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EDITORIAL: Unless We Defend Animal Rights, We Can’t Call Ourselves Progressive

EDITORIAL: Unless We Defend Animal Rights, We Can’t Call Ourselves Progressive
December 23
12:48 2017

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

If we are judged under this famous line, indications are that Fiji has some way to go.

Last week a sobering video showing dogs tied at the neck with steel wires and rope, being dragged to a vehicle by a group of men in Ba, shocked the nation.

Social media users, outraged by what they saw, called for urgent intervention by Police and the authorities – and rightfully so.

This was not an isolated incident.

In October, the Fiji Sun interviewed a veterinarian working at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) who revealed they had received at least 1000 cases of dog poisoning, accompanying other reports of cane-knife attacks on dogs and cruelty to cats.

Notions that cutting off dogs’ ears help them hear better, or starving them for days so they become more vicious are foolish and cruel, with no scientific basis.

The expose by the Fiji Sun in October and earlier this month indicates that we all need to rally behind animal protection.

As human beings, the welfare of our animals is our moral responsibility.

This is mandated by just about every religion in our country. And we are always professing to be a religious people and country. It is time we live by what we claim we are.

The Government is morally bound to show leadership in this regard. It can start by funding a major nation-wide awareness campaign.

The campaign should be taken to schools and become part of the curriculum.

Just because animals cannot take up banners and walk through cities with demands does not mean we ignore them or subject them to a life of suffering and exploitation.

Animals feel hunger, pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness and motherly affection to the same degree as humans do. When these needs are interfered with, we have an obligation to take them into account.

There are three animal welfare groups in Fiji – out of which only two have registered vets. One thing they all have in common is the lack of resources to do their work.

In this way, crucial public outreach and awareness programmes are not carried out and the public remain unaware.

Ministries must get involved; the law also has to be enforced better. Many people, who report matters of animal cruelty to Police, have come on record to say they are laughed at by officers, who dismiss the matter as trivial.

For too long this issue has been neglected.

If we can empathise with victims of war and violence, why is it so difficult to consider animal abuse morally distasteful?

It was encouraging to see the person, who shot the video, attempting to stop the men from torturing those dogs. We must feel empowered by her actions and speak-out against all forms of animal abuse and torture.

The world has fought many battles to achieve a gradual shift in equality, we to some extent, enjoy today. It is time to stand against the general horrible treatment of animals and take firm action against this pervasive problem.

Until we look at the facts of this problem and move forward to resolve it, our morality as a nation will remain under a cloud.



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