In 2012, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) began working on a manual entailing the significance of animal rights, in an attempt to formulate laws to protect the ‘unprotected’. The manual includes an elaborate account of policies for protecting domestic and working animals. But, the response from people has been, “Why waste time on animal rights when humans don’t get their rights here?” This argument comes from apathy and embedded cruelty in our society. It is not the state, or corrupt politicians that do not let animals have rights, it is people like you and me, who are just too lazy or misinformed to care. While a human can fight for his or her rights, an animal cannot.

Karachi has just had a mass poisoning campaign of stray dogs, whose carcasses can be seen lined at the side of a main road. There were alternatives to this inhumane act. Usually city authorities engage in proper spay-and-neuter program, but it is doubtful that anyone gave the problem much though (because animals do not feel pain of have emotions). Shelters for 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. There are many organisations and NGOs that would be willing to solve the problem of stray dogs, given space and encouragement.

The out-dated and unimplemented Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 makes cruelty to animals punishable for a first offense with one month imprisonment or 50 rupee fine and with three months imprisonment or 100 rupee fine for a subsequent offense. 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 fine, or both. In 2001, General Musharraf’s regime prohibited bear baiting (bears and dog fights). Law and precedent exist. The problem is society and its hang-ups. It is true that even humans, particularly the poor, are not treated in a civilized way in Pakistan. However, there is no reason that we wait till all humans are treated in a humane fashion before we are kind to animals.