When I was a little girl, I used to be very disturbed by the plight of animals I saw around me. Puppies and kittens were constantly abandoned by people in front of my house. They were so helpless and scared, these little puppies and kittens. Crying out constantly, hoping for someone to save them. Very often their eyes would not even be open, and I would try to feed them milk that I would make from the powdered milk tins mom used to buy. I would also climb up the storeroom where stocks of ikan bills and udang kering would be stored and sprinkle them outside for the hordes of stray cats that would clamour for some morsels to eat.
I would save my lunch and dinner and go out and leave them under the trees in a newspaper, knowing that pregnant mother dogs would need them, or for mommy dogs to take and feed their hungry babies.
Forty years ago, there were a lot more stray dogs and cats on the streets than there are now and therefore I saw a lot more cruelty to them that was visible to everyone. As a young kid, my heart got quite broken from that cruelty.
I saw a char kuoy teow guy throw boiling oil at a stray dog that tried to eat leftovers on the floor from where he was cooking and was petrified to hear the screams of the dog as it ran yelping in agony away from the scene.
I saw a man on a motorbike kick a stray dog that was minding its business looking for food, right onto the middle of the street where it was run over by a car. I can still hear its screams of pain as it desperately tried to drag itself off the road with two front legs because the car had run over its back two legs. As someone who recently suffered a broken arm, I know how much pain broken bones can be but that dog did not have the luxury of surgery and resting in bed. It probably died from both the pain and not being able to look for food.
I regularly used to see young boys throwing rocks at dogs on the street because they felt that was fun thing to do – inflict pain.
We had dog shooters from the local councils back then, and they would go around putting bullets into stray dogs. Very often they would not kill the dogs immediately because of their bad aim, and just maim them badly but will then loop the still thrashing bodies of dogs dying a slow death into dump trucks. And my father told me that they would bury these dogs in mass graves – while still alive.
My father was a kind man who felt the way I did too, and he would tell me about this man colleagues spoke about who would tie cats to stakes and burn them alive just to watch them squirm. One day a cat lashed out and made him blind in one eye, and my dad said he never felt more satisfied hearing that story.
My dad also used to tell me about how people just bury puppies and kittens alive to get rid of them. How the mother dogs would desperately try to dig her babies out. How people used to drown puppies and kittens by putting them in a sack, adding bricks to the sack and just dumping it into the rivers.
The cruelty is not visible anymore due to the fact that there are hardly any more stray cats and dogs in our cities. But that does not mean there is no more cruelty. The cruelty is just hidden far from us, in slaughterhouses that are akin to torture chambers for animals.
If we see the way animals suffer to become food in our tummies, many of us would not want to eat meat anymore. Imagine if you have to go and kill a chicken or goat or cow or pig yourself to eat it, you most often will say no and go eat some healthy vegetables instead. So the meat industrialists hide the pain, agony and trauma these animals undergo to be your food, and also the trauma you will undergo if you have to see this, far far away in secluded slaughter houses.
Billions of animals get killed every day, trembling in fear, pain and bewilderment so we can eat in excess. If we just but change the way we look at life, and respect them as we would want to be respected, there will be so much less pain in this world.
Because pain is pain. Whether it is human pain or animal pain. We all suffer the same.