they're doing. Why would you kill a non-venomous animal that would probably go away?"
Or we could approach them and say: "Acres is here, we have the expertise on how to handle pythons, we understand you have limited resources, so let us help you handle the pythons." Which is what is happening now. When you call the police for wildlife rescue, they now forward the call to Acres.
So there is now a win-win. The police can focus on proper crime issues, Acres can help the animal, and the animal benefits because we run on a no-kill policy.
The other approach, which is to just keep slamming the police... I think that always backfires, where you push the Government to one corner and you idealistically expect them to change. I don't think it's realistic at this point.