Let us talk animal rights and coexist with other beings

Rasha al Raisi –

While working on my article two weeks back — in the company of my stray cat Naeemo, who came to believe that she’s an indoor cat and has the right to occupy my room — we were surprised to hear female voices coming from the garden. It was round 4 o’clock in the afternoon, an unusual time to receive guests.
Naeemo and I exchanged looks and decided to investigate. She jumped off the table and I followed her to the balcony, welcoming a break from the computer screen. As I leaned on the balcony rail, I realised that the voices were that of two adolescent boys of 12 or 13. One was skinny and the other chubby. Both were wearing glasses and on bicycles. They were chattering in English, so I couldn’t tell their nationality as most of Omani private school kids nowadays do that too.
Mr. Skinny had a plastic toy in his hand that I recognised to be a water gun. For a moment I doubted his intentions, till I saw him aiming it at one of my strays (a sick one with a bad flu, who chose to seclude himself outside the house). That’s when the neighbourhood heard my shouts. The boys were startled as they weren’t expecting a mad cat lady living in the house. Mr. Skinny turned to Mr. Chubby and accused him of setting him up (a very surprising reaction!) and Mr. Chubby denied any knowledge of the cats being owned by anyone! Of course, my rant went on for a few seconds and it included things like: leave my cats alone, never want to see them again around my house and being an Arab the phrase of: God will punish you for harming those helpless beings (not sure if they got it as I said it in Arabic while they were riding away!). Yes, I did sound like a mad cat lady but the only image I had in mind was my sick cat being wet in this cold weather.
Despite our technological advancement and social development, our stance towards animals hasn’t really changed and remains as it was 50 years back.
Animals are seen by many as entertainment tools. To get over boredom, they’d adopt an animal. Once the pet gets old, he’d be neglected or even worst: get dumped on the streets or in vet clinics. When you get into the argument of animals having feelings, most people would give you blank looks. To them, animals only: eat, drink, breed and die. No feelings or intelligence of any sort. This limited view shows how alienated we are from the idea of coexisting with other beings on this planet; such as animals and plants. This selfish view leads to the destruction of natural habitats and putting many animals on the brinks of extinction.
But it’s not too late to change all of this. School curricula should include animal rights and the importance of coexisting with other beings. Religious programmes and speeches should discuss these topics more often. Live entertainment radio programmes should cut people off when they call and laugh about any sort of animal abuse (it’s disturbing to hear about cats and pigeons being run over. Really!). The social media should shed a light on the matter, so that it includes everyone. Not only posting cute pictures of animals or crying when animal rights are violated, but to have an in-depth conversation on the importance and impact of such issues to society. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress could be judged by the way its animals are treated”.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com