Pakistan's animal welfare a long way from home

In many ways 2011 was the so-called 'year of revolution.'

These revolutions spread beyond borders; encompassed social, political and economic crises and brought about change in the world.

In Pakistan, social bodies and activists hailed the bills and resolutions that were much called for in a country where the ideology of 'rights' remain undecipherable.

Taking cue from this wind of change, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) began working on a manual entailing the significance of animal rights, in an attempt to formulate laws to protect the 'unprotected', for the first time in several years.

The manual includes an elaborate account of policies for protecting domestic and working animals.

The debate continues

"Why waste time on animal rights when humans don't get their rights here?" is the usual response to the idea of animal welfare or animal rights in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, animal lovers and activists strive to change the mindset that makes both these issues mutually exclusive.

"We are trying to create awareness about the fact that we are all interconnected in the web of life, and the need to address different issues simultaneously is of utmost importance," according to Mahera Omar, co-founder of Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

Omar reiterates the negligence towards animal rights.

"In a country like Pakistan, the environment and animal welfare are often dismissed as non-issues and countered with the argument that human beings come first."

Bringing about a behavioural change, amongst the people of Pakistan, is vital and PAWS is in the process of designing a 'humane school kit' to counsel students about the significance of compassion towards animals.

Plight of 'working animals'

Pakistan, much like all developing countries, relies on animals for laborious tasks.

Equine animals, which include horses, donkeys and mules, face the brunt of animal abuse in most of the cases.

Various myths and so-called 'domestic treatments' kill hundreds of animals across the country every year - 'slit nose' and 'scorching the skin with metallic rods' top the list.

Dr Sher Nawaz, a veterinary surgeon deployed at Richmond Crawford Veterinary hospital deployed by Brook Hospital for Animals (international animal welfare organisation), informed Dawn.com about the practices being employed eradicate 'old-school treatments' which hurt animals more.

"Slit nose is a practise which entails slitting the nostrils of animals so that 'they are able to suck in more air' for proper breathing.

We have mobile health clinics and doctors travelling from place to place so that we can create awareness that this practise is absolutely uncalled for and has no connection with respiratory process."

Brook Pakistan organise community sessions to create awareness against the myths endangering animals' lives and have set up various mobile health clinics to assist the animals in need.

Dr Nawaz is optimistic of the awareness drives. "The post-community session surveys have shown a seven to eight per cent decline in nose slitting throughout the country, which is extremely positive."

"We now plan to visit different schools so that children can be taught about animal rights and advocate the same ideology," he added.

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