By Sam Okech
Animals contribute variously to improving lives of human beings, and are indeed the sole source of livelihoods especially for pastoral communities.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics information indicates that Ugandan families that integrate livestock into their agricultural ventures live above the poverty line.
The media reports regularly about how Ugandans benefit from animals they raise for food and income. The media however captures only a tip of the iceberg about the significant direct and indirect benefits humans harness from peacefully co-existing with animals.
Generally, mankind benefits from animals in various ways including, but not limited to, food, economic gains, security, companionship, recreation, psychological support, drug development research, draft power and social capital.
However, recently the media reported how two young men assigned animals an additional role and benefited immensely from it - amplifying advocacy about unemployment and corruption. Unfortunately the youth paid no concern about the welfare of their “messengers”, the now famous two “yellow piglets”.
The pigs were reportedly packed in a sack, squeezed in a poorly ventilated boot of a car and later dragged mercilessly on a hard surface with a rope around their necks. Furthermore, the law enforcer present at the scene of the crime also administered to the innocent sentient creatures a fair dose of his own cruelty, thus compromising the fitness and happiness (welfare) of the piglets. The human parties involved in the melee at Parliament either seemed unaware of or deliberately acted in disregard of the Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Act Cap 39.
The cruel acts to the piglets took place at the doorsteps of parliament where the “weak” law was made, where it can be amended and where appropriation of funds for its enforcement is made. We wait to hear from the lawmakers what they made of this incident.
Animals, just like humans, attain peak performance (in growth, reproduction, service, production) when their welfare is good. The welfare of an animal is considered good when it is fit and happy or feeling good. This state of fitness and happiness depends on five major “freedoms”: freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
Human beings must provide these five freedoms to the animals within their care for the benefit of both parties. It is a known, indisputable fact that attainment of a good state of welfare by the animals unleashes their optimal performance which therefore ensures a win-win situation in the harmonious living between animals and human beings. This should be incentive enough for humans to treat all animals humanely. Even at slaughter.
Why therefore do humans mistreat animals despite the benefits they earn from them? The Bible sums up the answer in one word: wickedness. It is written in Proverbs 12:10 that “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel”. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, you might not get a better reason to explain man’s deliberate acts of cruelty to animals.
The feeble non-deterrent penalties contained in “The Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Act Cap 39”, have partly contributed to and entrenched the bad practices and impunity. We have therefore seen almost all types of cruelty defined in Section 2(1)a-e of the Act meted out to animals in Uganda. Such acts include, among others, beating, kicking, ill-treating, overriding, overdriving, overloading, torturing or infuriating any animal, conveying or carrying any animal in such manner or position as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering.
These embarrassing cruel acts should surely be ended. Each one of us has a role in it. Do your part. Together we can harness from animals more than we have ever imagined if we all lived harmoniously with them.
The good welfare of animals benefits humans