At Lahore Zoo, Animals Are Subjected To Gross Mistreatment

At Lahore Zoo, Animals Are Subjected To Gross Mistreatment
A society’s values and morals can easily be gauged by how it treats it weakest and most vulnerable members. To judge what kind of society Pakistan is, we would easily get the picture by looking at how animals are treated in the country. And it’s not a pretty picture to see.

Although the poor, elderly and disabled face challenges in every society, the true face of a person is revealed by how it interacts with these defenseless creatures who are unable to talk back and report their grievances against the reigning predator that is man.

What I see in my country pains me to the extreme. It’s like we don’t even consider them as living beings but objects that zoom out of focus as soon as they are not of value to us.

What the irony of this situation is that we are always boastful of our status as the true believers of this world, and consider ourselves better than followers of other religions. We have been taught in Islam to safeguard and protect the innocent. The Holy Quran preaches us to do so, our Prophet (PBUH), through his actions and words, compelled his followers to be gentle to the weak. An example of this is the Prophet’s interaction with a non-Muslim woman who had committed many sins but was forgiven by Allah when she eased a dog’s thirst in his last moments on this earth, but what we see today is the opposite of it.

The western world takes care of its dependents; the poor, the elderly, the disabled and animals while we only talk about our achievement to be born in a Muslim household. This is painful to admit, but this is where we stand. I won’t digress about the inequality of resources that we have as compared to developed nations but our solution to this problem is to drive with our blinders on with no brakes, hoping and praying that it will not result in a disaster.

Yes, we are a poor country, but that is not an excuse for dusting off of our responsibilities towards the dependent components of this society which includes animals. This is not how a sentient being should behave. He who wears the crown has to carry the responsibility as well and that is something that we as Pakistanis have failed to do so towards the innocent creatures that live among us.

To highlight the cruelty that we exercise against animals in our country, the most recent example is the Lahore Zoo and how it has become a shameful jail for animals. The animals at Lahore Zoo are not being provided with the adequate minimum standards of living under the Punjab Zoos and Safari Park Rules 2012, under the Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act, 1974 (II of 1974). Section 14 of these rules states that “All wild animals and exhibits shall be ensured timely supply of nutritionally balanced, hygienic and unadulterated food in sufficient quantity according to their respective requirements.” Regardless of the Section 14 requirements, a zoo visitor, despite not being an expert, can see animals not being fed properly in sufficient quantity and, the animals, therefore, are living their lives as prisoners at the Zoo.

In 2017, Lahore Zoo's most-loved animal, Suzi the elephant, died of an illness allegedly due to lack of proper care.

This clock of tyranny against the animals needs to be stopped and I, as an animal welfare activist, have taken the prerogative to use any means possible to solve this problem. I have conducted several successful protests in the major cities of Punjab against Animal cruelty for this cause and to shape the society’s perception towards animals. However, with time, we have come to realize that these efforts are ineffective until they are channelized with the force of the law. Therefore, a writ petition, drafted by me and with me as the sole petitioner, has been filed in the Honorable Lahore High Court against the Director Lahore Zoo to address the violations the Lahore Zoo as a government institution is committing against the Punjab Zoos and Safari Park Rules 2012.

The first hearing of the case was on the 23th January 2020 in the Honorable Court of Judge Shahid Waheed. The Honorable Judge accepted our petition and ordered Director Lahore Zoo to submit a report within a period of 4 weeks to address all of the violations of the Rules mentioned in our writ petition.

This is merely the first step in an arduous journey for us animal welfare activists. However, the court of law has the force to rectify this problem and since the Honorable court has started to take action, we can be hopeful that the conditions of Lahore Zoo will improve drastically as these voiceless ones, at the very least, deserve a home where they are not treated as prisoners but creatures of the Almighty God.

Altamush Saeed is a law graduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences. He is a human/animal rights activist and works for social welfare causes. He writes primarily about social issues with a legal analytical perspective.