Organised cockfighting’ now exempted from punishment

PHILIPSBURG - Any structured or organised activity involving animals, such as the tradition of cockfighting, will not be punished as abuse of animals under the new Penal Code. The code was unanimously approved by Members of Parliament (MPs) Friday afternoon after Justice Minister Roland Duncan had submitted an amendment decriminalising organised activities with animals.

The debate on the Penal Code stalled on Thursday afternoon when MPs pointed out that Article 539 would prescribe punishment for cockfighting, considered a traditional activity. The meeting was adjourned until Friday afternoon for Duncan to find a solution.
In his presentation to Parliament Friday Duncan explained that cruelty to animals would still be punishable under the Penal Code. If government anytime believes an activity is subjecting animals to cruelty, punishment will be meted out. Events and gatherings are subjected to licences from government and thus can be checked.
Not removing the article completely and making the addition allowed for compliance with the Constitution regarding the wellbeing of animals, Duncan noted.
Duncan commended Parliament for its unanimous approval of the Penal Code and its detailed handling over the past year. He noted that Penal Codes were not changed every day, but usually were reviewed and changed after decades, so the thorough handling was welcome.
The code had been dissected during several hearings during which various interest groups, including the local Bar Association, gave evidence.
Immediately following Friday's meeting, President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell signed a letter addressed to Governor Eugene Holiday informing him that Parliament had approved the new Penal Code.
The final version of the Penal Code with some nine changes also approved by MPs on Friday will be put together and sent to the Governor with the letter. The Ombudsman will be informed of the new Penal Code and will be given six weeks to review and object to it. If objections arise, they will be taken to the Constitutional Court for adjudication.

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