Do we have it in us to stop the scourge of animal cruelty?
There’s not much I can say about the abhorrent state of animal rights in Bangladesh that hasn’t already been said by others who are better informed on the matter.
We’ve always had laws and policies which are meant to deter people from harming animals for no good reason. But, as I understand, most of these laws hail from the days back when we ourselves were treated no better than animals by our colonial masters.
Laws which provide nothing more than a mere slap on the wrist for crimes as inhumane and heinous as stuffing a puppy in a plastic bag and burying him alive.
Merely describing that image in words made me wince in pain and sorrow -- more so as I look at my own dog, May, sleeping peacefully near my feet, and imagine that such a fate could have just as easily befallen her, had she not found a home.
Much had been made of the newly minted Animal Welfare Act -- drafted around two years ago -- a law that would make life just a bit harder for anyone wishing to impart harm upon our four-legged friends, handing out much higher fines and bona fide prison time.
And yet, animal abuse prevails, if not in the newspapers and TV reports, then definitely in the streets of Dhaka and Anywhere-else-pur, Bangladesh.
Then again, considering that an efficient bureaucracy and law enforcement are not really our nation’s strongest suits, what else can we expect?
To be fair, one can throw all the legal provisions, fines, and jail-time in the world at this specific issue and none of them would help lessen the frequency of a stray dog, cat, or bird getting sticks and stones thrown at them by bored street urchins or a young man trying to get initiated into some inner circle through an act of violence that does not endanger a human life.
No, the problem, like most of our other ones, stems from within our own societal attitude.
Animals are, by definition, sub-human beings, and thus are OK to be otherized to the point where harming them can prove to be cathartic, even necessary under the right rationalized circumstances.
And why not? Life isn’t getting any easier -- spend enough hours stuck to a sewing machine in the same room with 500 other people or get belittled working in service by someone less than half your age and with quintuple your income, and you too would wish for a quick and gratifying way to inflict pain upon something living and breathing without any of the associated guilt or legal hang-ups.
Misguided religious attitudes towards animals further exacerbate the issue. I hate to involve my dog in this mess yet again, but the amount of precious time I’ve lost being sermonized by well-meaning but ultimately condescending voices out on the streets while walking her, about what Islam has to say regarding sharing space with “unclean beings” makes me brood if adopting her was worth all the bother.
Hrrm, I think I owe her an extra treat or two and a head-scratch for even thinking that.
I understand that there is an abundance of human misery in our society already for us to focus on something as “first world” as animal rights. But forget about rights -- it’s about decency, it’s about showing some compassion, it’s about humanity (at least the idealized version of it).
If a stray animal comes up to you on the streets, there’s a reason for him or her to do so -- buy a cookie or a cracker from the corner-store and give it to them; it won’t put that big a dent in your wallet, trust me.
And if you’re feeling particularly bold and rebellious, adopt one of them and give them a home. There is something immensely welcoming in knowing that, after a hard day battling existential dread, there is a furry, four-legged companion waiting home to lick your wounds for you when you’re feeling down for the count.
Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.