Teen stands up for animal rights

Furry friend: Lara (right) and her sister posing with Jerry during a Christmas season.

EARLY this year, I witnessed my cat Jerry, who has since passed away, nearly being beaten with a broom by a neighbour from the backhouse.

Jerry, an 18-year-old cat with eyesight and hearing problems, was walking in the back lane when the incident happened.

I saw the neighbour pick up a broom and approach her. Luckily, I managed to prevent Jerry from being harmed by rushing outside.

Needless to say, I was appalled by my neighbour’s intention to hurt a poor animal that was merely wandering in the back lane.

Sadly, the mistreatment of animals, especially cats and dogs, is a common issue in Malaysia.

In fact, such occurrences have seen an increase. According to a news report, a total of 889 cases of animal cruelty had been detected based on complaints received by the Veterinary Services Department from 2021 to 2023.

Animal cruelty takes many forms, such as beating, neglect, shooting and animal hoarding. In simpler terms, animal cruelty is any treatment that causes physical or emotional suffering in animals.

Although Malaysia established the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 2015 to strengthen protection for animals and increase penalties for animal cruelty, cases of animal abuse still continue to happen.

As an animal lover, I have been following the news over the years and these incidents, among others, have left vivid imprints in my mind.

In September 2018, there was a troubling incident where a pregnant cat was killed at a laundromat by a Malaysian man. The poor cat was lying under the table when the man picked it up and placed it in a dryer.I

n March 2021, it was revealed that a pet cat was discovered dead with all of its legs severed. The cat was still wearing its collar when it was found, indicating that the perpetrator knew the cat belonged to someone when the crime was committed.

Another report in 2022 revealed that a man shot a dog with a bow and arrow, which unfortunately resulted in the dog’s death.

I believe animal cruelty cases stem from a lack of awareness about humane and proper care for animals. This may be due to individuals not receiving education on how to care for and love animals from a young age.

Many people are unaware of the harm that can come to animals from abuse, which can create a culture of misinformation and ignorance about this issue.

Other than that, this issue may be caused by impulsive actions due to unmanaged emotions in a person, particularly strong emotions such as anger and rage. It can also be tied to a lack of compassion and empathy towards creatures that cannot defend themselves.

Although sadistic and callous, animal abuse may also be a form of amusement and entertainment. This is done without consideration for the animals’ well-being, as perpetrators may justify their actions by claiming that animals don’t feel pain. Examples include hunting for sport and dogfighting.

In other instances, people who abuse animals may do so due to prejudicial attitudes towards a particular species. For example, individuals who dislike cats may exclusively target felines for cruelty. These beliefs can lead to a lack of empathy for the animals, resulting in abuse.

There is an urgent need to address animal cruelty in Malaysia to prevent further harm.

To stop animal cruelty, we need a multifactorial approach involving schools, parents, the government and non-governmental organisations.

We must increase public awareness and education about the negative impact of animal abuse not only on the victims, but also on the perpetrators.

Schools and parents can teach children from a young age about the importance of caring for animals, fostering compassion and empathy for them.

Welfare laws and policies regarding animal rights should be enforced more strictly, and heavier fines should be imposed on those who abuse animals.

Awareness campaigns can also be carried out by the media to educate a wider audience.

Animals are innocent and rely on humans for care and protection. We owe it to them and to ourselves to treat them with kindness and respect. When we fail to do so, we are causing needless suffering to defenceless creatures.

Lara, 18, a student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats

.With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1 Imagine you were an animal that had been victimised.

Write a letter to the perpetrator, describing how the experience hurt you and explaining why the perpetrator should treat animals with kindness.

2 In groups of four, create a poster using words and pictures from today’s newspaper to encourage your school community to show care and compassion for animals. Once your poster is complete, present it to your class and discuss the message you wish to convey.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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BRATs , Star-NiE , animal cruelty , cats , dogs


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