Give a thought to the animals September 20, 2015, Sunday Mary Margaret
Photo shows a sun bear bile farm, where bile is cruelly extracted from these animals.
WORLD Animal Day, on Oct 4, is an internationally recognised Nature Watch Foundation (worldanimalday.org.uk) initiative, that aims to make us, the public, think about our treatment and relationship with animals.
On the surface, human-animal relations seem to be simple. We live in our world and they live in theirs, out in the jungle.
This is not true. With deeper thought we realise, that even on a personal basis, our relationship with animals is very complex. Some animals we love, and they could — such as dogs or cats — even be considered to be members of our family. We feed them, we take care of them when they are sick, they make us happy, and they guard our homes.
Some animals, for example chicken, cattle and fish, are thought of as sources of protein and a necessary part of our diet.
On the opposite end, there are some we just cannot stand — house rats or cockroaches. Thirty of the 4,600 cockroach species, insects that are members of the order Blattodea, are associated with human habitats and only four are pests.
The American, German Oriental and Asian cockroaches are perceived as disease-carrying disgusting horrifying creatures.
They do leave chemical trails in the form of faeces and airborne pheromones to food and water as well as exhibit swarm behaviour. However, despite leaving bacteria on surfaces that they travel across, researchers have linked only increased allergies to the presence of cockroaches.
Despite this, cockroaches have gotten a bad reputation. They are mostly portrayed as evil frightening creatures, but in essence they are ecologically important.
The four species mentioned are associated predominantly with human habitation and perhaps, like their wild counterparts, are important decomposers thus in camps and caves they could clean up the debris left behind.
In the wild they are key decomposers of plant materials that other animals cannot digest, part of the food web, and in the tropics they are pollinators. So do all cockroaches deserve the bad reputation that the four house species have earned?
Then there are some animals which are viewed as sacred beings. Cows are respected symbols of wealth and viewed as holy under Hinduism. They were considered auspicious in ancient Egypt and Greece.
The Hindu God, Lord Ganesh, has the head of an elephant. In Thailand, white elephants are sacred animals that are believed to carry the souls of the dead.
Animals feature in the Chinese zodiac calendar including the rat, which as I mentioned is hated.
Art imitates nature. Iridescent light shimmers off jewellery imitating the flickering colours of dragonflies and damselflies. They have inspired artists to imitate their natural beauty.
Nature photographers with infinite patience capture their essence of strength and flexibility in stunning images found in books and flying across computer screens. They inspire songs and have come to represent traits.
Animals, in some stories, for example ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and ‘Animal Farm’, take on human characteristics. They talk, express emotions, likes and dislikes. Animals are everywhere in our lives, including hidden places under floorboards, in books and movies.
Animals can be defined scientifically. Essentially an animal is a creature either with a vertebra (backbone) or without.
They are complex living organisms that can move on their own. Invertebrates include echinoderms such as starfish; annelids for example earthworms; molluscs such as octopuses; anthropods for example crabs, spiders and insects. Vertebrates include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Quite often when we think of animals, we think of mammals such as dogs and cats, but there are thousands and thousands of animal species with some being discovered and others going extinct.
A cat wears a pet cone — a protective medical device.
World Animal Day is an international event that embraces all animals, wild and domesticated, zoo animals, animals in captivity and in laboratories. It aims to create awareness of man’s cruelty to animals and to make the world a better place for these creatures. The organisers would like respect and compassion to be turned into legal reform.
It began in 2003, with 44 events in 13 countries. Now there is an estimated 1,000 events, including conferences, workshops, school activities and fundraisers, in over 100 countries.
In Mexico talks about animals are being organised for children. In Egypt, Animal Care will be neutering cats and dogs for free to reduce the number of strays on the streets.
In India, students from a public school will parade through the streets silently with placards that show their concern for animals.
A group of students from this school will also present a play highlighting the plight of animals and man’s inhumane treatment of them, in addition to wearing headbands and masks depicting some species of animals.
In Kuching, the Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (www.sspca.sarawak.com.my) will hold the Asia for Animals (afaborneo2015.com) conference on Oct 6-10 to coincide with World Animal Day. The objectives of the conference are to provide a platform for those working in animal welfare and wildlife management, to build ideas and to share experiences and technology.
Keynote speakers include Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson. This internationally respected organisation has sanctuaries for bears rescued from bile (gastric fluids) farms in Vietnam and China. On some of these farms, bears are kept in cages so small that they cannot move and tubes are permanently attached to drain the bile — an excruciatingly painful process.
The Earl of Cranbrooke Dato Sri Dr Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, in his keynote address will explore the past and present mammals of Borneo and their changing environment.
Discussion topics, workshops and lectures will cover the complexity of man’s relationship with the animal world and you can join via the website.
Our relationship with animals is complex and in these intricate web dependencies, animals can be tormented by humans.
World Animal Day is an opportunity to reflect on this and to encourage all animal lovers out there to take steps, such as through supporting local or international organisations, to reduce their suffering.