Sharon told me about this article published about a year ago. Priceless.
STRONG FEELINGS KILL SAMOA PIGGERY BILL
By La Poasa
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Sept. 22) - Some members of the House of Representatives are very close to their pigs and it was one of the reasons the lawmakers killed a bill requiring owners of piggeries to construct pig farms an additional 50 feet away from residential homes.
Currently the law states that no owner or occupant may keep or allow to be kept upon premises owned by him or in his possession or control any pigs, goats, sheep, horses or cattle within 50 feet of any building used for human habitation or as a restaurant food establishment, or school.
The bill initially sought such animal farms to be built 300 feet from residential homes, restaurant or schools, but the committee amended the bill to say 100 feet after a hearing on Tuesday.
After several emotional testimonies from House members who own piggery farms, some quite outraged, 12 lawmakers voted against the bill while only four voted yes. Those who voted yes were Reps. Olo Ropati Atimalala Tagovailoa, Mailo Sao T. Nua, Falema'o Pili, the sponsor of the bill, and Paopaoailua Joe Fiaui, who chairs the Health committee that reviewed the bill on Tuesday.
Before the vote, Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava said he was so saddened the night before when he visited his pig farm and saw the look on his pigs' faces. "I talked to them and told them they have to understand that whatever happens, it's the law," said Atualevao. "It was very hard for me. I really love my pigs."
Atualevao said that his piggery is 50 feet away from his home and if the law passes, that means he would have to demolish the farm and build it 100 feet from where he lives. He said this would be very costly for the residents, who may not afford to easily abide by the law if enacted. He added that the law right now, which requires pig farms to be built 50 feet from residential homes is good, but government agencies need to be strict with enforcing the law and requiring piggery owners to clean up.
Rep. Gaoteote Palaie Tofau said he too had a conversation with his pigs last night. He said the pigs were crying as if they knew what was going to happen. He also said they seemed to know that they would be put far away from him soon.
Rep. Mapu Puaopea Paopao said we as Samoans consider pigs a vital part of performing our culture. He said we use pigs during fa'alavelave and other traditional matters. He added that majority of those who have piggeries rely on them for their livelihood and it is the enforcement of regulations governing piggeries that needs to be effective.
Rep. Puletu D. Koko agreed with Mapu's comments, adding that many residents will be lining up in court because of violations of this law, something they can't help because they won't be able to afford to build new piggeries that will abide with the new law.
Paopao said the public's health should always outweigh our love for the pigs. He said pigs are carriers of various diseases and the public's health is utmost important. That was the goal behind the legislation.
"I am moved by the emotion and the comments made today," said Paopao. "This is not something taken lightly. It is an important bill and the goal is to protect the public. The committee's work is done so you vote based on your belief."
Rep. Olo Ropati Atimalala Tagovailoa echoed similar statements and said this is for the health of the people.
When the vote came, several members of the House said "for the love for Afalava's pigs," "because I want my pigs to watch TV with me" or "because I love my pigs," they were voting no.
According to testimony on Tuesday from officials of the departments of Public Health and EPA, there are 35,000 pigs on island. The regulations applied to piggeries are costly and capital investment is nearly $10,000.
They say that for them to go out and tell piggery owners to comply is not as easy as it seems. For one thing, they say it's not doable with small piggeries mostly because of the cost associated with abiding by the regulations. Second, even if an owner complies with building a proper piggery, there are health concerns, such as the negative impact it has on the water and ecosystem.
Acting Governor Sialega Malaetasi Togafau said there are some cases whereby residents don't abide by the law. He said some residents won't apply to get the necessary permit with the PNRS board in order to build a piggery because they feel that they can do whatever they want to do with their land.
"They'll say the heck with PNRS, this is my land," he said. "We can enforce the law but there are people out there who think they are above the law."
Sialega said the best approach is for the lawmakers to talk to their constituents about the impact of piggeries to human life and educate them about the process and ways to build a proper and safe piggery farm.
David Farley of EPA suggested that perhaps the Health Committee should establish a subcommittee and have experts from various government agencies sit down and talk about the consequences of having piggery farms established certain feet away from homes and other issues. He said the subcommittee can then come back to the Fono and advise them of what they have found from their research.
Farley said the Fono can then use this information to draft legislation helpful to everyone. "You always have to balance the laws and regulations with the traditions," he said.
Asked about the suggestion by Farley to establish a subcommittee, Paopao said it is a good idea and it's something he is looking into.
September 23, 2005
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