Nationalist MP Mario Galea insisted that more action was needed to combat the spread of illegal zoos, acknowledging that the issue has long been left unaddressed.
Galea, the PN’s spokesperson on animal welfare, was speaking during debate on the financial estimates of the Agriculture Ministry, and emphasised that he did not wish to make a partisan argument. He even started his speech by stating that Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo deservedly occupied the post.
“Both governments are at fault; it happened in our times, and it is happening in your times,” he said. “We are both guilty.”
Galea also questioned how such zoos appear to have thrived in the wake of a ban on animal circuses.
He pledged full support to proposed rules that would stop the touching of wild animals by visitors and mandate the neutering of such animals in local zoos, unless specifically allowed by the relevant authorities for conservation and scientific purposes.
The proposed rules led to an angry reaction by the owner of the Noah’s Ark zoo in Siġġiewi – which was built illegally only to be sanctioned by the Planning Authority – and Galea specifically mentioned the zoo as he expressed solidarity with the minister.
The Nationalist MP also emphasised that the Animal Welfare Department needed to be further trained to deal with exotic animals. He also insisted that the department should not be used by ministers to give political favours to constituents, noting that the department needed to be staffed by animal lovers.