By Anuva Kulkarni:
Do animals have rights? They feel pain and fear. They feel comfort and love. They feel sad and lonely. They feel, but they can’t tell us that. Their cries of agony go unheard; the terror in their eyes goes unseen. Down comes the blade – and the poor, mute creature knows no more. Its skin transforms into leather jackets worth thousands, worn by a reckless biker. Its fur becomes an expensive coat thrown around the shoulders of a rich Parisian woman. Its horns and tusks turn into gleaming pieces of ivory – what beauty! All the cheques paid for tiger-skin rugs, turtle-shell shoes and chinchilla-fur capes will never atone for the wicked deeds that befell animals who were mercilessly killed in exchange for those bits of paper they call ‘money’. Tacked to a wall, the majestic tiger doesn’t roar anymore, just glares quietly through his glass eyes. The chattering chinchillas will never jump and skip again. The turtle that lived life at its own leisurely pace has been put to sleep forever.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is the largest animal rights organization in the world, has addressed the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer intensely: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry.
Factory farms cage thousands of animals, including rabbits and minks, and the cramped cages don’t allow them to move, causing injuries and mutilation. No law protects them from the terrible fate that awaits them. Does no one really care when the rabbits and foxes of our bed-time stories are poisoned, gassed or electrocuted for their fur? Poaching and sale of endangered species still continues in many parts of the world in spite of being illegal. In the past century, India has reportedly witnessed a shocking 97% decline in her tiger population. Everyone’s beloved Po, the Kung-Fu Panda, is also a critically endangered species due to indiscriminate poaching and habitat shrinkage in China.
With the growing population, the number of animals being slaughtered everyday for food would beat the killings in any massacre in human history. We are terrified by stories of the Holocaust, but no one turns a hair when a truck full of packaged meat pulls up in front of the supermarket, or a fishing trawler brings out heaps and heaps of mackerel desperately flapping for oxygen. Cats, mice, guinea pigs are experimented on for testing new drugs, products and studying human disease. You can’t watch a crying, hungry child suffer – how can you be okay with seeing a scared, squealing baby monkey in a far worse situation?
Use of animals for entertainment like circus tricks is another form of abuse. Would a human being consent to jumping through hoops or perform the balancing act under the threat of physical harm? No. Because we can protest, we can talk, and we know our rights. But how do you explain to an elephant that it doesn’t have to endure someone jabbing a sharp object at its forehead, that it can be protected, that it has every right to live freely in its natural habitat?
We, as intelligent, thoughtful creatures of planet Earth have a certain responsibility towards our planet and other forms of life that live and thrive around us on trees, in the ground and deep in the ocean. Ancient man probably knew the value of living with harmony and balance in his environment, where each creature has some role to play. Only when everyone plays their part in the circle of life, does life become sustainable. But a few thousand years later, man dug up the earth for oil and gold, slashed down trees to make way for skyscrapers and smoked out animals from their habitats, incarcerated them in zoos, killed them for their meat or hunted them to exhibit them as conquests. The greed for money, power and influence rules the minds of men, and the nations of the world have encroached upon the same creatures that evolved with man during the lifetime of this planet.
Intelligence can build you rockets, send people to the moon, make super computers and cure deadly diseases. But remember that we haven’t yet uncovered all of Nature’s mysteries – her intelligence far surpasses our own. By taking over the planet without a care for animal rights, we shatter the delicate, intricate balance that Nature has perfected for planet Earth. And in this, we spell our own doom. Animals must be allowed to live without being cruelly abused on the planet they were born to share with us. Animal rights have been ignored for far too long, and we cannot afford to let the present scenario continue. To make a difference, stop animal abuse when you see it –don’t wait, save a life! Global warming, pollution and world peace certainly are issues to be dealt with; but let us not forget protection of animal rights – for without them, the world would be rid of its innocence and charm.