Voiceless Victims

Did the innocent camel know the boundaries before stepping into the wadera’s fields? Or did the donkey deserve such brutality over a petty dispute?

The human past is often portrayed as glorious and peaceful. Yet amidst this tapestry of conquest and grandeur, Steven Pinker challenges this traditional narrative in his book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” Pinker posits that our past, far from being a golden age of glory, is scarred by violence and conflict. He establishes that most archaeological remains of human body that we have found today, are either nailed, axed, or knifed-- a symbol of their turbulent and brutal existence. His verdict is praiseworthy insofar as it conclusively paints the harrowing picture of past. But, despite this inglorious history and the flux of civilizations, religions, cultures, and ethnicities, held a significant place of companionship for animals, often symbolizing them as divine. Animals were revered as manifestations of gods too, playing a symbolic role in rituals, myths, and legends. This symbolic relationship underscores a fundamental aspect of ancient civilizations: prophesying the significance of voiceless creatures.

One of these relics is a story from Greek mythology known as “The Tale of Actaeon.” Actaeon was the grandson of Cadmus, a legendary Greek hero and skilled hunter. One day, while pursuing his passion for hunting, Actaeon chanced upon Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, bathing in a secluded pool. Whether by fate or misfortune, his gaze fell upon the goddess in a moment of vulnerability. Enraged by his intrusion, she stripped Actaeon of his human form and transformed him into a stag. In his new, unfamiliar shape, Actaeon attempted to escape the wrath of the goddess, only to find himself relentlessly pursued and ultimately torn apart by his own hounds. Tragically, they failed to recognize their master and, driven by instinct, inflicted a brutal end upon him. This metamorphosis and its brutal culmination stand as a poignant testament to the ancient belief in the sanctity of animals under divine protection and the severe consequences of transgressing these boundaries.

Recent incidents in Sanghar district of Sindh and a village near Rawalpindi are deeply disturbing. In the first incident, a camel had its leg cruelly chopped off by a wadera. In another appalling incident, a donkey’s ears were chopped off due to a dispute over land. These incidents serve as stark reminders of the ongoing cruelty inflicted upon voiceless creatures in our community. One may wonder, did the innocent camel know the boundaries before stepping into the wadera’s fields? Or did the donkey deserve such brutality over a petty dispute? These incidents, while extreme, reflect broader patterns of abuse where animals in zoos, circuses, and on streets endure neglect and exploitation, particularly in a country like ours.

While the past may have been brutal to humans, it was seemingly kinder towards animals. Today, human activities paint a starkly opposite picture of our relationship with animals. Each year, we breed and slaughter more than 100 billion animals for food, and another 115 million fall victim to scientific experimentation. The fishing industry, in its pursuit of sustenance and profit, claims around 1 to 3 trillion aquatic lives annually, while deforestation for urbanization and agriculture eradicates countless species as well.

Amidst these daunting statistics, one might contemplate the moral implications of our collective indifference. While we as humans may have fortified our walls for security, our systematic abuse of animals raises ethical questions. This dilemma echoes the haunting fate of Actaeon, transformed against his will and ultimately destroyed by forces beyond his understanding. Albert Einstein’s words resonate profoundly in this context: “The indifference, callousness, and contempt that so many people exhibit toward animals is evil first because it results in great suffering in animals, and second because it results in an incalculably great impoverishment of the human spirit.” This indictment challenges us to confront our moral responsibilities and recognize the intrinsic value of every sentient being.

Reflecting on our upbringing and education, how many of us were taught to handle animals with care, warmth, and love? The two primary learning institutions, family and school, often neglect to teach students to show kindness towards animals. It is clear that the sanctity of animal life is never emphasized. Our schools and homes prioritize human-centric values, perpetuating misconceptions about animals by labeling them as mere beasts. This lack of empathy not only perpetuates cruelty but also prevents us from recognizing the interconnectedness of all living creatures.

Moreover, the most concerning issue is that Pakistan’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act dates back more than a century to 1890. It requires urgent revision to effectively safeguard animal well-being. The current legal framework inadequately addresses scientific, cultural, and ethical standards of today, often failing to impose significant consequences on those who mistreat animals. Enhancing this legislation and enforcing stricter penalties are crucial steps to protect both domestic pets and wildlife from exploitation and abuse.

Furthermore, societal transformation is imperative. Education systems must integrate comprehensive modules on animal rights, fostering compassion and respect from an early age. Community leaders and religious authorities, influential in shaping societal norms, must actively promote humane treatment of animals as a moral imperative. In a nation grappling with challenges of human rights, extending protection to animals underscores our commitment to justice and empathy.

Ultimately, our treatment of animals mirrors our collective values and moral compass. By advocating for their rights and well-being, we uphold principles of compassion and justice that enrich our humanity. Moving forward requires concerted efforts to reassess our practices, foster empathy in future generations, and ensure that all living beings, both human and animal, receive dignity and respect. As Aristotle wisely observed, “Evil destroys even itself,” underscoring the importance of ethical conduct in shaping a harmonious society. We must now hear the silent screams of these animals before we face nature’s wrath if anything. The enduring tale of Actaeon serves as a timeless reminder that our actions towards animals reverberate beyond our immediate understanding, profoundly shaping the moral fabric of our society. For now, the present situation embodies a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and even a hard fate for the voiceless victims.

Danish Bhutto
The writer is an author, researcher and columnist based in Lahore. He can be reached at danishalee017@gmail.com

Danish Bhutto
The writer is a researcher and columnist based in Lahore. He can be reached at danishalee017@gmail.com

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