Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Animal Abuse- A symptom of a bigger problem?


While many Malaysians are busy debating who were the freedom fighters, and absent minded Professors allege that Malaysia has never been colonized, I've been pondering on the issue of animal abuse, trade and abandonment. In doing so, I cannot say that I have found that "eureka moment" to explain it all- but quite a few thoughts came to mind.

Somebody once said that "the true test of a democracy lies not in the rule of the majority, but in the protection of the legitimate interests of the minorities". Taking it to another level, maybe we could go so far as to say that the true test of a democracy is probably in the protection of the legitimate interests of the marginalized/weak/and voiceless and vote-less ... animals included!
Why should animals not be included, when they themselves have inherited the earth/environment just as we did? Are they to blame for being born or bred in an environment of man's manipulation?

Now let's consider this- How exactly is the slave trade (or human trafficking) any different from animal trade/abuse?
I propose that there is none.
In both cases, the victims were nothing more than commodity, with nothing more than a "price" on their head- condemned to serve their masters. Those without a "price" were basically "irrelevant" and could be disposed off without remorse.
Both had financial interests at stake.
Both thrived on ignorance.
Both bred violence.

One could propose that this matter of animal abuse/cruelty is but symptomatic of a greater disorder which afflicts society as a whole- regardless of creed, color, political affiliation, gender, education or socioeconomic stature ....
Is it which is something bigger and far more fundamentally wrong with society, than many  believe it to be? Could it be that "Animal Abuse" is actually a "disease of ignorance and immorality"?
I wonder if this (as yet) non-tangible "immorality" could eventually translate into social problems which may in turn result in disrupting human well-being? Is it a sign of the moral degradation at a very fundamental level which breeds the very social illnesses we all all deplore today.

Let's talk about it in the Malaysian context ....
Malaysians have become a heartless lot over the last 30 years- thanks to Mahathir's "Malaysia Boleh" policies where only money mattered. Cases of criminal abuse of man and animal has been on the rise ever since the so-called "economic miracle"  ... "money at whatever cost" mantra we lived by.
All the social ills we face today are due to the same cause- a moral degradation of the society we live in.

Under our Federal Constitution (and society at large) animals are not regarded as "living beings part of society". They are "property"- which are nothing but "commodities", to be "used and disposed off" as man pleases (it is worse still, when there isn't a price tag on the immorality of the abuse or on the "unpriced" animal). 

It is this perception and attitude/approach that breeds and perpetuates the problem, and THAT has to change.
So, when animal rights activists lobby for a change in the system they are actually up against the juggernaut of "popular wisdom". It is a "perception war" wherein animal rights activists have to fight to change mindsets of the people around us- and it takes more than just rescue operations.

Politicians have yet to understand the need for animal protection. It would however be naive of activists to alienate them if they could help to bring about changes in the future. Legislation and judicious enforcement is of primary importance- and for that, lawmakers (aka politicians) play a critical role. It would therefore be wise of activists to find allies rather than adversaries in parliament.
Yes- as Shenaaz Khan says of DVS, “They will come out to look like valiant protectors but they’re completely and utterly incompetent. All they’re good for is coming out with statements"
So why is this happening?

The only answer I can think of is that- they do not see the social ramifications of their in/action. So, as long as they don't understand that there will be a socio-political price to pay for their neglect, they may not see the "political worth" of animal rights advocacy.


I believe, much more can be done by all Animal welfare organizations.
They probably need to rev-up their campaign and take it to a notch higher (than the regular animal rescue, euthanasia,adoption).
Maybe animal welfare groups should attempt addressing the root causes of these problems, and to go beyond the usual symptomatic solutions  which could unwittingly be further "feeding" the cycle of events.

Among other things, through adequate legislation they could:-
a) Demand punitive action upon (clearly defined) actions of cruelty/abuse- equivalent to that against humans (ie criminalizing it)
b) Demand that animals be regarded living beings with rights to care, rather than just "property"
c) Control of unlicensed animal breeding
d) Control of trade in all animals/ pets
e) Control of pet ownership through Conditions, Guidelines and licensing
f)  Demand the "policing"/monitoring of owners
g) Demand more funding for education programs
f)  Get celebrity/political/corporate patronage to assist in these education programs

It definitely does take lots of hard work and perseverance from all parties concerned. Animal welfare NGOs, in caring for these voiceless beings, may hopefully help Malaysia one day become the "Masyarakat Madani" we all hope for.

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