The instinct to care
Thursday • October 4, 2007
Goh Boon Choo
LIKE other countries around the world, animal welfare organisations in Singapore hold events to commemorate World Animal Day today.
The World Animal Day website, www.worldanimalday.org.uk, tells us it is a day which aims to:
• Celebrate animal life in all its forms
• Celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom
• Acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives — from being our companions and supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives
• Acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives. Do we need a special day to remember the dogs and cats we call our pets, the chickens and cows we eat, the orang utans running out of room in Borneo, or even the polar bears languishing at the melting North Pole?
While some would say yes, there are others who would surely say no. Many people would not have made the deeper connection about relationships between people, animals, the environment and our future. Although there is no lack of information, most people cling to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
No doubt, it is a complex web of connections. But the underpinning principle is simple: Take too much of anything out of a system without allowing it to replenish, and the system will collapse, bringing everything else down with it.
While humankind may have dominion over the Earth — we build civilisations and, in the process, destroy forests and coral reefs — we are not self-sustaining. Wherever we are, we breathe in air that is produced mainly by the tropical rainforests of South America and Indonesia.
It is predicted that there will be no more orang utans to be found in Indonesia’s jungles within five to 10 years.
Needless to say, if they go, the rainforests — our oxygen tanks — will not be far behind. The yearly haze that chokes Singapore skies is our reminder that that day is coming.
World Animal Day began in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. Even then, the implications of losing animal species were clear. And yet, to date, politics and economics still dictate whether anything is done at all to save a species in peril — often due to human causes.
But before we worry about what happens to animals around the world, compassion must begin at home.
Said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the recent Singapore Maritime Lecture: “I do not see any leaders saying let us eat less, eat more vegetables, eat less meat.”
Eating less, and eating less meat, not only translates into a healthier diet, it is kinder to animals and the Earth, and to our fellow men: Resources freed up from feeding farmstock can be diverted to feed the world’s 1 billion starving people.
Surely, we must also care about the animals we purport to love. For more than 20 years, 20,000 dogs and cats have been put to death every year. If we sterilise our pets, keep them indoors and do not abandon them, the number of homeless animals wandering our streets — and thus vulnerable to this death sentence — would be that much smaller.
Out of sight should no longer be out of mind. World Animal Day really isn’t just about the animals. It is about us, what we do to them and the environment, and what state we leave the system in for our children to inherit.
How will you be celebrating World Animal Day?
This was contributed by a reader.