Companion animals are very important to the people of big cities. In all societies new and old, people have, and will continue to coexist with animals. The interaction with animals takes places in various forms ‑ from dependence, codependence, emotional requirement, parasitism, commensalism, rapacity, all the way to companionship. As civilisations matured, there was a gradual displacement from life amidst nature and survival of all species as a community to life in cities. Man evolved from natural environment and hence, finds it difficult to live in the same connection with nature as before. The setting that we live in, the urban society however still continues to be a part of the global ecological network, where the combination of nature and her forces and the impact of human actions around her continue to change and shape the city-based foliage and the everyday environment for its denizens.
Education and compassion is the key to coexisting with the fauna around us, the erstwhile urban wildlife. As animals find their natural habitat shrinking daily, their interactions with humans keep rising, often to the chagrin or fear of the humans, and with disastrous results for the animals. When a ‘wild’ animal, say a snake of rodent of some sort, takes up residence in someone’s home, destroy the garden, or monkeys that rummage through the trash or raid ornaments hung around the balcony, they are just looking for places to eat and hide, and perhaps some food. They don’t deserve to be killed for actions, which come naturally to us and to them.
Most people go about their daily lives without sparing a thought for those that live around us. Many of these people are animal lovers, but often live in the bliss that is ignorance. They either don’t know, or would rather not know the ordeal and misery of countless animals that is caused by the most innocuous of our actions. From the toothpaste and other personal products to the bacon and eggs on their plate that used to once be a thinking, living, breathing, humans cause a great deal of suffering. The fur trimmed coats and the leather boots, which are put on without so much as a thought spared. Animals that are forced to perform in circuses and held captive in zoos and aquariums. Scientists now know that fish feel the same asphyxiation when taken out of water that we do when drowning. Do we stop to think of the glue mousetraps and the rat poison that results in slow, painful death? It is easy to relate to the feelings and suffering of a companion animal like dogs and cats, but what of these many, friendless creatures that wander the street homeless, chased and killed the minute they stop to catch their breath?
And now, let’s take a moment to think of our beloved companion animals, the ones we love so much ‑ our dogs and cats. Millions struggle as homeless animals on the streets. Very often, they are at the receiving end of the anger, and sometimes, just plain sadism from people. Pelted with stones, beaten with sticks, they run for their lives, hither thither, until a passing, speeding vehicle hits them. As they lay on the tar, bleeding to their deaths, no one even stops to give them a second glance. Many are maimed and injured and lead a life of agony. And yet, the greed of many of our fellow ‘humans’, we continue to breed and sell them as commodities, as objects. Many fail to take complete responsibility for these animals and these loving companion animals are carelessly discarded when they become ill, or old or just, plain inconvenient.
Try feeding your local stray dogs. Report animal cruelty cases to your local authorities. If you see an animal in distress, a dog that seems ill, or off track, or an animal that has been run over, pick them up and rush them to your nearest vet. Keep your vehicle and carry bag armed for such an emergency. A light blanket, light leash, a bowl for water and some glucose biscuits are always handy and help in building the animal’s trust faster and getting them swifter help. Try planting more trees to provide shelter for birds and numerous small mammals.
If the screams and moans of the animals that live around us could be heard, the sounds would be deafening. If the suffering that happens behind closed doors and bars of cages could be seen, the sight would be unbearable. So let us stop, and take a moment. Hope that most people are compassion and humane, and do not want people to suffer needlessly on their account. Perhaps, a great number amongst us are willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes so as not to inconvenience animals that live with us.
Like the great man himself said
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” – Albert Schweitzer