ANIMAL TRAINERS AND FILM INDUSTRY WELCOME CONCOURT RULING


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The Licensed Animal Trainers Association (LATA), the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA) and the South African Association of Stills Producers (SAASP) welcome the judgement handed down by the Constitutional Court on Thursday which upheld an order of constitutional invalidity in the Performing Animals Protection Act.

LATA was admitted as an intervening party in the case, with the CPA & SAASP who were represented as “friends of the court” – together they motivated for the processing of licenses issued to animal handlers to remain with the Magistrate’s Court, this was done primarily to prevent the NSPCA from involving itself in the process given its well documented bias against the use of animals in the entertainment and film industries.

The judgement found that although it is unconstitutional for magistrates to issue PAPA licenses, the North Gauteng High Court erred in its decision to refer the defect to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries to rectify, rather than to Parliament. The Constitutional Court also found that the High Court’s decision to form an interim committee comprising of members of the Department of Agriculture, the NSPCA and the SAVC to assess applications for licenses for animal handlers “do not appear to have been justified or to have had a proper basis”.

The judgement continues that “even though the High Court should not have made these orders it will not be necessary to set them aside because, upon the handing down of the judgement, their operation comes to an end since they were meant to govern the position pending the judgement of this court.” The Court ruled that the best course of action would be to suspend the declaration of invalidity for a period of 18 months to give Parliament the opportunity to cure the deficiency. Until this is achieved the function of issuing licenses will revert to the magistrate’s court.

LATA, the CPA and SAASP welcome these recommendations as they effectively put an end to the interim licensing committee and the NSPCA’s meddling in the process which, by its own admission when presenting its case to the Constitutional Court in March, is undesirable given its inherent bias and documented opposition to the involvement of animals in film and entertainment industries.

The three organizations questioned in their representations to the Court how the NSPCA could possibly make an objective recommendation under these circumstances and their concerns have proved to be well founded with the interim licensing committee dragging its heels for months on end and including in PAPA licenses bizarre terms and conditions which have no basis in law. Says Bobby Amm, Executive Officer of the CPA “it was clear to us from the very start that this case was not about rectifying a legal defect in the Performing Animals Protection Act, it was about the NSPCA finding a way to take control of the licensing process thereby preventing animal handlers from obtaining permits and making it impossible for them to operate their businesses. This would have had a very detrimental effect on their industry and ours as we would no longer be able to make films or television commercials featuring animals which would be a great pity and also cause irreparable financial damage to our business.”

LATA spokesman Jim Stockley noted that “LATA welcomes the judgement as it ends months of confusion and sets a time limit on rectifying the defects in the Act. He added that LATA looks forward to working with Government to find solutions so that the 70 animal trainers and 30 companies LATA represents can have security of employment, something they have not enjoyed whilst the NSPCA was part of the licensing process”.

According to Rudi Riek, Chairperson of SAASP, “the judgement is welcomed as it ensures that professional animal handlers can continue to provide animals for all forms of print media for the next 18 months without the interference of a clearly biased NSPCA which clearly has more of a political agenda rather than concern for the welfare of the animals. Says Riek “we hope that in the following months a workable solution can be found in which the rights of the animal handlers to earn a living as well as the welfare of the animals can be taken into account”

The three organizations look forward to an inclusive and transparent process in the drafting of new legislation and hope to see an appropriate and accountable authority replacing magistrates once the Constitutional defect has been remedied.

ISSUED BY THE LICENSED ANIMAL TRAINERS ASSOCIATION, THE SOUTH AFRICAN ASSOCIATION OF STILLS PRODUCERS AND THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

SAASP: RUDI RIEK – rudiriek@omail.co.za