SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament (MP) Lee Bee Wah on Thursday (Feb 14) responded to criticism over a speech she gave in Parliament this week addressing animal management in HDB estates.
"I have been given feedback that some animal lovers and activists may have misunderstood my speech on the animal management in HDB estates," said Ms Lee in a Facebook post. "Some thought I was speaking up against animals and activists. This is not the case."
"Nowhere in my speech was I criticising anyone - except for those behind irresponsible cat feeding and illegal fishing which harmed otters."
In her speech in support of the National Parks Board (Amendment Bill) on Tuesday, Ms Lee highlighted the problem that "some cat feeders cause to our community", saying that residents in some areas have complained about rats.
"I went down at night to take a look. True enough, I can see many rats dancing about, running about," said Ms Lee, drawing laughter from other MPs in the room.
"We found that the root cause is the food left behind by cat feeders."
She pointed out that when she asked the National Environment Agency to take action, she was told that they were unable to as there was an agreement between the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore and cat welfare volunteers to leave food out for cats for a two-hour period.
"So, many cat feeders with many two hours. How to solve the rat issue? Rats multiply very fast as well," she said.
"I would like to take this opportunity to plead to the relevant agencies to remove the two-hour feeding for the areas that have rat issues. Residents' health is much more important," she later added.
This drew criticism from animal welfare group the Cat Welfare Society.
Sharing a video of the MP's speech, the society in a Facebook post on Wednesday said: "Community caregivers and the cats that they care for do not deserve to be mocked or laughed at.
"Neither do they deserve to be threatened by the possibility of the extermination of cats that we share our community with."
The society added that it advocates for "responsible caregiving", where food is cleared "within 2 hours from being placed on the ground" and water bowls are changed daily.
"We also advocate against irresponsible caregiving where food is not cleared and our mediators do work with (the National Environment Agency) to find and penalise the irresponsible caregivers," it added.
In her response on Thursday, Ms Lee said she was calling for action to deal with "irresponsible feeders who leave food unattended for two hours in rat-infested areas".
"By leaving food unattended for too long, irresponsible feeders create hygiene problems for residents as big rats and cockroaches feed on them," she said.