Let’s start by playing a guessing game. You, reader, have to figure out what I’m talking about-I’ll give you clues, don’t worry. So, the thing I’m talking about…
1. Can be used to fight sudden bouts of anxiety/ depression
2. We are all guilty of indulging ourselves in it-in the company of friends, alone, or secretly at work
3. All over the shows up on the ‘Most Searched’ list in YouTube
You might have guessed correctly-I am talking about (cute/funny) animal videos. Watching man’s feathered/furry/scaly friends taking their first steps, nodding off to sleep, rolling around in the grass or maybe even performing on America’s Got Talent can sure brighten up our day! Which brings me to the topic I want to talk about today- animals, and our treatment of them.
Raised by parents who are zoologists, I grew up with several illustrated encyclopediæ of the animal world (Pre-Google days), Environ magazines, and NatGeo programmes featuring Steve Irwin. I did classroom projects on wildlife conservation. Every year, I begged my parents for a pet dog, and tried to befriend the haughty neighbourhood cats. I eventually did adopt cats after I moved to a different city for work. Two of them passed away, breaking my heart. One of them survived, and she is as precious to me as any human family member.
Thus, I find it both saddening and infuriating when I read about rising incidents of animal cruelty all over the world. Just a few days back, the world was shocked to know about the illegal breeding and black marketeer racket at the famous Tiger Temple in Thailand. This temple, run by Buddhist monks used to be a popular tourist attraction, where people could get up close and personal with tigers. A police raid revealed 40 dead tiger cubs being stored in a freezer, a makeshift slaughterhouse, and other horrors. In Chennai, two youths threw a puppy off a roof, just to shoot a video that will get them ‘likes’ on Facebook. A lady in Bangalore murdered eight newborn puppies, so that no dog ever gives birth to wailing pups near her home. And there can never be enough words to describe the plight of strays on the streets of India. In the wild, too, animals are not safe. Even though hunting is outlawed in India, poachers target animals for their skin, horns, or tusks.
Animal cruelty is one of the many evils that have plagued the world for centuries. It seems inconceivable that members of the same race that smile indulgently at baby pandas escaping from their cradles can saw off an elephants feet to prevent it from escaping while its tusks are taken (yes, this is an actual image that I saw in an environmental magazine). This leads to an important question-why are some people apathetic towards animals? Is it because they cannot talk? Is it because killing a man gets you a life sentence but killing a dog is punishable by a fine and a very light prison term?
According to the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act, 1960 it is illegal to “commit mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards.” Then is it not cruelty towards strays a crime? Is the value of an animal’s life fixed at 10 rupees upwards? Who decides this value anyway? Just because they are not human, do they not have any rights?
At the end of the day, my appeal to everyone is- do not be cruel to animals. You may not like to be around them-that is entirely a matter of personal preference. Just do not go out of your way to cause them harm. If you don’t want to adopt a dog-fine. Just make sure you aren’t part of a group that throws puppies off buildings for fun.
Animals may not be able to speak for themselves. But they too have a right to live.