WHILE the rest of Sindh was — and continues to be — under lockdown, hundreds of animals in Karachi’s Empress Market perished due to suffocation and starvation. The market had shuttered down two weeks earlier, after a lockdown was first announced by the provincial government on March 22. In haste, the shop owners evidently did not take any steps to ensure the protection of the animals in their care. Only a handful were rescued, thanks to the efforts of animal rights activists.However, by the time they reached, they noted that around 70pc of them were already dead, their lifeless bodies strewn on the floors of the shops. Even in the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, thousands of animals left abandoned inside their homes during a strict lockdown were rescued by a concerned group of animal lovers. Like many diseases before it, the novel coronavirus too began from an animal source, and is likely to be connected to the international wildlife trade that is notorious for its ill treatment of animals.
Recently, in an article for the Financial Times, Arundhati Roy wrote that “…in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality”. In a world where it is ‘normal’ to treat all living creatures as commodities to use and discard at will, and where human desire reigns supreme, animal rights are barely given a thought. Beyond necessity, they are seen as a means to an end — and the end is often profit — to satisfy human consumption and frivolity. While the pet industry is cruel in itself, encouraging practices such as breeding, perhaps nowhere is this brutality more evident than in modern factory farming. Millions of animals are abused, caged in small spaces, while those deemed ‘useless’ are exterminated without a thought — and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020