Hero versus Pakistan’s villains
“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality”― Arthur Schopenhauer.
This is the story of Hero, a donkey that remains in critical condition after violent abuse.
Every time I think our morality and apathy has hit rock bottom, I am proven wrong by another heinous incident that brutally violates norms of human decency and shreds any form of animal welfare. The more animal welfare is highlighted and the more awareness we all raise, the more people are in defiance or denial; going from bad to worse.
On a personal level, I stop every donkey-wala in my neighbourhood, constantly educate my staff, friends and even strangers and get them to be kind to animals, whether it is a bird, a dog, a cat or a donkey. I even unwelcomingly start giving speeches to their family members or passers-by.
But it seems all is lost.
The situation got even worse a couple of nights ago when a gentleman named Abdullah posted a donkey abuse case on Facebook. Almost instantly, it went viral, being shared on various profiles, pages and groups. The post with the heartbreaking pictures of the beautiful beast of burden bleeding profusely from his nose, eyes and other areas, just sat there haunting all of us at 2:30am.
All of us felt helpless. Not because we could not help him then and there, but because of the disbelief that someone would write a politician’s name on a donkey and proceed to violently abuse him over and over again. The disbelief that we as a nation could regress so badly in this one case. The shock consumed all of us that while we allegedly work towards a better Pakistan, behind the scenes, the situation is just dire.
Following the brutal attack on Hero, some misguided people plastered a stray dog with another party’s flyers. This uncivilised behaviour is an indirect consequence of negative connotations associated with donkeys and dogs in our culture.
Sadly, this is not the first case I have heard of, seen or been involved with. It is just the first case that has gone viral. In the past, I have heard of and seen photos of dogs and wild boars being labelled with the name of some politician and beaten to a pulp. I never had the guts to further look into those pictures but I know for a fact that Hero’s case is not an isolated one.
Apart from these “hate crimes” against animals that are used to settle scores, the plight of animals in Pakistan is all too real. Every single day, there are posts on social media, reports to the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF) team, of animals being either poisoned, shot, discarded, abandoned or tortured by people on the streets. Dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, camels, pangolins and even birds, are treated savagely.
At ACF, I have met dogs and cats who have had boiling water thrown on them, puppies and kittens who have been burnt with lighters and had their nails pulled out for fun. Dogs and cats hit by cars and forever left disabled, and shot with pellet guns – all for entertainment and/or because no one thinks twice. All of this is due to the simple fact that there are no consequences of animal abuse in our country. All because they cannot speak for and defend themselves.
Be it the animals suffering in dirty cages at Empress Market, or beloved pets snatched from their homes to be sold off, from importing wild animals to sell to people as pets to caging beautiful beasts who were born to be free – the onus is on us.
I keep hearing everyday,
“Oh but people suffer too, why would anyone help animals?”
There is a simple answer. Helping animals does not preclude helping humans in need. It is easier to be kind to animals than it is to people. Their needs are simple. Animals are pure, they are innocent, they don’t lie and cheat, they are not vindictive, they do not steal and they are just good in and out. If you cannot be empathetic and kind to an animal and respect their right to co-exist in this land of ours, how do you expect to pay heed to the struggles of human beings? It is also easier for people to help animals. Their needs are few and all they want is kindness and food. It is the basic starting point of humanity.
“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal” – Joaquin Phoenix
But this is Hero’s story. Hero was one of the lucky ones to have been rescued.
At 2:30am, most of the ACF team, who works tirelessly all day, was asleep. After seeing Abdullah’s post, a senior ACF member posted all the details and location for the donkey on our rescue collaboration group and I reached out to Mr Muhammad Adeel from Innocent Pet Shelter (IPS) to appeal to him to somehow rescue this donkey on behalf of ACF and get him to safety. Within 10 minutes of receiving the information, Adeel raced his way to the donkey who was lying on the road just waiting to die. Laboured breathing, in agony and bleeding. His eyes lifeless and all hope lost.
We hired a van by some miracle at 3:00am, and Adeel waited by the donkey and helped load him into the van, all the while coordinating with the ACF rescue officer and night shelter manager.
And finally they were on their way to safety.
This particular teamwork and collaboration by two different shelters is a first for animal welfare in Pakistan. More often than not, small animal welfare groups sprouting in every corner of Pakistan have to compete with each other for limited resources rather than collaborate. For Hero, who was in critical need, ACF and IPS came together for a common goal: to save his life no matter what. This in itself was a huge win for animal welfare with the hope of more collaborations in the future to save even more lives.
The ACF team members have carried out extensive research on donkeys, visited sanctuaries abroad and learned a mountain of information on these amazing animals. Donkeys internalise their pain; unlike other animals who will react out of fear or run when scared, donkeys freeze. Donkeys cry on the inside and their distress is hidden unless you really learn to recognise it. The donkey will keep going till his last ounce of strength because that is the beauty of this resilient creature. Yet they are one of the most mistreated animals in Pakistan.
Hero is now at ACF, receiving the best possible care and being given lots of love, the best quality food and rehabilitation by seasoned professionals, so there is hope for Hero, though he remains in critical condition.
Update: We have named him Hero as it takes a true hero of the heart to stand quietly, collapse helplessly, and endure painfully as this donkey did. Hero is very critical right now and under constant observation, IV fluids and treatment. He couldn’t even stand on his own, we had to lift him. He wants to eat but his mouth is full of wounds. He had severe respiratory issues, internal abdominal swelling due to the kicks and punches. He is still trembling. We are trying to help the trauma subside via rehabilitation methods to make him feel safe enough to trust us, hoping that will generate a will to live within him. For all those asking us to expose the culprits, we do not know as we found him in the middle of the night when the damage was already done. But we do know of his injuries and what torture he endured after medical examination. Also, do you all realise he is just one of the many who must have and is suffering this fate? Do you know how many Heroes are out there who we see on a regular basis, going through unbearable abuse? Just look outside your car windows. Why don’t you find out about them? And don’t blame the donkey owners. They are drowning in poverty themselves. No education. Living on less than minimum daily wages. No healthcare for their donkeys that are their only source of livelihood. Let alone any healthcare for them and their families. And no awareness on how to handle or care for equines. Bonded slave labour with women and children beaten and chained in brick kilns and coal mines across the country with donkeys collapsing under the weight of bricks. We can only blame ourselves for not bothering to teach them better. Or pay attention to this before. Do you know dogs are hanged by telephone wires on poles for laughs, dogs are dressed in human outfits, hung upside down, molested and tortured? Cats have boiling water thrown on them as a joke to see them writhe in pain. Dogs are boiled alive and exposed to the most horrific inhumane dog fights for money. Do you know donkeys are burnt at the belly and genitals to have their babies come out quicker and have nails inserted into their rear and mouth to keep them bleeding so they work more? Do you know cats have had their mouths sewn shut by barbed wire and thrown in garbage piles? Do you know that dogs and donkeys are skinned alive for meat and donkey hides? Do you know many of these heinous acts are done at the hands of children? Because it’s probably abuse the children themselves have endured or seen their whole lives. So the pattern repeats itself. Do you know this is just a tiny amount of the abuse we have seen in 5 years of starting animal welfare in this country? Did you know this is all happening right outside your homes? May we know where everyone else has been for the past 70 years or so of Pakistan’s existence? Did animals not exist before then? Did no one dare to care? If we did, we would have known all of this. People laugh at us for helping animals. We pity them for being so limited in their thinking to not realise that helping those less powerful than you, showing kindness and empathy is the root of any solid foundation of any socially aware, successful nation. Empathy, respect and compassion for the earth and all its inhabitants is a mandate that should be incorporated in every school, in every political manifesto, in every social dialogue, in every multinational or large or small corporations as compulsory if you want to create a better world for our future generations. However, people in power do not believe to even spend a rupee on animals, not realising they are reinforcing a vicious cycle of hate and intolerance instead of building a positive environment for growth, diversity and success. Education in every school, big or small needs an empathic component to its curriculum. The same goes for our general public. We need to start changing our ways. How do we ever expect the country to become better if we don’t start at the roots? We are a small group of people running this organisation. We need help. Help from you to raise your voices. Animals are not voiceless. They just speak a different language. It’s our job to listen. It’s our job to ensure they are heard rather than silenced and tormented. If we are “superior” to them as humans, then it’s our duty to help them. Start with your own neighbourhood. As a wise man once said, “be the change you want to see in the world”. It starts with YOU. Don’t let another Hero become a fallen hero. RISE. SPEAK. HELP.#HelpingHeroHeal #HelpingHero #HeroKaPakistan #helpHerohelpPakistan #JusticeForHero #BeAHeroforHero
Posted by ACF Animal Rescue on Monday, July 16, 2018
How many more “Heros” are out there? How many more have to suffer the same fate? How many more will it take for people to speak up and spring into action? Not every abuse case is or can be viral, or gather as much media attention; in those cases, which is a lot, the animals suffer and die. It’s happening right under all our noses and unless we wake up and face the reality, many more Heros will suffer a fate even worse than death.
People ask what they can do. It’s not difficult. If you see an animal in distress, call for help. Please stay with the animal until help arrives. All too often, people who report an animal in danger don’t give clear directions and rescue teams are left searching in futility. If you cannot stay, please give your number so the rescue teams can reach you from the field. If an injured animal is in imminent danger of being run over, place stones or bricks around it to prevent oncoming traffic from injuring it further or running it over. Puppies, kittens, goats and donkeys can be safely moved by yourself. Unless you have practice, avoid touching adult cats or dogs, who can hurt you because they are in distress.
And easiest of all, put a bowl of fresh water out every day for birds and other animals. Stop others from hurting animals. Speak up. Be kind, it does not cost us anything but can save the lives of many animals.
Timings: 10am – 6pm
Rescue number: 0334 5665000
Reporting via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACFAnimalRescue/
Do your bit to save civility, humanity, this country and its inhabitants, all of them.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.