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- Animal Rights & Welfare
All in the Name of Entertainment
How a person treats animals speaks volumes about his/her personality
The Constitution of India, via Article 21, guarantees all Indians the right to "protection of life and personal liberty". Alas, this has been restricted only to us homo sapiens while the rest of the animal kingdom has been left completely and at the mercy of humans. Their lives and pain seem inconsequential to humans, merely because it is life in a different form. A prominent example of this was the huge public demand for allowing 'Jallikattu' (Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju Virattu)- a popular bull taming sport- in Tamil Nadu during the Pongal festival, after the Supreme Court imposed a ban on the event in 2014.
Jallikattu is an ancient tradition associated with a public display of bravery and made more attractive by the promise of a prize money for the winner. For their mass excitement and "kicks" people ensure that the bulls are terrified or angered by needlessly stabbing, punching, beating, twisting their tails, forcing alcohol or other drugs down their throats, or dragging them by painful ropes around their nose. This extent of cruelty and inhumanity inflicted upon a disoriented animal hardly makes those involved, "humans". Even the most calm of humans would react aggressively to being painfully prodded, pinched, dragged, bitten or stabbed continuously for no reason at all.
Over the years, there have not only been incidents of the bulls getting critically injured while attempting to escape the torturing crowds but several human casualties have been also reported during these celebrations. Tradition should certainly not be an excuse to encourage such practices. Otherwise, we shall be a regressive rather than a progressive society, going back to sati (a practice in which a woman threw herself on her husband's funeral pyre), open practice of caste-based discrimination, zamindari (feudal) system, illiteracy, and so on. All the progress so far, undone.
While external injuries are easy to point out, most performing animals (even others) also frequently suffer from immense mental and psychological damage. Not so long ago, during the festive celebrations in October, the Heritage Animal Task Force (Thrissur) estimated that over 450 of the 601 captive elephants showed symptoms of tuberculosis. Long hours of captivity, deliberate starvation, inadequate water for their drinking and bathing needs, deliberately inflicted wounds on their legs which are continuously prodded, all take severe toll on these peaceful creatures. In September, Ramankutty (aged 76) the 11 times winner of the popular elephant race (Anayottam) in Kerala died with pus flowing out of his trunk and legs swollen. Lamentably, even being the best for his "owner" could not earn him a little sympathy and humane treatment, forget affection.
This is not all. Humans even try to make animals compete with machines, which is even way beyond their own potential. It is not uncommon to see bullock carts on the roads (including in a metro city like Delhi), loaded sky-high with the skeleton of a bull being forced by rhythmic beating to move on. I have been a witness to one such disturbing sight forever etched in my memory. Visible, bloody injury on the back, saliva oozing out of its mouth and uncontrollable urination under the scorching summer blaze.
Humans succeeded in abolishing slavery worldwide after years of undying efforts. These animals, however, have no hope. Thoughtless proliferation of humans, apart from creating an acute ecological imbalance, is anyways causing a threat to survival of other animals. The helpless creatures suffer most painfully due to ear-splitting crackers during celebrations and the resulting pollution. Incidents when people tie a string of crackers to the tails of stray animals are also hardly uncommon. Moreover, the failing to understand their suffering and feeling lies at our end, for they seem to understand our commands easily enough. Around the world, public demand for animal rights and animal-free circuses is gaining momentum aided by dedicated animal welfare institutions such as PETA, FoA, MFA, SAFE, WWF to name a few. As we live in an environment of mutual dependence, it is our responsibility to "be human" to other species. Individual efforts in this direction are necessary to let animals live peacefully. Let us not forget that it is a "life" that we our destroying hardheartedly and agonizingly when we use innocent animals either out of economic necessity or purely for selfish "entertainment". One needs to keep in mind the following words of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama: "Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures."
After all, they are not machines. Let's appreciate them for what they are to us: companions, friends, domestic helpers and income earners.