The unusual ceremony at the Lahore zoo where the Punjab University Department of Zoology adopted two tigers for a period of one year, agreeing to pay Rs1.21 million for the upkeep of the endangered animals, goes well beyond the issue of conservation alone. As university officials pointed out, the project will assist in research and a better understanding of the life of tigers. But perhaps the most significant point was made by the vice-chancellor of the university, Dr Mujahid Kamran, who spoke of the cycle of brutality in our society.
Certainly, we have been seeing more and more violence in every form such as attacks on suspected criminals by mobs and jirga verdicts that mete out terrible punishments. These cannot entirely be disconnected from each other. The atrocities also often include the terrible treatment of animals we see. The cycle extends from here to similar cruelty to children, women, minorities and other vulnerable groups in society. We need a holistic approach to tackle these problems and prevent them from worsening. The issue of how we treat animals has received very little attention in a situation where they are many other events of a still more grave nature which affect the lives of humans.
But the whole matter should be treated as one that seeks to create an overall change in the way society operates and to create greater humanity within it. This process needs to extend to animals as well. This could be an important start in altering mindsets that see brutality as a normal part of life. Children everywhere in the country grow up in this culture. Perhaps the words spoken at the Lahore zoo, and the emphasis placed on ending the circle of torture, can play some role in achieving a goal that could make our country a better place for everyone to live in and to learn to share with species of all kinds.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2011.
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