Cruelty toward animals is not some random act. It does reflect some masochistic tendencies. But the people who do this sort of thing to animals would do the same things to human beings. However, the only thing stopping them is law and order. It’s not that there aren’t laws against animal cruelty. Acts like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the Indian constitution prohibit violence toward animals.
Section 428 and 429 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) encompass all kinds of violence toward animals other than killing. These acts and legislations are the right steps in the direction of granting animals a new lease of life. It is not as easy to get away with heinous acts against animals as it used to be in the past. But the question is are they strict enough? I mean strict enough to prevent anyone who intends to harm animals from committing them in reality. Isn’t prevention better than cure? Well, I don’t think we apply this simple lesson enough in solving social problems.
Living beings, not objects
How about we teach our children to love animals? Maybe we can teach them to treat them as our fellow creatures. And just because they cannot speak for themselves and protest as a human would, it does not mean they can be harmed at will. But these lessons should be motivated by love and compassion rather than fear. The way pets are treated has always puzzled me. While I have seen people loving their pets like family members, I have seen people treating them like objects. Even worse, like toys. We need to teach our children from an early age that getting a pet is not like getting a new toy. Something that gets tossed to the corner when you lose interest. A pet is a living being and making them a part of our families comes with a lot of responsibility.
Killing for survival
Human beings have changed the course of natural history ever since they arrived. The disappearance of some of the biggest prehistoric animals has coincided with the arrival and thriving of mankind. Directly or indirectly human beings have been responsible for the extinction of many species, plants and animals. The early humans killed animals for food, for protection and even for the fun of hunting. Co-operation and planning enabled them to bring down creatures much bigger and stronger than them.
Killing for fun
While killing for food and protection looks fairly justified, especially in a hostile environment, hunting for fun does not. Human beings’ love for hunting can be traced across time and cultures. It has been immortalized through stories, murals, cave paintings and whatnot. How often have we seen carcasses of animals exhibited with pride as a memento of incredible bravery? Walls are decorated with the heads of leopards, bears and deers. And let’s not even start with bird-shooting. It is almost amusing how human beings take pride in killing animals using deception and luring. Would even the strongest of human beings stand a chance against a stag without devising these two, let alone a tiger?
Hunting – the devil still lives
Hunting for pleasure is becoming less common these days. Poaching animals for their skins, hides, horns, etc. has been still raging despite attempts to curb it by governments all over the world. Hunting for pleasure is on a decline, fortunately. However, we have the incident of the lion Cecil who was lured out of safety and killed. This incident took place in a national park in Zimbabwe. And to make matters worse he was left to suffer for at least 10 hours after the fatal wound was inflicted. It was a case of trophy hunting. Another glorious beast met an agonizing death. I am sure there have been numerous similar incidents other than this all over the world. Yet, hunting has become difficult compared to the past because of laws passed by governments and also wide-scale activism.
Fear does not change much, compassion does
However, to emphasize what I said earlier about prevention being better than cure, I would like to add that laws aren’t enough to stop any crime or to change the convictions of harming. If every human being loves and respects animals then laws won’t have to be implemented every now and then. People won’t harm animals out of love and not because they are afraid of punishment. This applies to any crime or offense inflicting violence that comes to our minds. Of course, laws need to be strengthened over time if a crime increases. But the society will be a better place not because people are afraid to commit a crime but because the people living in it aren’t mentally capable of them and do not possess the intention to harm anyone. This is possible only through education. Education that goes beyond reading moral science as a subject in school. One that is lived through in everyday life. When we teach children to interact with animals as they would with a human being with respect and love they will grow up believing harming animals is every bit as bad as harming a human being.
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