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8 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Animal feels pain too

Many people in Bangladesh just don’t understand that birds and animals have emotions and can feel pain and joy
Syed Mehdi Momin
Animal feels pain too

“The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals”, said 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 a symptom of deeper psychological malaise. Many people in Bangladesh seem to possess an illogical hatred towards animal. Not too long ago someone posted the hanging of a cat in the social media. No doubt this was a repulsive act but what was more damning was the number of people who seemed to be thrilled by the picture. The once ubiquitous–in rural Bangladesh– fishing cat is on the verge of extinction mainly due to indiscriminate killing. Direct killing, snaring, captures and subsequent starvation of the cats, by the locals, are the main reasons for fishing cat mortalities in Bangladesh.  Quite often locals severely beat and kill fishing cats out of sheer amusement and the dead animals are later hung for display.

Frequently we see reports of sweet water dolphins being killed.  Dolphins maintain environmental balance. Catching dolphin or killing is prohibited but that hardly seem to deter the killers. Villagers catch any unfamiliar looking animal and beat it to death. Later, they will hang the carcass on branches of trees or railings.  

Kids throwing rocks at a stray –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 consists of drowning fox-caves with water 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 operate 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 believed 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 that have to die for the bogus claim of them having aphrodisiac properties. Sweet water dolphins have been killed to extinction for supposedly having medicinal qualities. Same has been the fate of Pangoli or Bon Ruis.

Killing an animal does not require any reason. 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.  

Animal cruelty provides a sadistic pleasure to the perpetrator(s) in watching a voiceless being suffer without fear of reprisal. Clearly, an effective law could constitute an actual deterrent, but the corresponding law of this country has always been weak and its laughable penalty has not been updated in 56 years. Unless the holy cow is involved — a first-time offender can walk free on paying the maximum penalty of paying a fine of Rs 50 – a sum so paltry that it would not even constitute a slap on the wrist. A second time offender would face a fine of Rs 100 and up to 3 months of imprisonment.

This joke of a punishment under a toothless law almost serves as an encouragement to those who abuse and torture animals. In contrast, this is the year the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US has reclassified animal abuse as a ‘group A’ felony under which it would be prosecuted with seriousness at par with arson, kidnapping and homicide. It would also make it easier to obtain harsher sentences for convicts and to identify young offenders.

Thankfully the number of snake charmers, monkey and bear displayers is 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.

In the Quran it is said: “All creatures on earth are sentient beings. There is not an animal on earth or 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.

It is our humanity that is at stake. But there is more to it. There is a growing body of research that correlates sociopathic tendencies with acts of abuse against animals. While one must be circumspect in handling that weighty claim, there is considerable evidence that those who abuse their companion animals rarely do so in a vacuum and have a tendency towards other interpersonal forms of violence – familial as well as domestic. The underlying, disturbing desire is common — to attain and feel in control. It is little wonder that the recent offender charged with mutilating the puppy, is also allegedly a wife and child beater.

As it has been rightly said by Abraham Lincoln, “I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” In Bangladesh though, many do not feel the same way.  Cases of cruelty and inhumanity towards animals are on the rise and what’s being done to stop it? “Why waste time on animal rights when humans don’t get their rights here?” is the usual response to the idea of animal welfare or animal rights in Bangladesh.

Animals are meant to be loved regardless of their respective breeds and people who love animals are the only hope to provide the strays with refuge and affection that they particularly deserve.

The writer is Assistant Editor of The Independent



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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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