There was a time when animal lovers would demand punishment for those who commit cruelty towards animals, and we would say how it was a pipe dream because we needed to enforce laws to protect people first.
But Bangladesh is changing and so are many of its indicators.
From GDP to FDI, we’ve received recognition in the world comity as a country that matters. A country that has, in the past several years, become a role model in many sectors, even compared to our big neighbour India.
Nowadays I often find people in the West talking positively about Bangladesh. Now that we have reached a point of relative political stability, normal for a democratic country, and we’re well on our way to making good on our Visions 2021 and 2041, we can deal with laws like the Animal Welfare Act.
The cabinet recently approved the law, much to the relief of animal lovers. Needless to say, I want its full and prompt enforcement.
The law is to protect animals, including pets and domesticated animals. The draft proposes maximum punishment of two years in jail and a Tk50,000 fine for any person who kills an animal protected under the law. It also proposes a maximum of six months’ jail term and a Tk10,000 fine for those accused of cruelty towards animals or using them for excessive toil.
I have seen how uncaring we are, not only when it comes to our pets, but animals in general. Children often hurl stones at stray dogs and cats, and we never discourage such behaviour.
We forget that they are smarter than humans in many ways, and have the capacity to feel love, anger, and more, just like us.
I say from my experience. I grew up with pets farm animals, after all. There were parrots, smaller birds, dogs, rabbits, even guinea pigs which we had to give away because of their proclivity towards excessive reproduction.
I have seen how uncaring we are, not only when it comes to our pets, but animals in general. Children often hurl stones at stray dogs and cats, and we never discourage such behaviour
My father had two four-legged “daughters” -- Rusty and Paxy -- one for indoors and other to guard the house. Rusty went mad crying for him after he was killed in 1971. He had to be put down, unfortunately. Paxy remained for many years, protecting us in our house. She left behind Champagne and her two siblings, who we gave away to friends.
Champagne died after she was stabbed while protecting our empty house when my mother was in the hospital. The day she died, we saw she was in tears and as if speaking to her children. We buried her in our garden. To our utter surprise, the two puppies she left behind immediately took charge of guarding the house.
Paxy was killed when a couple of miscreants gravely injured her while protecting the garden flowers before one year’s Ekushey February celebrations. Why did she do this at the cost of her life? It was her honesty, commitment to her master or father, and above all, the great love we fail to understand.
I have a “son” called Chase. People laugh when I say he is my son, but he understands that I am his papa. He becomes sad and clings to me when I prepare to go to work or pack my luggage. His face says he is sad, that is, if you care to understand that. When I return home, he first rubs his cold nose against mine and then gets on my lap. After hugging and playing for a while, my son is happy.
He makes gestures and sounds, and I understand what he is asking for. So we communicate in our special papa-son way. The love I get from him is unconditional and the truest in the world.
As the country moves towards prosperity, we need to take care of our ignored fellow denizens like dogs and cats. We must see to those who do businesses by keeping animals caged in inhumane conditions.
Chase came to me from Katabon, packed inside a small cage with his siblings. I do not know where they are. I hope they are also treated the way I treat my son. I love you Chase. You are my heart. You are my special little guy.
The media and all who love animals must make use of the law to stop cruelty against animals. No, not animals. Special, loved members of our families.
Nadeem Qadir is the Press Minister of Bangladesh High Commission in London.