Free the animals

.. by Rafia Zakaria

IT is depressing to read about the poor health condition of the ailing elephant Noor Jehan at Karachi Zoo. The 17-year-old pachyderm had initially been diagnosed with “an inner haematoma with a damaged pelvic diaphragm”. Still, the Four Paws team that had come to treat her earlier this month had been hopeful she would recover. But then, Noor Jehan fell into a pond in the small enclosure where she has been held captive. Here she lay for almost 11 hours, according to animal rights activists, before being ‘rescued’. She was unable to get back on her feet by herself, and had to be lifted up via cranes and ropes.

The trauma that Noor Jehan has gone through is simply unimaginable — first, the pain and distress she was already suffering, and then the fall that further compromised her mobility. Noor Jehan’s case might have been very different had the earlier suggestion of the global animal welfare organisation (Four Paws) been followed. She would have been relocated to happier surroundings.

It is unfortunate that the abuse of animals is not an issue that is given any consideration in Pakistani society, except for by a handful of people. Internationally, campaigns have proliferated to end the practice of breeding and keeping wild animals in captivity just for the viewing pleasure of humans. One of these campaigns began when a documentary crew filmed the situation of Tilikum, a captive orca that was kept at Sea World in Miami, Florida. Many other investigations have also revealed the cruelty endured by wild animals who can no longer enjoy a safe, natural habitat to which their bodies are attuned; they must, instead, deal with tiny enclosures such as the one in which Noor Jehan is kept.

Elephants in captivity have also come under the spotlight internationally. In Thailand, the practice of riding elephants around ancient temple sites has faced scrutiny. Various exposés have revealed how offering rides to tourists can impact the elephant’s gait and musculoskeletal health. Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, the head of World Animal Protection, has asked that tourists and others who enjoy elephant rides or visiting zoos be made aware that, in many cases, the captive animals are taken from their mothers as small babies and subjected to harsh living conditions and inadequate nutrition and health amenities. Many of the campaigns to help elephants have focused on Thailand, which has a large number of elephants used to cater to the whims and fancies of tourists wanting to enjoy elephant rides. But, reports say, there has now been some realisation and restrictions on the use of these elephants in this way.

While the rest of the world has begun to focus on the cruelty of breeding animals, Pakistanis, by and large, seem completely uninterested.

Of course, none of this, or even any general understanding of animal welfare seems to have been propagated in Pakistan. While the rest of the world has begun to focus on the cruelty of breeding animals, Pakistanis, by and large, seem completely uninterested. In most cities of Pakistan, burden-carrying animals, such as donkeys and horses, are whipped mercilessly for not going fast enough. This is often seen on beaches and at other tourist sites, where camels and horses being used to provide rides to revellers are painfully thin and poorly looked after. Other animals like monkeys are abused and beaten by those who have them dance and act for the benefit of insensitive viewers.

The very worst of fates is saved for dogs, who are frequently culled en masse. Though dogs have been mentioned in a positive way, even in religious sources, many people want to single them out for abuse. If a dog is seen rummaging for food at a rubbish heap, many see it as a licence to throw stones at it. If any vloggers or other social media influencers speak up about the need to treat all of God’s creation with respect and empathy, malign comments often follow.

Pakistanis need to understand that treating animals with respect and empathy, and ensuring that their speechless lives are not a living hell, is part of good character. It is something which parents should teach their children, and schoolteachers their pupils. Having good morals is not a zero-sum game; being kind to animals does not mean that less kindness is left over for human beings. It is entirely possible for good human beings to be kind and empathetic to both their own kind and animals. As the case of Noor Jehan reveals, zoos where animals are denied the free range for which they were created and for which they are suited is cruelty. It is inevitable that these animals will be subjected to torture and hunger; because they cannot speak, they have no way to express the ordeal they confront on a daily basis, especially in an environment where their welfare is not a priority.

It is not only Noor Jehan’s condition that must be addressed, but that of all animals at Karachi Zoo. It is high time that the facility be shut down so that it is no longer a place where animals suffer because of the inadequacy of even basic necessities and the unkindness and negligence of human beings. The animals that are present should be sent to sanctuaries that are willing to house them. An example to study is that of Kaavan, whose miserable life here ended when he was taken to a sanctuary in Cambodia some years ago. At the very least, all the animals should be kept from breeding so that their progeny are not born into captivity and hence unable to survive in the wild conditions in which they existed for thousands of years prior to the moment humans decided that they should be trapped, caged and abused for their entertainment.  .. Source 

One thought on “Free the animals

  1. Zoos are a legacy of the past when there was no film, camera, television etc and the only way humans could see wild animals was in a zoo. Now when any one can see the most exotic wild animals on their mobile phone screens, what is the sense in having zoos. For God sake finish off all zoos and let the animals free in their natural habitat. Who doesn’t like freedom? whether it be human being or animal.

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