I recently travelled throughout the Tarai and made it my intention to observe and report the cruelty Nepali animals face every day. I wanted to see if people were aware of the cruelty around them and how they reacted.
The rampant animal abuse is there for all to see. I am shocked, angry and depressed all at once to see so many animals suffering everyday in Nepal. Let me start by the bullock carts. Almost all of them were overloaded and they were straining to pull the carts with every breath of their body. Their legs were nearly off the ground and it was a heart-rending scene to witness. The drivers and passersby meanwhile were completely oblivious to the pain of these animals. In fact, the drivers were beating the bullocks to move faster. Their main focus was on delivering their goods and collecting their money. They only see their animals as a means to earn a living.
No one has explained to the bullock owners the pain animals feel as sentient beings. I blame the poverty and fight for survival that Nepalis face every day for this unconcerned attitude, but am convinced that with education and awareness working animals will be treated better, which will result in more productive animals.
My next observation was that farm animals like cows, buffaloes, goats and bulls are inevitably tied with short ropes. They barely get to move around. Even people with spacious farms tie their animals. The concept of letting them graze in a paddock hardly exists here. Some chicken and ducks were roaming about freely but poultry farms have already invaded the rural areas. Industrialized poultry farms are increasingly dominating the scene.
Personally I wish no animals or birds were killed for food. I am part of a movement to convince people of the benefits of vegetarianism. At the same time I do realize and respect that non-vegetarians are a large portion of our population. That is why I want to see a humane dairy, poultry and meat industry established in Nepal.
Veterinarians, animal husbandry students and officials need to be educated about these issues and taught animal welfare as a part of their courses. They play an important role in the development of an industry in which the welfare of both animals and humans is taken seriously. Uncontaminated, organic, fresh farm products are the need of the hour. If farmers are taught modern, ethical way of food farming, their economic status will improve and so will the wellbeing of livestock animals.
If we are to become exporters of animal products we need to follow international guidelines for animal welfare. By being a signatory to WTO, our government is obligated to formulate rules to ensure the welfare of animals.
The most painful part of my journey was to witness the ways in which buffaloes, goats and chicken are transported for slaughter. Buffaloes, such ancient, gentle creatures, are basically shoveled and beaten into trucks. There are no ramps or organized holding and loading areas. They are hung by ropes on their sensitive noses to take some of the weight off the animal they are crushing below them. Their tails are twisted upwards and then twisted around the rope on the net protecting them from falling out. Their anuses protrude out to bursting point while the driver drives over potholes and swerves around corners without a thought to the animals he is transporting. They are bloodied and battered by the time they reach their destinations.
The suffering these gentle animals endure has to be seen to be believed. We have a perfect Animal Transportation Act but in the absence of a caring public, honest quarantine officers and resting areas to break up the long journey, it is just a piece of paper.
At Animal Nepal we recently organized a convoy transportation rally from for working equines and their owners and caretakers from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu, where the donkeys, mules and horses work in brick factories. We were forced to do this to reduce the animal suffering during the long journey. What’s more, equine owners are forced to pay bribes to corrupt police and government officials as well as local mafia.
The journey from Nepalgunj takes anywhere between 30 to 60 hours. Due to the lack of holding areas and active monitoring, the animals are forced to endure this standing up with no water and food. Many die on the way and are simply thrown out of the vehicle. The neglect these hardworking sentient beings put up with is something that must be addressed immediately, lest we not lose our humanity entirely.
With a little effort we can change the lives of animals in Nepal for the better. We just need to work together and spread the word that animals are sentient beings, who feel pain just as we humans do.
Nepal now has several shelters for dogs, cows and equines. We fight the abuse together through education, awareness raising and advocacy. We are lobbying for the passage of an animal welfare law and an animal welfare board. We are in the process of mobilizing communities to stand up for animals and have just trained a group of 35 people from Bara and Parsa on the concepts of animal rights and welfare.
We want people across the nation to organize themselves as animal rights watch groups and prevent cruelty in their communities. It is our dream to be able to create such watch groups in all 75 districts of the country.
We are taking a balanced and logical approach to addressing the suffering of animals. Each animal cause we take up is backed by logical arguments. If people realize the economic benefits they may treat their animals differently. If people are supported with a good marketing strategy to market ‘humane’ products, abuse can be greatly reduced.
With a little effort lives of animals can be changed for the better. We just need to work together and spread the word that animals are sentient beings, who feel pain just as we do.
Think of the above next time you dig into buff momo, chicken chowmein or a juicy steak. If you really must eat meat, demand meat from humanely transported and killed animals. This is your right as a consumer. Consuming freshly killed animals as is the norm in Nepal can cause many diseases. Educate yourselves and others and stay healthy.
Every sensible and sensitive citizen should support the animal movement because being kind to animals is a prerequisite for a civil society. Let’s start by telling the meat shop owners to stop killing animals in front of each other, stop tying them on short tight ropes, stop caging them in overstuffed and small cages, water and feed them and slaughter them humanely. Let us encourage each other to eat meat that is humanely produced or stop eating meat altogether.
So have we lost our humanity? Having witnessed many kind gestures on this journey too, my answer is no. Seeing a boy playing with a dog, an old man caressing a goat or a woman farmer massaging her buffalo, my hope for a cruelty free Nepal does not seem so unrealistic anymore.