A sentence of death by torture

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A sentence of death by torture

Thursday, 07 February 2019 | Varda Mehrotra

It is disheartening that despite strong animal protection laws in place, live export of cattle is a thriving business in India. We have to protect them

Abusing animals for human benefit dates back to centuries  with supreme leaders form one community using animals as barter to prove their loyalty towards an influential leader. Horses for cavalry, sheep, goats, cows and even the rarest of deer were presented to leaders for food and clothing. Open murders of these animals were a common sight and with the lack of any laws protecting them from this enormous cruelty, there was no way they could be saved. The 17th century saw a growth in animal trade during the Mughal regime. Horses were transported by sea to please the interest of Mughal rulers, from as far as Persia and some Arabian countries. The Jahangirnama records the arrival of Muqarrab Khan in court to pay homage in 1610. He brought many Abyssinian slaves and Arabian horses for the then supreme leader of the country. It was believed that if six horses were sent to be transported, only one would survive to be gifted to the emperors. These animals were never likely to survive in abnormally harsh journeys they were sent on.

Today, centuries later, there are some laws and rules which protect animals from such torture but the situation remains largely the same. Maybe horses have been spared for the time being, but goats, sheep and cows are still traded and they are exported in horrific conditions of abysmal torture to countries where poor or no current laws of animal protection and welfare exist. Animals are transported by sea or air, treated as mere commodities and thrown into these flights of shame.

Thousands of sheep, goats and cows, trapped in a moving ship inside loose containers, face exhaustion with little food and water to survive the dreadful journeys. Many animals don’t make it — they die due to trauma, heat strokes, dehydration, injuries, fatigue and diseases they catch on their way. All animals, who die during the course of the journey, are dumped into the ocean. The transportation chambers are never cleaned, thus leaving animals to lie in their own faeces — and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lack of any veterinary care on board the ship/flight and the lack of any inspection on the way these animals are exported leave them at the mercy of exporters, giving the brokers an opportunity to bend laws as per their convenience. No cameras are allowed inside the ship and exporters make it a point to hide the manner in which these animals are transported from one country to another.

In India, the law recognises that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen and that of the state to protect and show compassion for the environment, wildlife and all living creatures. Yet, exporting animals in our country is not only unethical but also effectively illegal as these animals are subject to cruelty as defined by the  Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA). Export of live animals defeats the purpose of the Act, which is to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering on animals. None of the export rules and procedures made by the Government specifies how animals are to be exported. In the current socio-political environment in the country, the Government — both State and Central and pressure groups like animal NGOs and the Jain Samaj — have different opinions on the way animals are to be treated. The issue then is no longer for the animals but for vested interests of each stakeholder involved in the process.

This has presented us an opportunity to speak for the animals used in live export, to the top of our voices, and bring forth the visible torture they go through on these journeys of death. With continuous uproar in the public to stop this cruel practice once and for all, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) has campaigned to ‘stop live export of animals’ across the country. Despite having strong animal protection laws, live export on the part of India is a mockery of the lives of these animals as well as the laws. We have to protect them. Recently, more than 3,000 sheep were transported from Nashik Airport, which brought together several activists and animal lovers. FIAPO has asked the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to ban the practice of live export  like in the State of Gujarat. While we make resolutions for a bright new year, thousands of animals in live export face the darkest phase of their lives. Putting money ahead of animals’ pain is unethical on several grounds. Animals are not iron or wheat. They are sentient souls who cannot protest against what happens to them. Handing them to individuals or groups, that have no concern of animal welfare, on to ships or flights with no special facility to carry them is completely immoral and effectively illegal. The Government needs to recognise, take a note of this and put an end to this extremely cruel practice.

(The writer is Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations)


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