Kill with Kindness, Cat, Fish and Compassion

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People who work for animal welfare organizations, ones that really want to make a difference, that is, are usually passionate about what they do. Consequently, they are often vegetarians, and some will not wear leather shoes. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for example, expects as much from its members, and PETA has been doing wonderful work around the globe.

I am often asked if I am a vegetarian. I am not. I have a couple of friends who do not actively work for animals, but have given up meat. I work approximately six hours a day on strays and stray-turned pets, and have given up so much of my residence to an ill-maintained cat shelter that I have to live in a rented house with my family. I may appear to be passionate about the work I do, and yet, I wear leather shoes and partake in killing animals, namely fish, to feed the strays that I shelter.

My fish supplier goes to absurd extents to make sure the strays are fed, even if it means cycling 15 km and back when there is nothing available locally. He also spent out of his own savings when my finances were so low that I could not pay him. I had run up a debt upward of Rs. 20, 000, and all he did was ask me not to worry about it. And yet, this man would chop the fins off fish before he killed them, until he realized how cruel that was.

Somehow, working for animals has become something ‘they’ do and we do not, ‘they’ being people with a lot of money and time for ‘such things’. It was not so long ago that people who chased strays with sticks if they tried to steal food would also make sure they were fed on leftovers. That was not labelled as animal welfare, and was something that ‘everyone’ did. Today, all refuse is carried out of localities infested with multi-storied buildings, and strays are seen as a nuisance.

It was a practice in East Bengal to stop eating hilsa fish between Dashami and Saraswati Puja. The fish spawn during that period, and the custom was not unlike that of not cutting down or even pruning trees that have just borne fruit. Traditions that are both practical and humane.


I wish animal welfare did not have to be the work of a group of people who appear to be ones with a lot of restraint, or just plain eccentric. You need not prevent cruelty by turning vegetarian. You can, however, ask your butcher to treat animals with kindness while they are still alive – without appearing self-righteous. You may also want to pick one dog in your locality to give a small treat to on your way home from work every evening. A single biscuit will reward you with an expression of genuine gratitude that, if you care to notice it, will stay with you forever.

It isn’t that we aren’t compassionate, but it’s just that we do not always know what we would like to be compassionate about. Most people are not sadistic, or cruel: they just don’t realize that there are so many different ways of being kind, and so many in need of such acts of kindness. If we can believe that animal welfare is not something that only eccentric people and celebrities indulge in, we would probably find many happy strays in every locality, and a lot less cruelty against them.

(Originally published in Pet Theory, htcity, hindustan times, Kolkata, Friday, February 17, 2012)

Written by kapush

June 19, 2012 at 12:59 am

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