Celebrate International Justice Day ( July 17 ) with call for Justice for Animals
Posted on July 17th, 2016

Senaka Weeraratna

DVA appeals to lawyers and animal rights activists to make International Justice Day on July 17 a platform to promote animal rights.

17th July is World Day for International Justice, also referred to as Day of International Criminal Justice or International Justice Day.

July 17 has been chosen because it marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. Each year, people around the world use this day to host events to promote international criminal justice, and also to focus attention on particular issues such as genocide and serious crimes of violence against women.


Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) Colombo Chapter would like to use this occasion to focus public attention on the monumental injustice and inhumanity caused to other living beings by human beings with a view to bringing animals within the ambit of justice. Equity demands that we act to reverse this injustice without delay. We must not leave this burden to the next generation(s).

We must not forget that there is no greater crime in the history of humankind that can match the unrelenting and unceasing war that members of the human species wage almost every moment of the day against members of other species for their flesh and bones. This is the biggest war being waged by human kind from time immemorial i.e. snuffing out the life of other weaker species in an almost one -sided contest without pity without a qualm of conscience. A life of an animal is dear to it as much as it is to us humans. It is not only a moral or ethical issue. It is also very much a Justice issue.

No lawyer worth his salt can deny this plain simple fact. To do otherwise is to draw attention to one’s insensitivity towards others or lack of a true sense of justice.
It is a sad fact of life that people who have a vested interest in abusing animals e.g. meat industry, are well protected by politicians on both sides of the divide. This is the prime cause for the unreasonable delay in the enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill originally drawn by the Law Commission.

We call on the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to establish an Animal Law Committee charged with a mission to address all issues concerning the intersection of animals and the law to create a paradigm shift resulting in a just world for all living beings. The status of animals in our legal system and in our society must get mainstream public attention such that Rule of Law extends to not only humans but animals as well, ideally speaking. Due process protection, fair compensation when an animal is destroyed or injured, standards of care and accountability for animals deployed in industry and agriculture, phasing out of animal prisons (deceptively called Zoos) within a short period, giving expanding definitions to the notions of what constitutes ‘cruelty to animals’ and ensuring that the interests of wild animals e.g. wild elephants, are taken best care of in contexts of competing interests of wild animals and human beings for dwindling resources, are some of the challenges that lie ahead for both the legal profession and animal lovers. Current laws limit the legal options available to those who are seeking to protect wildlife. This must be changed.

DVA is prepared to encourage young lawyers in particular to give their time and effort for animal advocacy work both within and outside the courtroom. DVA will strive to make sure that animals have adequate legal representation and advocacy where it matters.

We call on all animal activists and lawyers to raise your voices on July 17 against one of the most profuse yet underrated forms of injustice – injustice against animals.
Your collective voice in this digital age using social media can prick the conscience of public opinion and spread the message of justice towards animals far and wide.

Senaka Weeraratna
Dharma Voices for Animals (Colombo Chapter)


Dharma Voices for Animals Colombo Sri Lanka Chapter


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Phase out Zoos from Sri Lanka – What can you do? 

Avoid visiting zoos. We must not allow ourselves to be complicit in causing animal suffering.

Lobby and demand animal sanctuaries to be established in place of Zoos which should be non – exploitative and non – profit oriented.

Two countries Bhutan and Costa Rica have started an inspiring trend in phasing out Zoos. Bhutan has effectively closed down Zoos except for the protection of two endangered native species.Sri Lanka should join these two enlightened countries in following suit by phasing out Zoos.

Spread the word through newspaper articles, public talks, television programmes, internet YouTube, of the reality of Zoo life and the suffering of animals inside them.

Zoos belong to history not to the future. In fact it is a culturally inappropriate institution to Sri Lanka which had one of the finest Animal friendly cultural heritages in the world before the landing of foreigners in 1505.

Educate your children and others why Zoos are unnecessary and inhumane.

Reverence for life has been the foundation of SrI Lanka’s Buddhist civilization ever since that unique encounter between Arahant Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa at Mihintale over 2300 years ago when Arahant Mahanda declared as follows:

Oh! Great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have an equal right to live and move about in any part of this land as thou. The land belongs to the peoples and all other beings and thou art only the guardian of it”

The establishment and maintenance of Zoos in Sri Lanka is incompatible and run counter to Arahant Mahinda’s words of wisdom.


Understand animals desire freedom, close the zoos

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Understand animals desire freedom, close the zoos (East Bay Times guest commentary)

I wonder sometimes if things wouldn’t be better for animals if we were less captivated by them. In a strange, contradictory way, our fascination with them — even our appreciation for them — is what causes us to harm them the most.

We’re so attracted to their beauty that we adorn ourselves with their skin, feathers and fur. We’re so moved by their intelligence that we force them to perform for us. We’re so covetous of their strength that we seek to assimilate it by consuming and ingesting their bits and parts.

We’re so intrigued by their very presence that we confine and display them just so we can gawk, observing with amazement how much like us they actually are.

Exhibiting animals — particularly large, wild, “exotic” animals — goes back as far as ancient times. These menageries, precursors of modern zoos, tended to be owned by the wealthy, whose human supremacy and power could be displayed along with their animal collections.

Not much has changed — except perhaps in the modern way we shroud the ugliness of animal captivity in the guise of science and conservation.

Zoos celebrate their breeding programs as a means to propagate endangered species, but to what end? Not a single lowland gorilla or mountain gorilla — or for that matter, black rhino, elephant or orangutan — all of whom are classified as critically endangered — has ever gone from a U.S. zoo back into the wild.

Zoos populate zoos. Breeding programs replenish cages. For captive breeding programs to be successful, wild habitats must be preserved. The dollars spent (by the public and by zoos) on animal exhibits would be better spent on protecting already-wild individuals and rapidly disappearing habitats.

More than that, thousands of animals in zoos are betrayed by their alleged champions every year. To curb overpopulation, animals are killed on a regular basis in zoos around the world, either to be fed to other captive animals or to zoo patrons.

If they’re not killed, “surplus animals” — those individuals zoos no longer considered profitable because they’re neither young enough nor cute enough to attract crowds — wind up in circuses, private residences and even in the hands of taxidermists.

A two-year investigation by the Mercury News found that 38 percent of the mammals bred in accredited zoos were sold to dealers, auctions, hunting ranches and roadside zoos.

Zoos emphasize their role in educating the public about wildlife, instilling a love of animals and fostering appreciation for the natural world, though evidence suggests that zoos do not in fact increase our knowledge or understanding of either animals or nature.

One of the reasons is that zoo animals don’t exhibit natural behaviors in captivity. What they exhibit instead are neurotic behaviors and repetitive rituals, such as pacing, bar-biting, swaying and circling — no matter how much zoos design their enclosures to mimic their respective natural habitats.

Not only is captivity not beneficial for the prisoners, it instills nothing in us but human arrogance, supremacy and apathy, perpetuating the idea that nonhuman animals are here for us to use, abuse and exploit for our own pleasures and purposes.

Not so when we admire birds in our backyards; watch bees pollinate flowers; or spot wild turkeys, deer, and lizards from a hiking trail. We can be captivated by animals without holding them captive.

It’s not that we should find animals less fascinating or beautiful or impressive. It’s not that we should appreciate animals less.

What we need to do is appreciate more that animals’ inherent desire for freedom, life, autonomy and self-determination is as strong as our own. That in these ways, they are indeed just like us.

We don’t need to change our admiration for nonhuman animals as much as we need to change our understanding of how nonhuman animals see themselves.

If that were the lens through which we looked, we would be as outraged at the mere existence of zoos as we are by those who suggest they be obsolete.

The Case for Closing Zoos

It’s time for their doors to be shut once and for all

By: Tim Zimmermann

Feb 13, 2015


Is it worth it to see animals “live” if they’re not acting as they actually would in their natural habitat?   Photo: PeopleImages

Last November, my ten-year-old son and I watched a Nature specialabout killer whales moving into the Arctic as the ice cover shrinks. It was gripping stuff. An orca pod stalked a group of narwhals while marine biologists described the group dynamics of a hunt. My son was glued to the screen and full of questions. Understanding how kinetic and wide-ranging orcas are in the wild—and how compromised their lives are in captivity, a subject I’ve covered extensively over the past five years—is one reason that so many people are now calling for the closing of marine parks. The outcry is a long time coming, and the same logic applies to zoos. Watching my son light up in front of the screen, I wondered: If aNature special can be so inspiring and educational, are there any good arguments for keeping animals in artificial enclosures that, at best, are only a fraction of the size of their natural habitats?

Zoos think so. For decades they have argued that seeing live animals helps educate and mobilize the next generation of conservationists, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums cites multiple studies. But a few years ago, sociologist Eric Jensen, who teaches at the University of Warwick in England, discovered that most of that research assessed whether visitors thought they learned something (instead of whether they actually learned anything). Worse, many of the studies excluded children, the very demographic that zoos claim they are trying to inform and inspire.

Jensen set out to address these flaws by surveying almost 3,000 children before and after visits to the London Zoo. The results, published in the August 2014 edition of Conservation Biology, weren’t encouraging. On unguided visits, only 34 percent of students showed positive” learning, meaning they gained new information, and 16 percent actually demonstrated negative” learning, picking up false information. (The numbers were slightly better for guided visits.)

Against the murky evidence that zoos educate or inspire is a growing amount of research showing that the animals housed in them suffer. A 1980s analysis of necropsy reports from the much lauded San Diego Zoo, for example, found frequent malnutrition, injuries from transport and the use of anesthetics and tranquilizers, and incidences of both cannibalism and infanticide. Yes, zoos have worked hard to improve conditions for their animals since then, but a 2003 study in the journalNature revealed that 33 of the most popular animals in zoos—including lions and polar bears—still exhibit signs of being under stress, from pacing to higher infant mortality rates. There’s a reason Gus, the popular Central Park Zoo polar bear who was euthanized in 2013 after developing a tumor, had his own therapist.

  Photo: Gallery Stock

As we accelerate into an era of rapid human-fueled species loss, perhaps the most compelling argument for zoos is the Noah’s Ark one. Facilities like the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs have done important work supporting condors, giant pandas, and black-footed ferrets. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums reports that its 228 members are actively working to save 30 species. But that accounts for a small portion of zoo breeding; the reality is that most programs build and sustain zoo populations, not wild ones. In American zoos there has never been an elephant that has gone from a zoo back into the wild,” says Lori Marino, a psychobiologist and executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. It is a one-way ticket.”

There was a time when zoos really were the only place to see exotic animals. Today you can experience our greatest creatures in other ways—on YouTube or PBS, for starters, in full HD. No, you’re not seeing the animals live,” but at least they’re in their natural habitats, engaging in natural behaviors. Add in what we’re learning about the impact of confinement on many species and zoos with cages or even natural-looking enclosures become hard to justify. In 2013, Costa Rica announced a plan to close its public zoos. It’s time for the rest of the world to move the legitimately conservation-oriented breeding programs to spacious sanctuaries and preserves—where the public can still view the animals—and follow suit.


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