Do animals have feelings? Welfare, Abandonment, and a lack of understanding

The responsibility for different categories of animals currently falls under multiple Ministries and Departments. For consistency, it is recommended for the Government of Pakistan to align all animal welfare under one Ministry at the national level, with appropriate resources for research, implementation, and enforcement.

The Government of Pakistan should be encouraged to create a multi-stakeholder committee to effectively engage all actors involved in maintaining animals’ well-being to find solutions for welfare concerns. This committee would guide the country’s policies and strategies on animal welfare, in line with international standards. This committee should include representatives of animal welfare organisations.

Pakistan’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1890) provides a good basis for the protection of animals, acknowledging that they feel pain and suffering. The Act provides specific protections for draught animals that acknowledges their importance in Pakistani society. The delegated authority to Provincial Governments to develop their own wildlife protection laws allows each province to assess the needs of wild animals and the public on a local basis. Recent moves towards humane dog population management and mass vaccinations in Karachi should be praised. Since the 2014 edition of the Animal Protection Index, Pakistan has introduced limited new legislation. However, one of note is the Halal Authority Act (2015), that not only mandates humane treatment of animals throughout the slaughter process, but also prohibits animals from seeing one another being slaughtered.

However, there are concerning gaps with animal welfare legislation in Pakistan. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1890) is outdated and no longer reflects current scientific and cultural understandings of animal welfare. There is little mandate for the care of animals in zoos and on farms, that may lead to lower standards of animal welfare.

Similarly, while animal abandonment is illegal in Pakistan, there is little further guidance for how animal owners should care for their companion animals. There are also reports of inhumane treatment of strays with mass poisonings of dogs taking place across the country. It is unclear, beyond specific delegations to provincial wildlife departments, which authorities hold responsibility for animal welfare in Pakistan. The Government of needs to amend and update the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1890) to ensure protections for all animals in Pakistan and to align anti-cruelty measures with current animal welfare science.

Furthermore, the Government is urged to enact legislation detailing specific welfare requirements for the rearing of farm animals during the phases of rearing, transport and slaughter. Such requirements should be legally binding and species-specific and at a minimum aligned with OIE animal welfare standards and promote the Five Freedoms. Regular inspections onto farms and slaughter establishments should be carried out with a special focus on animal welfare. The Government of Pakistan should assign responsibility for improving animal welfare in the country to a specific Government Ministry at a national level and to create an Animal Welfare Committee that includes members of animal welfare organisations, to advise the Government on animal welfare policy and solutions to ensure the humane treatment of animals at all times.

The more we learn of the true nature of non human animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behaviour, the more ethical concerns regarding their use in the service of man- whether this be in entertainment, as pets, for food, in research laboratories, or in any of the other uses to which we subject them.

It is not that humans and non humans are identical .. but the lack of understanding that led to slave trade is the same lack of understanding many people have about animals today. When slaves were brought over from Africa, many people believed that they were not humans, that they didn’t have feelings. Many people believe that primates and other animals don’t have feelings, too, but they do.
The least we can do is speak out for those who can not speak out for themselves.


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