March 17, 2021

By Asra Haque


LAHORE

Animal rights activists had gathered at the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday, March 16, to register their protest against the recent wave of dog culling by the authorities, instead offering to collaborate with the government to utilize humane and scientific methods to control stray dog populations and Rabies.

Activist Ayeza Haider, chairperson of Voice for the Voiceless (VfV) said that although they had already collaborated with the District Commissioner (DC) Lahore, who had agreed with their plan of Trap Neuter Vaccinate Release (TNVR), the recent operations had now been carried by the local government across Punjab.

The activists said that culling, aside from being needlessly cruel, has had no effect on reducing stray dog populations. Furthermore, speakers explained that by exposing children to cruelty towards animals, Pakistan is raising an entire generation of apathetic and violent individuals.

They argued that countries such as Turkey and the Netherlands were able to solve the issue of stray animals through TNVR, and that Pakistan could also adopt this method with the support of NGOs and animal welfare organizations.

“This is an already implemented system. It is not some new thing the results of which are unknown,” said Ayeza Haider. “If we neuter 70 to 80 percent of street dogs, within five years we can easily limit their population to the point they no longer become a public nuisance.”

The speakers provided that the risk of getting bit and/or contracting rabies is considerably reduced when a dog is neutered (which eliminates aggression) and vaccinated. Moreover, stray dogs are a beneficial part of the urban ecosystem – by preying upon rats that tend to thrive in waste and dumping sites, stray dogs help reduce the chances of epidemics such as the plague from breaking out.

Ayeza Haider provided that although Justice Ayesha A. Malik of the Lahore High Court ordered the immediate suspension of all dog culling in the district, the Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development Board’s proposed draft on TNVR drives has yet to be approved by the Punjab Assembly despite the passage of one year.

“Our purpose is to urge the government to vet an alternative policy to dog culling as soon as possible,” she posited. “The policy is with the Law Ministry. Once it is implemented, the issue of stray dogs will be summarily resolved.”

Noting society’s hostility toward animals, especially stray dogs, said that her organization is actively engaged with the authorities to create awareness and empathy.

Aniza Khan of Give Us Life Animal Welfare stated her organization is creating awareness and inculcating empathy towards animals in society through social media.

“We are also actively engaged with stakeholders, particularly the government to create effective campaigns for animal welfare,” she stated. “We have also suggested topics regarding kindness to animals be included in primary school syllabi.”

Afia Khan urged other activists and organizations to unite and have a positive impact on animal welfare and protection.

“One individual or an organization or two cannot raise this issue as effectively,” she said. “We have made groups and are trying our best to unify and mobilize different animal welfare activists, but we are all hampered by a lack of funds and willingness to donate to our cause.”

Advocate Hamza Butt, who had filed a petition against dog culling in the Lahore High Court, stated that the issue can be resolved by adhering to international policy.

“All the government needs to do is to form a high-power committee which, in the purview of international laws and a 2009 WHO treaty that Pakistan is signatory to, needs to devise a policy to address the issue of stray dogs,” he provided. “Eventually, the benefit of such a policy will be for the people and all praise will be due to the government.”

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 is the only animal welfare law that currently exists in Pakistan, which prescribes punishment for causing unnecessary pain or harm to an animal, but the law is rarely implemented.

On May 21, 2020, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah affirmed the rights of non-human creatures in a hearing pertaining to the relocation and rehabilitation of the Marghazar Zoo’s Kaavan, known across the globe as the world’s loneliest elephant. The court observed that life is the premise of the existence of a right, and that it is a natural right of every animal to be respected, to not to be tortured or unnecessarily killed as they possess the gift of ‘life’.

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