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8 February, 2018 10:57:10 AM

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Animals continue to suffer

There is an urgent need for amending the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act and its strict implementation
Syed Mehdi Momin
Animals continue to suffer

Last month a tiger cub was beaten to death by villagers at Bagerhat at it strayed in for the jungle. As a\many as 13 tigers were killed by people in the last decade or so.

We often hear of sweet water dolphins, fish cats, foxes killed by people, Sensitive behaviour to animals is almost an alien concept for many in this country.

Cruelty to animals can be defined as the infliction of physical pain, suffering or death upon an animal, wantonly, for mere sport, for the indulgence of a cruel and vindictive temper, or with reckless indifference to its pain.

“The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals”, Mahatma Gandhi. By the standard of the Mahatma we must be judged rather poorly as a nation. Cruelty towards animals is seemingly ingrained in our genes. Cruelty to animals is so common here that no one notices it. Perhaps it is be a symptom of deeper psychological malaise.

Kids throwing rocks at a stray do–not to mention other despicable things–throwing warm water on a domestic cat, catching house sparrows and killing them, breaking beautiful nests of birds is common. Many rural teens adventure consist of drowning with water fox-caves and if any manage to escape through sheer desperation beat it to death. And can we blame them? Not really, because their fathers and grandfathers did the same thing in their childhood. Pregnant cows are killed off and the meat of both the unborn calf and the cow is sold. Bullock carts are forced to carry way more goods and people than can be reasonably expected of them. To top it they are beaten mercilessly by the riders if they slag even slightly. The farmers beating bullocks during ploughing is another common scene. The bullocks used to operated the mustard oil press face similar abuse. Greedy milkmen sell off the milk (never forgetting to adding water and other spurious elements by the way) often depriving the new born calves.  

Dozens of foxes are slaughtered everyday because it is believe that fox meat is a sure-fire cure for arthritis and other pain-related ailments. Bats are massacred because their meat supposedly cures asthma and other bronchial diseases. And it would take a long list to cover all the animals–some exotic and endangered–animals who have to die for the bogus claim of them having aphrodisiac properties. Sweet water dolphins have been killed of to extinction for supposedly having medicinal qualities. Same has been the fate of Pangoli or Bon Ruis.

Apparently one does not require any reason to kill animals. We often hear about exotic fish or other sea animals swept ashore only to be killed by the locals.   Most people in Bangladesh just don’t understand that birds and animals have emotions and can feel pain and joy.

In fact if anyone protests against these kinds of wanton cruelty they are ridiculed and harassed. Even acts of kindness towards animals are looked upon with some degree of suspicion. There is this gentleman who regularly feeds the monkeys of old Dhaka. He told this writer he had to face incredulity initially and later even hostility from the local people.  

“Unseen they suffer, unheard they cry

In Agony they linger, in loneliness they die

Does it mean anything to you or anyone who passes by?”

These words penned above epitomize the pain and suffering that millions of animals endure at human hands daily. We are more often than not mute witnesses to acts of animal cruelty happening all around us. The fact is that laws do exist in Bangladesh against cruelty towards animals. However the law has become antiquated and is extremely inadequate for the present days. According to the Cruelty to Animals Act  “If any person kills any animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner he shall be punished with fine which may extend to two hundred Taka, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with both. Provided that nothing in this section shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion or religious rites and usages of any race, sect, tribe or class, or for any bona fide scientific purpose or for the preparation of any medicinal drug.” As you can see the law is rather lenient. However few people and apparently even fewer law enforcers are aware of these law in the face of such ignorance animals are helpless victims. There is an urgent need for amending the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act and its strict implementation.

There have been documented reports that hundreds of claves are slaughtered everyday to satisfy our taste buds. Few people have any compunction in eating restaurants that sell such meat.

Thankfully the number of snake charmers, monkey and bear displayers are fading out. But they are disappearing for economic reasons rather than moral ones. The circuses continue to be popular. The circuses display a mockery of the magnificence of animals like the lion or the elephant. The various animals are made to do stupid acts to thrill people. In fact these animals undergo starvation and beatings before they learn to perform an act.

Now let’s talk a bit about the pet markets. The deplorable state in which these animals are kept is abhorrent The cages are packed with kittens, chicks and puppies so much so that there is no room for proper ventilation.

 Many of the shops have secret chambers where exotic animals are kept. Dogs, deprived of affection and food, yelp constantly for attention.

Unless we develop a sense of protecting animals and reprimand people who are cruel towards them, the cycle of abuse will never break. Reporting abuse to the authorities might appear to be a futile exercise; however, it is important to bring animal cruelty into the notice of people who are in a position to offer help. Animal abuse of all kinds, including animals used for fighting, whilst working and captivity must be reported to the authorities, regardless of what the outcome might be.

I refuse to believe that our country is dominated by people who are unkind to animals. It is just that the heavy majority, which appreciates and loves animals, is silent and has unfortunately become apathetic. We must realise that if we’re not kind to animals, we’re a very long way from becoming kind to people. The plight of these animals deserves to be heard, so let’s give them a voice.

Chickens, cows, and goats are cramped in small cages only to await their bitter fate at the hands of the very same man who is currently butchering their sibling. It really disgusts me how people feel that animals, just because they cannot speak, or because they do not have opposable thumbs, do not have feelings or thoughts. Anyone who believes that has clearly never heard a female dog cry for her dead child, or heard chicks creating a pandemonium after being taken away from their mothers, never looked into the sorrowful eyes of a goat as it watched its companion being slaughtered, or gazed at the genuine love in the eyes of a loyal pet or an attached stray.

Humans have no right to decide whose life is more important. We are not as important or indispensable as we think we are, and it is time to let go of our ego and show a bit of empathy.In the Quran it is said  “All creatures on earth are sentient beings. There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings - but they are communities like you. The Prophet has said 'It is a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power' People should be made aware that animals, birds, fish, plants are God’s creation like human beings are. They should be given the love, care and respect they are due. No one should be allowed to ‘own’ a life form they are not prepared to honour.  Cruelty, in any shape or form, cannot be condoned and the perpetrators must be taken to task.

The civil society should strive to interpret and enforce the laws that do exist, and to educate people about animals' needs. Of foremost importance is to educate the public, since this is the best way to change expectations and sensibilities and, ultimately, to create more comprehensive animal-protection laws.

The writer is Assistant Editor of The Independent and can be contacted at: syed.mehdi@theindependentbd.com

IK

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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