Monday, February 2, 2009

Stop Cruelty to Animals

By Gowri Sritharan

Humans have always been regarded as the supreme species in the animal kingdom. Besides being the most intelligent and civilized, the trait that sets us apart is the fact that we’re able to effectively express feelings, feelings such as compassion and thoughtfulness.

We saw just how true this was in the recent events of war and catastrophe that unfolded across the world, following which people from miles and miles away, whether they were directly involved or not, felt so strongly for the misfortune that had descended upon their fellow humans. From building shelters and new homes to burial sites and memorial grounds, men did all in his power to help the living and honour the dead. All this warmth and compassion for mankind during times of destruction and devastation was moving, for it was a real comfort that people were not selfish but put the needs of the less fortunate before theirs. Yet, is this the case when the less fortunate we’re talking about are not humans, but animals?

In Spain, at the end of the hunting season when dogs are of no further use to the hunters, they are hanged to death from trees and left to rot. In laboratories all around the world, animals are abused for the purpose of research. For example, the legs of dogs are deliberately shattered for reasons of studying psychological stress, with no medical treatment given even once the experiment is completed.

Is this considered human compassion and warmth? No. Cruelty to animals is what it’s called.

Although these may be minor incidences of abuse to pets, in actual fact, animal cruelty has been pushed to such extents that for most it is an occupation, a way to make a living. Wildlife crime is the second most profitable illegal trade after that of drugs. It is estimated to be worth 25 billion US dollars annually, a huge sum of which comes from the sale of animals as food. Commonly known as “gourmet cruelty”, it reveals just how man’s greed for self-satisfaction and wealth has driven him to such atrocious exploitations.

The dog: man’s best friend? To most yes, but to a certain few it’s food. Moran Market in Sungnam City boasts one of the largest dog markets in Korea. At the entrance of this market are guards who prevent foreigners and animal activist from entering, as dog meat dealers have become hostile to those who disapprove. Dogs throughout Korea are bred and transported to the market in tightly crammed cages, where the selected dog is then dragged away to its death. A fire torch is used to burn the fur off the dog before they are stripped off their skin and slaughtered.

In the Philippines, dogs are usually sold whole while still alive. Their front limbs are dislocated and tied painfully behind their backs, and a tin can is jammed over their jaws to make them easier to handle.

Sharks are one of the many animals threatened to extinction because of man’s greed. Sharks are dwindling in population throughout the world due to sharks fin soup, a symbol of wealth and a meal of honour in uptown China. Finning sharks is a brutal practice carried out all over the globe. After a shark is caught, its fins are sliced off and packed away. The bleeding, limbless shark is then thrown back into the sea, in most instances still alive. They later die as other sharks and fishes feed on them, or die through suffocation as they can no longer swim. Is a bowl of soup worth the survival of the sharks?

It is not only in Asia that animals are exploited for food. The famous French culinary delight, “foie gras”, is not the liver of just any duck or goose, but it is the grossly enlarged liver of these birds. Birds raised for this gourmet are fed enormous amounts of food through a long metal pipe three times a day. The painful feeding continues for over a month, during which time the bird’s liver swells up to over 12 times its actual healthy size. In some cases, ducks literally burst open because of overfeeding, or choke to death on their own vomit.

Why are people allowing themselves to be driven by greed? What is money earned over the suffering and death of another life? This injustice has to stop! Law enforcements and education alone are not sufficient to end animal cruelty. People need to set aside their arrogance and realise that between humans and animals, none is dominant. People have no right to take control over the lives of animals they co-exist with on this planet. The authority to do that still lies with mother nature.

An appeal to fellow humans: The next time you sit down to a meal, take a good look at what is on your plate. Do your bit by making sure it didn’t get there through torture, suffering and cruelty. Your disregard to do so would make you no better than those actually involved in the act of killing. Have some compassion, and remember, when the buying stops, the killing can too.

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