New draft Egyptian constitution guarantees “protection of animal welfare”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:
CAIRO––The 50-member constituent assembly responsible for
establishing the new Egyptian constitution has included recognition of
animal welfare in Article 45 of a redraft that is expected to be
ratified in early 2014.
Announcing the inclusion of the animal welfare clause on
December 1, 2013, Cairo animal advocate Dina Zulfikar forwarded two
different translations of Article 45 from the Arabic original,
diverging in idiom but parallel in apparent intent.
In synthesis, the first sentence recognizes the obligation of
the Egyptian government to protect seas, beaches, lakes, waterways,
and “natural protectorates.” The second sentence prohibits
pollution, economic use of protected resources that are “incompatible
with nature” and the right of every citizen to enjoy the benefits of
the natural environment. The third sentence “guarantees the
protection and development of urban green space,” the maintenance of
biodiversity including protection of endangered and threatened species,
and the protection of animal welfare, “all as regulated by law.”
Zulfikar thanked the Brooke Hospital for Animals, operating in
Cairo since 1935, the Society of Friends of Historical & Public
Gardens, Protectorates Society of Egypt vice president Samer El Mofty,
coalitions of environmentalists, and ANIMAL PEOPLE, among others, for
contributions leading up to the inclusion of constitutional Article 45.
Zulfikar herself set the process of adding animal welfare to the
Egyptian constitution in motion on October 20, 2012 by standing in
front of the headquarters of the then ruling Shura Council in Cairo with
signs quoting the Quran of Sorat Al Anaam, verse 6:38: “There is
not an animal moving in the earth nor a bird flying on its wings, but
they are a nation like you.”
Zulfikar asked the Shura Council to include in the version of
the Egyptian constitution that was then being drafted a clause to the
effect that “Egypt recognizes animals as sentient beings deserving of
Following her solo demonstration, Zulfikar and fellow Cairo
animal advocate Radwa Rabei organized a 15-member expert committee to
recommend language to the Shura Council. Activist Donia Nasser
conducted a Facebook poll, allowing respondents to choose among 13
different phrases offered by the committee members.
But the 2012 constitution, signed into law by then-President
Mohamed Morsi on December 26, 2012, did not recognize either animal
sentience or animal welfare.
After the 2012 constitution was suspended by the Egyptian army
on July 3, 2013, Zulfikar and other animal advocates dusted off their
recommendations and tried again.
A pivotal moment came on October 10, 2013, when Society for
Protecting Animal Rights in Egypt founder Amina Tharwat Abaza accepted
an invitation to participate in hearings about proposed constitutional
protections of women and children from violence and abuse.
Abaza emphasized in her testimony how tolerating violence toward
animals inculcates violence against people.
“At the conclusion of my speech, contrary to my expectation
of being ridiculed, the attendees were extremely impressed and
thundering applause gave me a deep sense of enthusiasm. Sameh Ashour,
president of the lawyers’ syndicate, was very supportive throughout,”
Abaza posted afterward.
With animal welfare constitutionally recognized, “The
government should establish the animal welfare legislation we have
previously submitted to comply with the new constitution. We believe
this is a few steps forward for animal welfare in Egypt,” said
Egyptian Society of Animal Friends chair Ahmed El Sherbiny.
Meanwhile, El Sherbiny said, “The Minister of the Academy of
Scientific Research & Technology has formatted a committee by a
ministerial decree to establish rules and regulations relating to using
alternatives for experiments on animals. This committee is not looking
to end experiments on animals now,” El Sherbiny added, “but rather
to control the experiments. Of course, the long-term goal would be to
end experiments on live animals if possible, even to use alternatives.
We consider forming of this committee a definite step forward to a new
era for animal welfare.”