Importance of coexistence through the lens of animal welfare activists
Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture with regard to protecting its environment and wildlife. With mounting incidents of habitat destruction, many endemic species would soon lose their homes and will therefore be threatened towards extinction within the next couple of years. This year’s World Animal Day theme focuses on ‘Sustaining all life on Earth’. However in order to sustain, animals and humans need to be on a level playing field. The passage of the Animal Welfare Bill and amendments to archaic laws such as the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance are key areas that require immediate attention at a policy level in order to see justice being served in favour of our Flora and Fauna. Therefore in view of this important day on the calendar a few animal welfare activists shared their thoughts with the Daily Mirror:
‘Look at what’s best for the animal’ : Sharmini
Speaking about the challenges faced by animal welfare activists, Animal Protection Trust Secretary Sharmini Ratnayake said that the biggest challenge all activists face is the lack of regulation when dealing with animal cruelty. “If the laws are changed with larger fines and prison terms we would certainly see a reduction in cruelty.
I also feel that there is a severe lack of education regarding what is best for the animal. Most people don’t realise that these are sentient beings and they feel the same as humans. It’s just that we as humans have moved away from them that sometimes what is very obvious eludes us. We look at the issue from our point of view and very rarely from the animal’s. For example some dogs that are on the streets prefer to remain where they are.
If the laws are changed with larger fines and prison terms we would certainly see a reduction in cruelty
They are fed, they have their human friends and freedom of movement not forgetting their own little gang. If we encourage many to look at what’s best for the animal, the animal world would be much happier.” she said.
She also agrees with the fact that animal welfare organisations need to be regulated as means of gaining credibility.
‘Cruelty towards animals reflects who we are as a nation’ : Otara
Adding her thoughts on the importance of having lobbies to protect animals, Embark/ Passion Founder and Sri Lanka’s World Animal Day Ambassador Otara Gunawardene said that it’s extremely important to have organizations and advocacy both from advocates and all citizens. “It is the Government’s responsibility to provide a happy life for people and animals, but it is also the responsibility of every citizen to care for both people and animals of the community and country we live in. Of course we need to care for our environment too. We are all connected, and we are all one. Cruelty that surrounds us reflects on who we are as a society and nation. It is our responsibility to change ourselves and to influence positive change to support a conscious, balanced, happy way of life for all sentient beings in our country.” said Gunawardene.
However she also believes that many communities that have lived in harmony with nature for generations are now in conflict due to years of unplanned development. “These areas have to be looked at now and addressed in a way that is beneficial to both wildlife and people, but it is important that the message of the connection between humans, animals and nature is communicated at all times, because we are not disconnected from any of them. It is a total imbalance and a destruction of well-balanced ecosystems that have brought so much conflict between wildlife and also the environment.
We are all connected, and we are all one. Cruelty that surrounds us reflects on who we are as a society and nation
Too many wild boars, monkeys, peacocks, elephant conflict, droughts, landslides, floods are just some indications of an ecosystem in chaos. All animals want to live in peace. It’s humans that are at fault for the chaos. However, I am a great believer that with the right guidance, with greater consciousness and a lot of compassion, most of these areas can be addressed for all of us to live a healthy, wealthy way of life in Sri Lanka.”
‘We need animals to preserve a balance in our planet’ : Anusha
As an activist who has voluntarily been involved with animal welfare activities, Anusha David says that the effort that goes in on a daily basis can’t be quantified. “During rain or sunshine, sickness or health my work goes on. Weekends, holidays don’t count because you can’t tell an animal not to fall sick or that you can’t feed it because you’re on holiday. Neither can you tell an animal that due to COVID-19 you have to take a pay cut and therefore you can’t feed or look after it. You have to just carry on. It takes a particular mind set to carry out animal welfare. Love, dedication, passion, commitment, strength of mind and purpose. All I can say is that it’s a lifelong commitment. I wouldn’t use the word effort as I love what I do and I hope that I can always be involved in animal welfare, literally until the day I die !” said David.
Speaking about how the Government could extend support towards animal welfare, she pointed out that there is so much the Government can do. “First and most important is to employ vets and people who are animal friendly.
It takes a particular mind set to carry out animal welfare. Love, dedication, passion, commitment, strength of mind and purpose
Utilise in full the budgets that have been allocated. Don’t take short cuts because you are dealing with a dumb animal. Have a heart, be conscious that this is a life you are dealing with, not some inanimate object. Be humane in your dealings. Be accountable. Conduct sterilizing and vaccinating year round, island wide, not just sporadically. Cooperate with the animal welfare community. By working together we can achieve so much. Most importantly, people in government should realise that humans and animals are co dependent. We need each other to exist and preserve a balance on our planet,” she added.
In conclusion she said that emotions are not the prerogative of humans. “The planet does not belong only to humans. Live in harmony with animals and nature. The benefits of doing so are immeasurable.”