WOW | Coffee Break

Fight for this love

Shristi Singh Shrestha
Animal Right Advocate/ Activist

Your journey as an animal rights activist…

It was around 11 years back when I used to eat meat. I always did feel guilty when I consumed meat but it did not stop me from eating. Then one day, I saw a truck filled with goats being taken to the slaughterhouse. It made me feel that the taste didn’t hold any importance when compared to the lives of these animals. I decided never to consume meat, fish or eggs. I searched for animal rights and welfare organisations in the country and came across Animal Nepal. Here, I learnt how human greed was leading animals into torturous situations. It made me feel strongly that I should fight for their rights.

How does your idea of ethical animal treatment differ from what we see in practice today?

I can list a couple of examples to shed some light on my idea of ethical animal treatment. Pigs are castrated without anaesthesia in farms, hens are hung upside down on motorbikes with their heads hitting the concrete at every bump and corner, buffaloes are transported tied by their noses and tails until their anuses hang out, the habitat of wild animals have been encroached and they are being prosecuted for entering human settlements that originally belonged to them, thousands of endangered animals are trafficked to other countries, dogs are kicked, chained and mistreated in homes and on streets, elephants are captured and calves taken away from their mothers so that they can be ‘trained’ to be used for rides, cows are abandoned on the streets and left to die because they are of no use for the farmers and so on.

The ethical treatment of animals is far from reality at this point of time as I see it and while there has been some change in the behavioural pattern of people; we still have a long way to go.

How would you explain the bond you share with your dogs?I have four dogs who share our house and they are family. I would want to recite a recent incident with my dog Maya. She got very sick and I remember holding her head and telling her to hold on for at least her tenth birthday; she passed away the day after. I will never forget the way she looked at me then; that was her final gift for me.

Your thoughts on animal sacrifice…

Humans are the only species known to worship Gods in all their forms. Humans also are the only ones who fear Gods. This fear is the central factor that governs a person to kill another being for self-benefit. Animal sacrifice in Nepal has its roots in the Shaktism branch of worship. The followers of this path itself have had to go through the strictest of regimes and rituals and were granted Siddhis through centuries of tapas or in-depth meditation. These Siddhas could take lives of animals only because they could bring the dead animal back to life. We do not find Siddhas like such in today’s time and those who practice the ritual of animal sacrifice carry it out intoxicated with ego or fear and incomplete knowledge regarding the essence of sacrifice. Sacrifice means to let go of one’s animalistic traits like lust, greed, gluttony, pride, anger and illusion. It is written in our sacred texts that instead of sacrificing animals, vegetables like pumpkin and coconut can be offered to the goddess that leads to same results.

Slaughtering helpless animals in the name of Gods and Goddesses whether in the killing fields of Gadhimai or front porch of a house, does not justify humans of being wise. It is a sign of cowardice and an epitome of cruelty.

How can cruelty towards animals be controlled?

Cruelty towards animals needs to be addressed in two-fold ways. One is the legal framework that needs to be clear and stern as well as implemented and monitored. The other factor is awareness dissemination among public. There are five freedoms that are stressed when animal welfare and rights are discussed globally. By following them, animal rights can be ensured:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • ·Freedom from fear and distress

How do you feel about zoos?

Zoos camouflaged as education centres are actually prisons for animals. In the case of our Central Zoo, everyone can see the animals being cramped in small cages; most animals suffer from depression and behavioural problems. Zoos are just there making a profit. They desensitise children by making them think that it is okay to keep animals behind cages. Zoos need to be closed down and sanctuaries and national reserves need to be expanded so that conservation of wild animals actually sees some fruition.