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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How Animal abuse and Lynching people are connected in Pakistan

Humaira Mufti, an alumnus of the World Trade Institute, explains how people who hurt animals don’t necessarily stop there. The same aggression and violence may get directed towards humans as and when the opportunity arises. This connection between animal abuse and violence against humans is referred to as “The Link.” Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the FBI stated that “Murderers … very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.”

Alarm bells must ring when one sees a crowd of people including young men and children cheering while a dog is being brutally beaten with the sticks and rocks half-buried and tied with ropes. Cruelty to animals is not so uncommon these days as we find government departments and housing societies engaged in shooting and poisoning dogs with children and passersby standing in a circle watching the animal dying a slow and painful death. Recently, videos appeared of barely two weeks old puppies and many other adult dogs strangulated with wires and their mouths and nose covered with tapes and later dumped at garbage sites by the management of Saima Arabian Villas in Karachi who appeared to be unfazed by the act. The collective effect of these brutal acts- dehumanization of the society.

Why then express shock when one witness a similar scene at Talamba, Khanewal where a mentally unstable man is lynched by a cheering mob on charges of alleged blasphemy. This is the second gruesome lynching by a mob in Punjab within the span of three months; the previous one is a Sri Lankan losing his life to madness in Sialkot. The country is witnessing an increasing trend of violence in society that includes rape, child abuse, violence against women and transgender. There could be some explanation for the phenomenon.

Read more: Child abuse & Public Hanging: Whose dignity matters?

What is the link between animal abuse and violence in society?

People who hurt animals don’t stop there as their aggression and violence get directed towards humans as and when the opportunity arises. Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the FBI stated that “Murderers … very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.”This connection between animal abuse and violence against humans is referred to as “The Link.” This Link makes it critically important that animal abuse is taken seriously not only for the animals’ sake but also for the safety of people who are also at risk of violence from such abusers.

According to a police study in Australia, it was revealed that “100 percent of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of animal cruelty.” Research into serial killer behavior has also indicated that they were engaged in animal abuse since childhood and practiced extreme violence against dogs and cats such as strangulation, chopping off their body parts and torturing them to death. The High School killers in the United States were also found to be abusing animals as reported by the law enforcement agencies, families and friends. The violence they committed against animals went unnoticed until they started killing humans.

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that animal abusers were five times more likely to harm humans. The abusers target the powerless such as animals, spouses, children and the elderly. Children who abuse animals are reflecting a violent family where they may be subject to abuse by parents or relatives. These children then direct their anger and frustration at the animal being easily accessible. Mead M. in his research “Cultural factors in the cause and prevention of pathological homicide” (1964) states that “across a range of cultures, extraordinary abuse of animals by children may precede more violent acts by that individual as an adult.”Her research led to the addition of animal cruelty to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III R (DSM-III R) in 1987

In 2017, the FBI reached an ISIS terrorist who had committed animal abuse prior to his arrest, and who was plotting to conduct a terrorist attack. The suspect had stabbed his dog and was reported to the police by his relative. A couple of days prior to the incident, he had posted an image of his dog on social media wishing him death and cited religious reasons for the act. Later it was found that he was an ISIS supporter who had planned to construct and use a pressure cooker bomb in New York City on behalf of ISIS. The Joint Counter Terrorism Assessment Team (First Responder’s Tool Box -2018) reports that, in 2016, the FBI researched 259 adults who were arrested from 2004 to 2009 for committing acts of animal cruelty. Forty-five percent (117 out of 259) of these offenders were arrested for another criminal incident after their act of animal cruelty. The toolkit indicates that reporting, investigating, and prosecuting animal cruelty may help minimize violent acts toward humans, including terrorism. In Pakistan, no such data is being maintained nor considered relevant.

Read more: Poland charges two Italians for cruel treatment of tigers

Cruelty to animals particularly stray dogs, donkeys and cats in Pakistan cannot be ignored as a minor crime as they indicate a serious trend of increasingly violent society as evident through public lynching within the span of two months in Pakistan. Every day, mutilated bodies of children are discovered in nullahs and garbage dumps reflecting a collective failure to protect our children. It can be inferred that when a society becomes indifferent to cruelty towards animals, it slowly becomes indifferent to abuse and violence against women and children.

Why Pakistan’s government should take immediate notice?

The Government of Pakistan and our communities must also recognize that abuse of any living being is unacceptable and endangers everyone, particularly women and children. Communities that promote care and respect for animals among children see the development of less violence and more humane societies. Studies have indicated that children who grow up with companion animals such as dogs and cats benefitted tremendously at social, emotional, cognitive, educational, and behavior levels. For adults, kindness to stray animals and adopting one serves as an important source of psychological and social support.

The One Health-One Welfare concept has further strengthened the Human-Animal bond as the “health of the people is connected to the health of the animals and the environment”.Jordan T. and Lem M. (2014) pioneer work in this regard emphasizes that “where there are poor states of human welfare there commonly exists poor states of animal welfare… Similarly, animals often act as indicators of human health and welfare as can be seen in the link between animal abuse and family violence.”

There is wisdom in emphasis of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on kindness towards animals as hadiths are replete with examples where he has instructed his companions towards the same. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shared with his companions that a prostitute was forgiven for her sins as she had saved a thirsty puppy by giving her water. The reason, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stressed kindness towards animals was for the growth of an individual as a positive member of society. When acts of kindness are performed towards those who cannot return a favor like animals; qualities like selflessness, empathy, mercy, emotional intelligence are developed.

In Pakistan which is an Islamic country, the government instead of handling the spread of rabies under scientific methods and availability of rabies vaccines at hospitals, resort to widespread stray dog culling which creates a cycle of abuse and violence. The routine culling of stray dogs carried out by district governments across Pakistan carries serious consequences for children who witness or experience animal cruelty. The culling by the government or housing societies is not an isolated event as it carries a grave psychological impact on the bystanders including the animals.

If the Government of Pakistan including the provincial governments want to contribute towards a reduction in violence in society, the indiscriminate and abusive practice of culling stray dogs has to stop. This policy has to be replaced with TVNR policy which will not only control the dog population in the country but also assist in achieving the goal of Rabies Free Pakistan by 2030. The stray dogs and cats perform a very important role in eliminating the rat population and controlling the spread of diseases like the plague and hence a healthy level of the population needs to be maintained.

Read more: Lynchistan: Where cows are valued more than humans

Importance of NGOs and policymaking

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 provinces have separate legislation to prevent cruelty to animals but these laws have become outdated and need up-gradation to reflect the international obligations and standards. In Punjab, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is operating with scant resources and manpower and needs further strengthening. The Punjab Livestock department has prepared a comprehensive Dog control policy based on TVNR and many other initiatives for animal welfare which is awaiting approval of the cabinet. The policy if approved will set the stage for a reduction in animal abuse and stray dog culling on a mass scale.

Our law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and schools also have to take cruelty to animals seriously as those involved would cause harm to humans later as confirmed by various studies. Though animal abuse is a crime in Pakistan the cases are hardly reported to the police partially due to lack of awareness and also because cruelty to animals is not considered a serious issue in our society.

The government has to launch an awareness campaign for changing the mindset prevalent in Pakistan against stray dogs, cats and donkeys. Once they are treated as part of the communities, it will result in a harmonious animal-human bond and reduce incidents of dog bites and rabies as well. Our communities should also play their part by opening their hearts and mind towards stray dogs and other animals. This is not only beneficial for the communities and the country but also part of our religion Islam and teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).



Humaira Mufti. The author is an alumni of the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland She can be reached at humairaziamufti@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space