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  Straits Times Forum 4 Oct 07
Let's pay more attention to animal welfare
Letter from Anthony Lee Mui Yu

Today Online 4 Oct 07
The instinct to care
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.

Straits Times Forum 4 Oct 07
Let's pay more attention to animal welfare
Letter from Anthony Lee Mui Yu

I WRITE this as a concerned human and Singaporean.

Every Oct 4 is World Animal Day to celebrate animal life in all its forms and our relationship with the animal kingdom. And to acknowledge the diverse roles animals play as companions, et cetera, that bring a sense of wonder into our lives. As well as to thank animals for the way in which they enrich our lives.

This year, Acres (Animal Concerns Research & Education Society) will hold a three-day event (Oct 5-7, 10am-10pm) at the Atrium @Orchard (adjacent to Plaza Singapura). There will be photographic and other exhibits, music, dance and children's activities.

There is a global 'Animals Matter To Me' campaign to petition support for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare intended for national governments to endorse at the United Nations. Signatures will be collected at this Acres-organised event. More information is available at http://www.acres.org.sg, http://animalsmatter.org and http://www.wspa-international.org

The intent is for the UN and humanity to recognise animals as sentient beings capable of feeling pain and suffering. And that animal welfare is an issue of importance in the social development of individuals, nations and humanity.

With global capitalism/materialism and violent terrorism, humanity seems to pale fraying in respect, empathy, sympathy and humility. These sentiments, in whatever tatters remaining, do not benefit non-humans much in terms of safety from violence and distress. Be it outright abuse (forced feeding, experimentation and beatings) and killing or deprivation from movement, sustenance and medical care (as livestock, for furs and for entertainment).

'Charity begins at home' that always stops at the door of non-humans is indefensible. There will always be humans bent on reproducing themselves unsustainably, demanding that other humans prioritise their succour - never attempting to meet aiders half-way by curtailing their reproduction. Animals that do so would be massacred en masse as 'pests'.

As humans will always respond to other humans in need ad infinitum, there will never be a point of satiation from which to devote time and resources to non-humans in need. Those who still prioritise human needs charitably need to re-think.

'I should only help members of my own species as they are more deserving' - despite blatantly exploiting/bullying members of other species - doesn't sound just, democratic, respectful nor humane - does it?

Within our branded/socially ranked concerns, animals will always languish unless we question priorities - counter-intuitively.

Would raising empathy for non-humans raise empathy for all species including humans? I suspect so.

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