If animals had newspapers reporting the cruelty, violence and death many of them experience daily at the hands of humans, the headlines would not be far removed from (or, perhaps, would be worse than) the often shocking ones featured in human ‘dailies.’
Putting aside details of each case, what would make animal-related headlines ‘worse than’ is the fact that, despite the barbaric nature of crimes committed, there would be little or no resulting police and legal action.
Suggested animal newspaper headlines listed below (with brief background explanations) are based on incidents reported to or witnessed by me within the latter part of 2019 in Tobago.
They are but a few of countless numbers of atrocities committed daily against animals in ‘sweet TT’.
1. Strangled to death with a shopping bag on beach
On a popular beach, two friends encountered the putrid-smelling corpse of what appeared to be a dog but was, in fact, a cat, swollen beyond regular proportions, eyes bulging. A plastic shopping bag was tied tightly around its head.
What could a cat do to warrant such ‘punishment’?
What kind of person commits such an atrocity?
Would that person do the same to another human?
2. Poisoned as punishment
The poisoning of animals is a common practice. Some farmers ‘lay poison’ after canine attacks on their livestock. Some people poison dogs to avenge owners. Some have spoken of neighbours’ threats to poison, hang or shoot their dogs for playing in their yards, stealing slippers, digging in bins, barking too much. In some cases, the threats have been carried out.
What kind of society allows such gruesome threats and acts to proliferate without recourse?
3. Walkers witness tortured death
On an early morning walk, a friend and I met a black and white cat lying in the grass in front of a holiday villa. Obviously poisoned, its eyes were bulging, bleeding mouth gasping.
Its body stiffened twice before a final tortured breath.
We reported the murder to area maintenance, but the corpse was not removed. Every morning, it was in a different stage of decomposition.
Day 2: body already softening like a deflating balloon.
Day 3: swarming black maggots voraciously consuming carcass.
Day 4: skeleton becoming visible.
Day 5: blackened skull looking as if it has been scorched in a bonfire.
Day 6 and beyond: a black perfectly cat-shaped hole remains, burned about two inches deep into the grass and earth by searing poison.
Someone from the area subsequently informed us that traps and poison are placed for the many cats that roam there.
If you are someone who deliberately poisons animals, please stop. Choose to be compassionate and explore humane alternatives for dealing with your issue. Contact animal welfare agencies for advice and assistance.
4. Stray dogs fed to Pitbulls
A friend of mine encountered a man using a female dog in heat as bait to catch male dogs that he then took home and ‘fed’ to his Pitbulls. He recorded and uploaded videos of the mauling to social media. A concerned citizen made a report providing a video as proof. Nothing has been done. This man walks the streets freely.
Psychological and criminological studies show that violence towards animals, starting as early as childhood in many cases, is an indicator of deep mental disturbance and a predictor of possible future violence against humans also.
Our Commissioner of Police promised in 2019 that he would specially assign two police officers per division throughout TT to assist in investigating and enforcing the law where any incident of animal cruelty or neglect is reported or discovered.
It seems that the promise was as weak as the law itself.
The archaic laws of our land (Summary Offences Act of 1921) present animals as property and not as sentient beings (like humans) deserving of higher standards of protection and wellbeing.
In George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, the pigs who control the government proclaim: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Those pigs speak for our nation if we remain unable to acknowledge the rights of all animals to be treated compassionately, as creatures of value.
A popular quote, attributed to Gandhi, invites reflection upon how we treat not only animals but each other (also of the animal kingdom):
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
When will our nation be an example of greatness and moral progress?