A recent case
In May 2020, an elephant was found dead in a river in Kerala, India after eating a pineapple filled with explosives – it caused severe burns and she passed away trying to cool her mouth in the river. Reading this, I felt disgust - at how inhumane humans can be, confusion - at how ignorant humans can be and anger - at how part of me wasn’t wholly surprised at this news. I have often visited India over the years and witnessed daily examples of poor animal welfare, from abused stray dogs, to neglected farm animals and battery chickens seen in store fronts of restaurants. I had felt the disgust, confusion and anger before. It got me thinking about the differences in animal welfare standards in lesser developed countries compared with more developed countries. I will focus on the examples of the UK and India as these are two countries in which I have more personal experience witnessing welfare policies in practice.
Comparing Outlooks on Animal Welfare
The main animal welfare issues affecting the UK result from ignorance with 130,700 calls to the RSPCA reporting neglect every year. However, given that 44% of households own a pet and 90% of those households state owning a pet improves their quality of life, we are a society who generally values companionship with animals and want to understand them more. While in the EU, the UK was bound by animal welfare laws such as the recognition of animals as sentient beings and the banning of certain animal housing which proved detrimental to their health (e.g. Sow Stalls). In India only around 6.9% of households own a pet and of those the majority of households own dogs to serve as guard dogs and not pets (they sleep and eat outside the house). Furthermore, from a young age seeing cows and horses wandering the street and dogs scavenging outside
restaurants, it is understandable that a society can get desensitised to such scenes. It cannot be overlooked that India has a human welfare crisis, so one cannot be too surprised that animals are not a priority to the government. However when you hear of active and unjust abuse of stray animals - such as the Kerala government paying volunteers to neuter stray dogs whilst the volunteers pocket the money and kill them instead - you can’t help but feel a major shift in society’s perspective is urgently necessary.
When thinking about how we can make a positive change to people’s outlook towards animals, the first thing that comes to mind is education. Animal Aspirations introduces young people of diverse backgrounds in the UK to the exciting world of animal science and medicine; a similar approach could be invaluable if put in place across India. Introducing the importance of animal welfare into the curriculum and even increasing positive representation of pets, livestock and wildlife in the media will impact the views of the new generation who have a chance of influencing policy in the future. Members of Animal Aspirations are inviting the college to discuss different cultural views on animal welfare in the curriculum. As for what we can do right now: We are lucky enough to be in a generation where many hard conversations are being had with loved ones in the hope of creating a more caring and open society. Now is the time to educate others about why we should care and how we can help.
Written by: Dhanya Mahadevan
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