California in the recent U.S. Elections approved Proposition 2, otherwise known as the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Initiative, by a 63% majority. This initiative requires that by 2015, egg-laying chickens, veal calves and pregnant pigs will have to be given enough room to stand up, turn around, lie down, and extend their limbs. Opponents of the measure had argued that the requirements will force egg producers in particular to increase prices and risk losing more business to out-of-state farmers who are not subject to the new law. But a study by the University of California-Riverside put the likely cost increase at one cent per egg, a price 63% of California voters appeared willing to pay.
Compare this with the fate of the lone female leopard kept in a cage with a cemented floor at the Korangi-Landhi Zoo whose plight nobody appears to be interested in except Dawn’s Faiza Ilyas. The animal seems to have lost vigor and is mostly found lying in a corner of the cage the whole day. The animal’s misery is compounded by the callousness of those visitors, who try to get her moved by throwing stones or poking a stick at her.
On January 11, 2009, a story appeared in a paper about stray dogs in Rawalpindi, which were posing a serious threat to lives of general public. It said that the increasing number of stray dogs has made it almost impossible for citizens to move freely. It was nothing short of shocking that the reporter, and the persons he talked to, had no solution to the problem, except to kill stray dogs. Nobody bothered to ask the question as to what is the fault of the stray dogs? The problem can be resolved by resorting to a humane and civilized way by simply shifting all these stray dogs to a Dog Shelter.
Innumerable incidents like these are witnessed by all of us almost on a daily basis. The tragedy is that the animals at the other end do not simply witness them, but experience them. Is there anything we can do to alleviate the plight of these animals?
We have the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890, which needs to be updated, or replaced by a new law. Its section 3 makes cruelty to animals punishable for a first offense punishable with one month imprisonment, or 50 rupee fine, or with three months imprisonment, or 100 rupee fine for a subsequent offense which is committed within three years of the first one. Additionally, section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 makes it a criminal offense to kill, maim, or render useless any animal, punishable with five years imprisonment, or with fine, or with both. In 2001, General Musharraf’s regime prohibited bear baiting which is getting bears to fight with dogs.
One can start by convincing the concerned authorities to implement, and enforce, all the existing laws and directives relating to alleviating the suffering of animals. The next step is obviously to get the law improved, and replaced by a new one, if possible. Furthermore, we all should visit the zoos, and highlight the plight of animals there in order to get the living conditions of these animals improved.
As a long term measure, awareness about animal rights can be raised in the general public; and children must be educated about these rights by including the subject in the syllabus at all levels.
The law enforcement officials need to be made aware about animal rights, and should be trained to prevent animal cubs from being poached, and from being captured.
Proper national parks should be setup where suitable lifetime care is provided for keeping all kinds of animals. The confiscated animals can be rehabilitated, and subsequently released either in the wild, which is not easy to find in the country due to depleted forests, and booming population, or alternatively in these national parks.
Shelters for the stray animals can easily be established in all towns and cities with little cost. Edhi has a few such shelters, with two major ones on the Super Highway from Karachi to Hyderabad. The local governments should take the initiative in this regard, and at least provide land, if nothing else, to the interested parties.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. We have a long way to go to prove our greatness, and progress in this regard. However, there is no reason that a beginning cannot be made in this respect.
It is true that even the humans, particularly the poor, are not treated in a civilized way in Pakistan. However, there is no reason that we wait till all the humans are treated in a humane fashion, before starting on a venture with the animals. There are not many worse insults for a human than to be called an animal, but the hard line advocating a separation of people from animals must be broken. Many of the attributes that we associate with animals, and thus look down upon, ironically are present in a more acute form amongst us: for example, humans have more hair follicles than even the chimpanzees, except that our fur grows in an “extravagant topknot” on our heads. We also have more sweat glands than any other animal on earth-we can sweat almost a gallon an hour. We do not think of ourselves as poisonous, but our mouths are as full of noxious, infectious bacteria as many other animals, and a human bite can be seriously toxic.
Animals make us human, and they make us happier. All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain, and we still fight out the similarities on a daily basis by proving our superiority through cruelty to animals. Isn’t it about time that we try to change all of this by accepting animals as one of our species, and treat them in a civilized manner? SA
Anees Jilani is the writer of this article. He is a lawyer based in Islamabad and blogs about Animal Rights in Pakistan. Email: Aj@Jillani.org