Wednesday 24 September 2008
The cruelty of people to animals knows no limits: this week, a firework was placed inside a piece of bread then fed to a swan in a public park. The swan was so badly injured that it had to be euthanased by the Dublin SPCA. There are photographs of the injuries on the Irish Independent newspaper website, but they are not for the faint-hearted. I did have a link in my blog to the photos but I have removed it because I felt the photos were too distressing. If you really want to see them yourself, go to www.irishindependent.ie and type "swan cruelty" into the search box.
I find the incident is so upsetting that the only response has to be action of some kind. But what can anyone do? It is too late for that swan, and punishing the perpetrators will not change anything. I believe two courses of action are needed:
1) Strengthen Irish animal protection legislation - a new Animal Welfare Bill is currently being drafted, and this needs to be as strong as possible. To find out more, visit the website of Animals Need a Voice In Legislation - this is an umbrella group representing a broad coalition of animal welfare groups who are lobbying to make the new legislation as effective as possible.
2) Work continually to change the culture - this is one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about my work in the media - we need to send out the message time and time again - animals are sentient beings, just like humans. They feel pain, fear and distress, just like us. And they deserve to be cared for, just like humans.
Cruelty to animals is the thin end of the wedge - the next victims are vulnerable humans - and so it can go from bad to worse. All serial killers in jail in the USA started their careers by torturing and killing animals. When a dog is deliberately hurt in a household, it is known to be an early indicator of domestic abuse of humans in the same household. Caring for animals is the starting point of caring for our whole society.
Mahatma Gandhi was not wrong when he said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. By this measure, Ireland (and indeed, most of the rest of the world) has a long way to go before it can be called "great".