By Dr Suzianah Nhazzla Ismail
The term ‘World Event to End Animal Cruelty’ is also known as WEEAC. It is a concept for the first global coalition against animal cruelty that was conceived in the United States. Every year, on Sept 22, events are held in all participating nations and localities.
The proverbial ‘best companion of a man’ is a dog while, according to Charles Dickens, ‘what greater gift than the affection of a cat?’ However, certain animals that humans have cruelly mistreated and slaughtered for fun are not included in that category.
Increasing animal abuse
In Malaysia, there is a troubling trend of increasing animal abuse. A sentient creature is harmed when an animal is cruelly treated. It is not accidental cruelty to an animal happening here. It is just as serious a crime as other crimes like burglary since it is a premeditated act against a live being. It is time for the legal system to treat animal cruelty on par with other serious crimes.
In September 2018, a Malaysian man was given a two-year prison sentence for killing a pregnant cat at a laundromat, which may be one of the most shocking animal mistreatment cases in Malaysia. Due to the fact that this case involved torturing a helpless animal, it is of public concern. Society does not tolerate this mentality.
Local media said that the manager of the laundromat got a call from a client notifying him that there was a cat carcass in one of the dryers. CCTV footage captured two males, one of whom was seen removing a cat from beneath a table in the laundromat and placing it in a dryer. Before leaving the store, the two guys put tokens into the dryer. Malaysians were outraged by the CCTV clip that went viral.
In January 2020, the Malaysia Animal Association took to its Facebook page to showcase pictures of a poor dead kitten found in a state of horror. Its four legs and half of its face was cut off, prompting rewards of RM5,000 for anyone with valuable information regarding the culprits of this gruesome crime. It wrote, “On the 23rd of January, 2020, Malaysia cried because of the cruel and inhumane actions of the one willing to cut off all four legs and snout of a weak little cat. The poor cat’s body was found near a workshop. Animal Malaysia requests and begs for witnesses to step forward and contact Animal Malaysia with quality and complete information”.
Back in March 2021, a Malaysian woman revealed on Twitter that her cherished pet cat had been discovered dead with all of its legs severed. The fact that the pregnant cat was still wearing a collar when it was found in a box indicates that the perpetrator was aware that the cat belonged to someone when they committed the crime. A police report was lodged and the local veterinary authorities were notified for further action.
In June 2022, two animal rights campaigners demanded tougher legislation and more enforcement against animal abuse. This came after a number of stories regarding animal maltreatment.
In the most recent incident, Sungai Petani police detained a guy on suspicion of abusing stray cats. A guy was shown on a storefront CCTV in the Sungai Petani case enticing a cat with food and tossing a stone at its head while it was eating. The video showed him go to the building's back alley to entice a different cat, which he then booted before departing.
Unfortunately, canines, especially stray dogs, have also been killed by torture in addition to cats and kittens. For example, in 2018, a dog was seen being dragged by a lorry along the Seberang Jaya highway in Penang.
In 2014, local police were reportedly looking for a guy who was thought to have killed a dog with an arrow, according to a Malaysian media organisation. A guy was seen using a bow and arrow to shoot wild canines early one weekday morning in a CCTV clip that went viral on social media.
In 2019, somewhere in August, a dog was found dead with two arrows sticking out of its body, according to pictures that went viral on social media. Malaysia Animal Association president Arie Dwi Andika confirmed the incident, which he said took place in Kuah on Langkawi Island, Kedah.
And, in 2021, several CCTV images and footage went viral, showing a man shooting a dog with a bow and arrow and killing it on Lorong 3, Seberang Jalan Putra, in Alor Setar, Kedah. The video showed the man taking out the bow and arrow from the back seat of a car and shooting the dog as it was relieving itself about three metres away from him.
Just last month, animal rights activists criticised the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) for allegedly hurting a puppy during an animal control operation. According to Persatuan Haiwan Terbiar Malaysia (SAFM), it was made aware of a complaint after viewing a video in which a dog was injured after being captured by MPK enforcement personnel. The dog was shown bleeding from its snout while being kept on a leash in the infamous 19-second footage. A number of locals could be heard berating the law enforcement personnel for harming the dog.
Tip of the iceberg
The number of recorded animal cruelty instances increased nationwide by 30% in 2018, from 510, as reported by Malaysia's Veterinary Services Department (DVS), to 662. In addition, from 463 instances in 2016 to 463 cases in 2017, there was an increase of 10%. Dogs and cats were involved in more than 90% of these incidents. These figures, nevertheless, just represent the tip of the iceberg because many more incidents go unreported or unnoticed.
Many animal abusers escape punishment despite the country's Animal Welfare Act 2015, which makes sure that individuals detected acting brutally toward animals are suitably punished.
A crime committed against an animal may not be treated as seriously by the courts as a crime committed against a person. The desire for punitive sentences that recognise animal abuse as a national epidemic and discourage others from acting out their rage or getting sadistic pleasure from injuring helpless animals has never been louder, and the call for animal abusers to receive such terms is only growing.
We need to address not only the rise in animal maltreatment, but also the problem of stray dogs being slaughtered for food. Two baskets of skin and fur were discovered in an abandoned home on Merlin Lane in Sibu in 2015, which is how long this has been going on.
There have been more and more complaints of Vietnamese selling dog and cat meat in Selangor and Johor Bahru. Indonesians in Persiaran Elmina, Shah Alam, who openly kept devouring dog meat while the camera was trained on them, have joined the bandwagon. These Indonesians were from an oil palm estate nearby, and they were having a feast where it was customary to slaughter two to three dogs or cats. In addition, there have been instances of strays with amputated limbs that were thought to have been caught in traps being discovered nearby.
The use of meat from canines and felines, the disease status of which is unclear and which are killed and sold for food, as well as the use of killing techniques that are both barbaric and filthy, represent a serious and potentially fatal risk to communities and their animals from the lethal rabies virus. Furthermore, toddlers who that see the sight of terrible killing techniques may quickly lose their sensitivity to the suffering.
Need for greater collaboration
There is a need for greater coordination and collaboration, judging by the overwhelming feedback received from both government and non-government entities involved in dealing with animals. Working together would result in greater benefits not only in addressing the issues of animal cruelty, but also in streamlining procedures, the sharing of good practices and even issues such as funding.
Therefore, every government and non-government entity in Malaysia must work together to show positive changes for animals in the country. Both 2020 and 2021 were tough years for everyone, including the animals. It is time to transform Malaysian society and put an end to animal suffering and brutality. Forever.
Animals are unable to express their stories of pain. By vehemently denouncing cruelty and pressuring the government and companies to alter their methods, we can put an end to this.
Let's take part in the WEEAC initiative, whereby every government and non-government organisation will work together to organise activities to raise awareness of animal welfare, animal rights, and animal cruelty by every 22 September.
As espoused by the famous Earl Nightingale, an American radio speaker and author, dealing mostly with the subjects of human character development, motivation, and meaningful existence, “Everything begins with an idea”.
Together, we can give all animals a life worth living.
Suzianah Nhazzla Ismail, who holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, in the area of Animal Politics and Environmental Ethics, specialises in New Social Movements. She is currently with the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN).