The Arab world’s loose laws are enabling animal abuse

Animal cruelty and neglect is, unfortunately, very prevalent in the Arab world

Alanoud Alhejailan
Alanoud Alhejailan - Special to Al Arabiya English
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German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”. I strongly agree with this statement. The way we treat animals is a strong indication of our moral character as human beings. Animals are beautiful creatures. They are loyal, keep us company and love us. Just like children, they depend on us for their survival. Then why do many of us treat them with cruelty? A person who is capable of being cruel to a helpless animal is, in my opinion, capable of committing other grave crimes.

Animal cruelty and neglect is, unfortunately, very prevalent in the Arab world. Many believe that humans should have rights but animals should not. When the subject of animal rights is discussed, I often hear people say “Give us our rights first before giving animals theirs”. Human rights and animal rights are two distinct issues, each of which should be equally respected.

I am sure that many of you have seen the horrendous animal abuse videos, which are circulated on social media. I have seen one where a cat was beaten to death and another where a horse, unable to fend for itself, was tied to a pole and beaten over and over until it fell down helplessly while the assailants laughed hysterically. If this does not constitute criminal behavior then I don’t know what does.

Saudi Arabia has signed and ratified the GCC Law on the Humane Treatment of Animals. This law protects animals from its owners and caretakers in the event of inhumane treatment, and imposes a fine of up to SR400,000 on violators. This is a great first step. However, much more needs to be done.

The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture should play a more active role when it comes to enforcement. The transportation of cattle should be closely monitored so that they are transported comfortably and not thrown in the back of pickup trucks. Chicken and quail farms should be monitored so that these animals are not confined to small tight spaces, given growth hormones or force-fed. Pet stores should follow very stringent rules and not keep animals on display for hours on end. Any member of the public who abuses or kills an animal in vain should be held criminally accountable.

The definition of inhumane treatment should include emotional and mental factors, such as separating a mother from its young. I have seen kittens barely one month old being separated from their mother for commercial purposes. Animals are often neglected, beaten or killed and pets are bought and then discarded like a piece of property.

The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture should hold animal welfare campaigns to educate the public, including young people at schools and universities. Training workshops for policemen and customs officials should be carried out to close the gap between legislation, enforcement and commonly held attitudes. Vets should also be trained on the need to raise community awareness about cruelty to animals. More animal shelters should be available and people should be encouraged to “adopt” rather than “buy” pets.

Animals have no voice of their own so it is up to us to speak on their behalf by educating our children on animal welfare, protecting animals from abusers and granting them the rights they deserve. It is a social collective responsibility. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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