The Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act has drawn up an ingenious plan to get the city rid of its population of stray dogs- Kill and Conquer. The ideology suitable for an enemy force is being used here against helpless animals. Surprisingly, a Full-Bench (Bench of three judges) of the Bombay High Court has affirmed the provision granting the Municipal Commissioner the discretion to kill stray dogs creating a nuisance. Though the Court does say that the discretion must be used judiciously, but all of us know what will be happening in actual practice. The discretion reserved for the Municipal Commissioner will, in practice, be exercised by the field employees of the Municipality. Currently, this order is on appeal at the Supreme Court and the implementation of their order is on hold till January 30, 2009.
This proposed move has incited an appeal from PETA’s most prominent member. Pamela Anderson has written to the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, elucidating on the futility of such a cruel exercise- “According to studies conducted by World Health Organisation (WHO), mass sterilisation of stray animals is the most viable solution to nuisance and health concerns in addition to being more humane.”
How many stray animals is it, actually, possible to kill? There are about 70,000 stray dogs in Mumbai, today. Are they planning on killing thousands and thousands of stray dogs? Is that the best alternative they could come up with?
Today its dogs, tomorrow it could be cattle and day after, cats. Mass slaughter can never be a solution to any problem. And if we just pause a moment and think of what is happening here, we cannot fail but notice the callousness of what is taking place. The law and the Courts are not only saying that the right to life of humans supersedes the right to life of animals, but are saying that it supersedes it by such an extent that nuisance to humans can merit death to animals.
This incident of callousness and insensitivity to the stray dog problem is not an isolated issue; its complacent acceptance is a reflection of our view as a society on animal rights. Our belief that this world is ours, is an undeniable claim, we have won it by our superior intellect. But do we really believe that there is no place for others in this world that we have claimed as our own?
While death sentence for humans is to be served only in the rarest of rare cases by the decree of the Supreme Court, the death sentence for animals is at the discretion of the Municipal Commissioner, and all that he needs to make the order is his belief that the dogs are a nuisance. There is a need to change not only this provision, but also our perceptions on animal rights as a society. We have to live harmoniously in this world as a part of it, and not by killing other species, as the conquerors.