Every year World Animal Day is celebrated in the worst possible way. People who do nothing for animals the whole year round get together at the Boat Club, call some foolish environment minister to deliver a homily against cruelty, have shamianas, buntings and streamers put up, get children to walk up and down in the heat parading their pets, get police dogs and army horses, a few bulls that walk for miles to reach the festivity, distribute posters and have themselves photographed by the press. Everyone has a good time—except the animals in whose name this tamasha takes place.
Why not have a year-round raffle instead called Buy a Bird and use the money to release as many birds as possible outside the city or in a bird sanctuary? Or use the money to hold a camp for setting up permanent water troughs in as many colonies as possible for stray cattle, as was done by the Mughal rulers and the British in old Delhi. Or rescue healthy dogs from the pound and get them adopted. Or even give the money to those institutions that care for unwanted animals all the year round. What is being done now is the equivalent of having World Leprosy Day and making the lepers parade up and down for the amusement of passersby.
There is no one day for animals. Every day should be a Caring Day for all life.
I receive a lot of letters from people—specially school and college children—asking me what they can do. Here is a list of suggestions:
(a) First concentrate on your locality. Find other people who are interested in animal welfare and organise an informal group. Then locate the places where the stray animals—dogs, cats, cows—are. They usually have fixed places where they scavenge for food. Collect the leftovers in your houses and put them at fixed hours in these places so that the animals have a fixed source of food—banana skins, carrot and radish heads, apple cores, whatever is usually thrown away. If you have a lawn, collect the grass when it is cut. This will do ideally for cows. Ask your neighbours for leftovers too.
(b) As you get familiar with the locality animals, you will notice if any of them need medical help. If you have made friends with your local vet you can enlist his help and your group can chip in with the small sums of money collected from selling the raddi for the medicines needed. Alternatively, you can ring up a shelter in your town to keep the animal temporarily and then have it returned to its locality.
(c) You can act as a vigilante group for your locality. If you see someone mistreating an animal, the group can approach (politely!) and explain an alternative treatment. Keep a quiet watch on the owner and if he continues, offer to find it another home—and start looking around for one.
(d) One of the main problems that animals have is finding water. You can buy a deep bowl and put it outside the house twice a day for passing strays to drink out of. The Mughals and the British constructed permanent troughs in the colonies of Delhi for cows. In the small towns you can still do it in your colony on some unused land. You can put a birdbath bowl in your garden or terrace or roof.
(e) Start writing letters to newspapers, magazines, municipal authorities, to your MP, to celebrities protesting against cruelties that the administration either perpetrates or has allowed to take place. For instance, the campaign against bringing camels to Mumbai for the amusement of beachgoers was kept alive until the existing camels were returned to their natural habitat and a ban was enforced on new camels being brought into the city. Dog pounds, bird markets, zoos—inspect them yourselves and start complaining if you see something is wrong.
(f) Start a Kindness Club in your school or college. Get permission to talk to students on specific cruelties that we inflict unknowingly on animals by buying unnecessary animal products. Distribute Beauty Without Cruelty lists of products that do not use animals for experimentation. Organise expeditions to shelters once a week/month to help in the cleaning and care. Persuade fellow students to adopt ‘pure’ Indian dogs instead of pedigreed ones. Collect items from house to house—old blankets, flypaper, tin bowls, cleaning rags, medicine and money for the shelters. Put together a list of people interested in adoption. Invite guest speakers to come to your school/college so that you can generate more interest in the club. Ask those parents who manufacture something to donate an item and when you have several of them hold a raffle. If your school kills animals for biology classes get a signature campaign started among the students to have it stopped and substituted with blackboard/video/model instruction.
(g) If you have an association with a Rotary or Lions club, campaign among the members to have a local shelter adopted by the club in its annual welfare programme.
Doing things is easy. It’s just knowing how to start that is difficult. Don’t let it deter you when people say, (a) why are you doing so much for animals when human beings need more attention or (b) what is the point of doing something for only these many when lakhs more need attention. You can make all the difference.
To join the animal welfare movement contact email@example.com
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