Perhaps no one knows how many animals are killed by the traffic accidents in our country, or die due to hunger, diseases and natural hazards such as rainfall, cold weather or because of no shelter. The numbers are difficult to measure, and the statistics to calculate the losses are unavailable. Animal welfare or animal rights in Pakistan are often dismissed as non-issues. Thousands of animals are struck down by vehicles each day in Pakistan. We often find many homeless souls dead on highways and roads.
Millions of creatures are homeless. A shortage of veterinary doctors and hospitals are the prime barriers in saving animal lives.
It is important to take social behaviours, inner feelings, sentiments and emotions into account to understand the importance of non-human lives. Equine animals, which include horses, donkeys and mules, face the brunt of animal abuse in most cases. It is all the more painful to see children teasing these poor animals, throwing stones at dogs or cats that are passing by and making their lives all the more miserable. Animals that are raised for fighting, such as dogs and roosters, known for the infamous fights, result in deaths and injuries. People leave their cats on roads so that they won’t return to their houses and wish to adopt only pedigreed animals while strays that die or get killed every day on the streets are widely ignored. Similarly, hospitality and medication is unavailable, except for the animals that are required on farms and labouring tasks and need to keep in shape. Animals that are frequently used in races and other equine sports are relatively better looked after by their owners. Donkeys and horses used in cart races are well fed and are taken to veterinary doctors regularly, as they are the source of their income. Every year, many female cats and dogs give birth to a number of kittens and puppies. The litter size varies from 1 or 2 to 7 or 8. These will again grow and reproduce. And the cycle continues. Various municipal bodies eradicate stray animals by poisoning or shooting them. Many of us consider it a nonhumane act. These creatures who cannot speak or advocate for themselves – death is the only escape.
Zoological gardens are the prime source of entertainment especially for children. Unfortunately, we have animals in our zoo who do not have the appropriate amount of space to live in, they are not being cared for properly. Hunger, infections, impure water and unhygienic conditions are the considerable reason for disease and death in captive animals. The situation might become worse if the disease spread to other animals. Proper sanitary conditions and de-worming are important for their health, especially among carnivores. Animals need to be de-wormed at regular intervals otherwise; they can become vulnerable to infections. Besides, cages need to be cleaned with disinfectants. The infection of animals is a serious concern such infections can become severe within weeks. In case of neglect, a skin infection may became worse and take the life of the animal. Laboratory test conducted by the administration will surely be helpful to determine the cause of infection.
Allocating the budget for revamping and inducting more animals would be useless if existing animals are not being treated humanely. There is an acute shortage of competent and qualified staff at the facilities. It is time that the issue is given due attention before the government invests money in bringing more animals and revamping the facilities. There is a need to seriously look into the administrative and financial issues the facilities has been facing for a long time to improve the standard of zoo care.
There is another thought exists in the minds that where humans do not get their rights, animal rights would be a useless debate but however; on the positive note, there is need to create awareness against the myths endangering animals’ lives. Animal rights organisations and animal supporters can come forward to take the lead. Concerned authorities can construct animal care hospitals, shelters centres, and create opportunities to enhance quantity of veterinary doctors to tend to stray animals. Shelters for stray animals can easily be established in all towns and cities with little cost. We have a great example of Edhi who has a few such shelters, with two major ones on the Super Highway from Karachi to Hyderabad. Setting-up various mobile health clinics to assist the animals in need would be a great step. Mobile health clinics and doctors to travel from place to place will help creating awareness.
Non-human creatures surely deserve our love and affection. We should open our hearts and minds to them as well. They have souls and also have rights and need affection and care. People who love animals are the only hope to provide the strays with refuge and affection that they particularly deserve.
n The writer is a poet and former student of Economics at Karachi University.
Non-human creatures surely deserve our love and affection. We should open our hearts and minds to them as well.