By Sumithra Sriram:
A single cell, the initiation of every form of life now present on earth. From a bee to a blue whale, a toad to an elephant, and a cockroach to a human being- we started out as one, genetically evolving and gradually adapting to the rapidly changing times and needs. The humans, having won the race for survival with their so called sixth sense, quickly took over the world, pushing most of the other equally important species to a small cordoned corner, destroying many others in the process. We humans have treated our fellow earthlings with great disrespect, and have exposed them to grave injustice. There should be just one common law of conduct for all the species on earth, and it’s time that the animals had their share of justice too.
Poaching of animals for their skin, fur and bones is an equivalent of cold-blooded murder. But the penalty given for the murder of a human being and the murder of an innocent creature cannot be more vastly different and more unjust. According to Section 302 in India, a person who commits murder can be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, while a poacher on the other hand, is only awarded a maximum of a few years of imprisonment. It is time that the poachers around the world are made to pay up for their actions, and are forced to wipe the blood off their hands by serving a sentence that can equal the audacity of their deed.
The aerodynamically gifted creatures face their share of injustice every day too. The prettier they are, the harsher is their fate – cooped inside cages, their beaks chipped off, wings clipped off and claws ripped off, peeping between the bars and looking at the uglier but luckier birds soaring in the sky. While confinement and mutilation of humans is a punishable offence, the same activities performed on birds are not only completely legitimate, but are also performed with a sense of pride, for decorating houses. Like Jacques Deval said, “God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.”
Land, an important entity that is required by every living being to live a life of quality, is another aspect that these creatures without the sixth-sense are denied. Predators like lions and tigers mark their territories by scent marking the areas with their own characteristic scent and leaving their claw marks on the barks of the trees. Elephants are constantly on the move through the wilds, in accordance with the seasons and the availability of food and water. Birds have their own particular spots for nesting and roosting. But what have we humans done? Destroyed and occupied their habitats, and by doing so, paved the way for the extinction of various species. Corridors between the various national parks have been encroached upon, leaving migratory species, especially the elephants, exposed to the wrath of humans as they cross our farms and homes in the course of their migration, leading to death on both sides. We desperately need to redeem these corridors and free them of human settlements, so that these creatures can migrate in peace. Netherlands has taken a very innovative initiative to solve this problem. They have built over 600 bridges all over the country, over highways and human settlements, exclusively for the animals, successfully preventing these human – animal conflicts. Land encroachment of one human on another human’s property is never tolerated. Why should we expect the animals to tolerate this, and why should we humans who encroach, go unpunished?
The creatures closest to humans in terms of intelligence and genetic constitution – the chimpanzees and the other primates are not left alone either. Having had the misfortune of resembling us humans, they are used in laboratories and research centres to test various drugs, cosmetics and other physical and health manipulative substances. Punishments for human testing can go up to ten years of imprisonment, while animal testing is legally allowed! Just because these poor creatures do not have equivocators to twist the laws and represent their side of the case does not mean that we can take advantage of them and use them for those demeaning activities that we cannot abject other humans to. As Charles R.Magel aptly said, “Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is :’Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.”
Having ruled the world with an iron fist ever since early man could walk on two feet, we humans have let mother earth down with our atrocities and our barbarity towards not only the other inhabitants of the planet, but towards our own species too. Let us learn to live in harmony with each other and with every other creature on earth. Let us not forget that we are insignificant and helpless in front of mother nature’s wrath and fury. Let us realize that we are all equals in the eyes of nature, and do not have the right to exploit other creature’s vulnerability. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Yes, it’s time that the animals had their share of justice too.