It is really disappointing to see the violence against animals, which has reached a peak across the country, from sea to shore, jungles to townships, sparrow to tiger, and snake to civet.
It seems that animals, especially stray and aquatic mammals, reptiles and quadrupeds are not liked by the Bangladeshi populace anymore. They only value livestock for meat and farmed fish to make their ends meet. There are many stories of killing or brutal torture of animals without any given explanations, why!
On May 5, twelve monkeys were poisoned to death in Madaripur district. The district forest office filed a case in this regard on May 6. Subsequently, police arrested a woman named Shahanaj Begum (54), who admitted to poisoning the food to kill the primates. She also confessed to killing seven more a few months ago in the same way. Her arrest is an exception.
On May 10, an endangered Ganges dolphin, huge in size, was found dead on the bank of the river Halda. It suffered a sharp and deep incision from its neck to tail and layers of its body-fat was taken away. The news went viral in the international media as well.
Two days later on May 12 a High Court bench directed the Department of Environment and district administration to take necessary steps to prevent poaching and killing of dolphins. The direction came after a petition was filed - the first of its kind in the history of High Court orders. However, it will make no difference to the situation as the similar occurrences are taking place at regular intervals.
In recent times, we have seen people hunting dolphins and selling them openly for commercial purposes. In 2012 Bangladesh introduced the Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012 to protect and conserve the forest and wildlife and ensure harsh punishment for poaching or killing whales, dolphins and some other faunas.
No one cares because the law never works by itself until some concerned person imposes them. In our law and order history, we have hardly seen one being brought to book for killing a mammal. As a result, hundreds of thousands of animals have disappeared from the land.
We know very well that most of our fellow citizens are completely unaware of the laws. But there is a Latin proverb "ignorantia Juris non excusat", meaning a person who is unaware of a law may not escape the liability of violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. The great philosopher Aristotle said, "At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst."
Well, we know merely having the laws do not work - it requires awareness too. But how much do we learn in the schools and colleges about saving our flora and fauna? Very little. Do our politicians and societal figures teach us in our practical lives to keep them safe and sound? I have not heard of any example.
Yes, we had some teaching that we have deliberately forgotten. Mahatma Gandhi once prominently said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." He also said," To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being."
Mahatma Gandhi was not only a leader of post 1947 India, he also was a leader of undivided India of which today's Bangladesh and Pakistan were integral parts. In that sense, Mahatma Gandhi was directly a venerable, saintly leader and a great teacher for all of us.
Politically, he led the quit India Movement before partition, but socially he tried to teach Indians (the people of today's India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) what humanity and morality are. He wanted to have an independent India conform to the values of a civilised society. But alas, the footsteps that Mahatma left behind have never been followed here in Bangladesh – considering him "a none of our business" as "he was leader of post 47 India" as well. Had we followed some of his messages, our country would have been a little more enlightened than what we are today.
So, the question in that context is-- how do we, as a nation, treat our animals?
Cruelly, is the simple answer.
Bangladesh has recently updated its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The "overarching" goal of the project is to foster development in the country through the conservation, development, and enhancement of natural resources in the country within the framework of sustainable development goals. I am ashamed to say, it is formal than practical. We see no initiative yet to protect the animals, to make people aware or to punish animal abusers.