LAHORE - Protesters gathered outside the Lahore Press Club on Sunday to highlight abuse of animals by political workers of two rival parties during and after the general elections.

The protest campaign titled ‘Stop Animal Abuse’ was organised by Better Pakistan Organisation and attended by many animal lovers. The objective of the protest was to change the society’s perception and treatment of animals in Pakistan.

Until now, Pakistan does not have any laws preventing cruelty against animals. Few vets exist in country. Hospitals for animals are few. Most animals are treated ruthlessly except for those required on farms.

Animal cruelty has been reported every time during general elections in Pakistan. In the latest incident of animal abuse involving political workers, a video was uploaded and shared via Twitter showing a dog wrapped in a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) flag being shot mercilessly multiple times.

Earlier, some PTI supporters in Karachi beat up a donkey by mocking him as their rival. The animal, which was rescued by ACF Animal Rescue, later succumbed to injuries.

In 2017, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government proposed a programme to encourage breeding and export of donkeys to China. In 2011, donkey hide exports stood at approximately 10,000 units. However, by 2015 the figure had ballooned to more than 97,200. Most of these exports were to China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. By 2015, revenue from donkey hides had tripled to Rs135 million as compared to Rs44 million a year prior.

Talking to The Nation, animal rights activist, Sarah Gandapur said: “Unfortunately, this isn't the first time an animal has been tormented or executed during a protest, and the act of conveying defenseless animals out to large public gatherings is a serious crime all over the world. These animals are often beaten, spray painted and led through crowds for long hours.”

She said: “In order to bring about a change in our society, we must challenge current belief systems and force people to take a side -- oppression or justice, cruelty or compassion. There is no justification for anyone to kill someone who does not want to die. Always speak up loud and strong for the animals that are oppressed. #StopAnimalAbuse is our campaign and through it we just want to create awareness among people.”

Better Pakistan Organization Chairman Kashf Shah said: “Being a part of the human race we need to start being kind to animals because they are as much a part of this world as we are. Sometimes, as a nation we treat animals really badly, especially stray dogs, cats and above all donkeys and horses, which help human beings earn a living to say the least.

“Pakistan is not a welfare state and that is why rescuing animals and providing them with appropriate shelter is not the priority of the government. Our campaign #StopAnimalAbuse is clearly a social change movement, as it seeks to change society’s perception and treatment for animals in Pakistan,” Kashf said.