ACCORDING to that wise man Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a nation`s level of civilisation can be gauged by the manner in which it treats its animals.
Now, to talk of the treatment of animals in a country such as Pakistan, where the treatment of human beings (e.g. 83-year old Professor Zawar Hussain Zaidi) leaves more than much to be desired and where human beings are ready and primed to blow up themselves and their fellow citizens whilst citing religion, may be a non-starter or merely at the minimal level of priorities.
However, it does speak volumes for the state of our civilisation — the moot point being if we actually have one. Some of us have been rather puzzled by this newspaper of late.
Following the annual cull of the breeding stock of this country, and the mass slaughter of healthy young goats, sheep, cattle and camels, it has been the custom for other publications than this to print photographs of animals having their throats cut, or of the carcasses of numerous goats and cattle lying on a roadside with their throats already cut, or of camels being subjected to unbelievable brutality whilst being slaughtered.
Such acts inevitably attract large crowds who stand around in an obvious spirit of enjoyment at the spilling of blood.
Is this setting a fine example for the young of this land? Now, none of this fits in with what we have been led to believe is `the spirit of sacrifice`, or with any religious injunctions pertaining to this annual act.
This paper, until this year, has avoided printing any gory photographs following the yearly stocking of deep freezes. It was therefore surprising on Dec 12 to see on page 5 the photograph of a camel being tortured and subjected to brutal manhandling before being slaughtered. What is the aim of such photographs? Is it to titillate, is it to shock, or is it to try and point out that what is being done is wrong?
Then we come to Dec 19 and an article `Hogs, hounds and hooters`, plus a photograph of dogs baiting a chained wild boar. This was said to be part of the “post-Eid celebrations” in Layyah and is organised “to provide entertainment to locals at cheaper rates” (8,000 spectators at Rs50 per head). It is watched by “madly cheering crowds” which form part of the “thousands of hog-hound wrestling fans” who “love the game” and enjoy the spectacle of a pack of hounds attacking a chained boar, some of them being killed or maimed in the process and the boar obviously enduring immense suffering.
There was little condemnation of this sorry spectacle other than to quote a wildlife activist who “called it an act of cruelty against animals”. Should such barbaric and brutal acts be condoned? Is this the path this nation wishes to take — cruelty, violence, bloodshed?
Now to the good done full marks to Faiza Ilyas and to the Metropolitan section of Dawn for printing as its lead story on Dec 15 the most depressing and sad tale of the leopard transferred earlier this month from the Safari Park, where for two years she was kept in a turkey cage, to the Korangi-Landhi zoo where she is confined in a somewhat larger cage but subjected to intense maltreatment by visitors who torment her with sticks and stones in an effort to wake her up from her comatose condition. She does nothing but lie in a corner of her cage on a filthy cemented floor.
The aim of this is clear and laudable. Ms Ilyas is pleading for someone or some organisation to come to the rescue of the leopard and save it from its inhumane, uncaring and ignorant jailers.
Coincidentally, on that same day there arrived an e-mail from Sameen Zaidi in Lahore asking for my help in highlighting the plight of the animals in the Lahore zoo, with particular emphasis on the state of the big
cats — tigers, lions, leopards
and so forth. She is a member
of the Big Cat Rescue group (http//www.BigCatRescue.org). Would any of my readers who wish to try to alleviate the plight of these magnificent creatures kindly visit the website and raise their voices?
Young Sameen met the zoo director, but to no avail. As she writes “the frightening thing is that these people have absolutely no sensitivity towards animals. They are there just to collect revenues at the cost of these poor helpless creatures.” When she suggested that the big cats be moved to another sanctuary “they laughed at the suggestion saying it would cut the revenues further”.
When she approached the WWF for help, she was offered none and merely told that “it would probably take a hundred years to set things right”.
Our zoos are a disgrace to humankind. They are “semi autonomous bodies with no accountability.”
We do not need zoos, for we are not equipped to care for animals when we have no care for the millions of human beings who subsist in this country in as miserable conditions as are the caged and kept animals. And we certainly do not deserve to import or trap further animals for our zoos, which in fact should all be shut down and the animals relocated to areas where they can be cared for by competent and caring people.
What would help in the national attitude towards animals and the purposeful sufferings inflicted upon them would be the raising of a massive awareness in the curricula in our schools, both private and government, in the cities and in rural areas. But this again is a matter that will take years to implement.
Meanwhile, let us appeal to Mian Shahbaz Sharif, one of the few politicians who are actually functioning in this country and who is reportedly doing what he can for his province. Would he spare a few moments and look into the matter of the Lahore zoo and read the riot act to those who run it?
Similarly in Karachi, would Nazim Mustafa Kamal, again one of the few who achieves anything, come to the rescue of the leopard of the Korangi-Landhi zoo and alleviate her
Our civilisation is in a shambles all round, but let us at least make a start by doing something for the dumb and the helpless who have no voices to raise and who are sadly completely at our mercy.