News that baby elephants are being captured and tortured in South Asia so that tourists can ride them is doing massive rounds on social media. While countless people are frantically sharing this news, a greater number of animals continue to face horror on the streets and elsewhere at the hands of an unkind race called mankind.
Dog is man’s best friend, they say but how many of us actually do care for them? Beyond quotes that populate social media, cards and souvenirs, how many of us actually believe that animals also have the rights same as we do?
Do we care to think that while we drape a Mink, some animal somewhere has been slaughtered to keep us warm? While we flaunt stylish crocodile skin wallets and vanity bags, does it bother us that a form of life elsewhere has been skinned alive? Such is the cruelty that runs in the veins of the human race that has long used animals for their needs and entertainment alike.
ANIMALS DO HAVE RIGHTS but unfortunately between man and animal, their silent battle for rights has been a failure. This is why there are special people in this world, who have taken it upon themselves to protect animals - a task as consecrated as prayer. These people are called Animal Activists who often put their existence and life at stake for the cause of helpless animals; who fight against atrocities meted out to animals; these are the amazing individuals who believe that this world that we live in belongs to animals as much as it belongs to us.
This story is about a remarkable young lady from Thrissur in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Preethi Sreevalsan, an animal activist who has dedicated her life to the cause of helpless animals and their rights. This comes right in time amidst heightened cruelty when empathy today is simply a nice word that falls short of action! Through an Organization she founded in 2012 called People For Animal Welfare Services Thrissur (PAWS Thrissur), she has been at the forefront of animal rescue operations and animal welfare awareness drives in the district with merely a handful of volunteers, nil government support and inadequate funds.
She says, "The world does not belong to us. We have only been given a space to live in and we need to learn to share this space with other creatures as well"! And this is the motto of the Organisation.
Over the past 7 plus years, the Organization which is the first of its kind in Thrissur has executed more than 1700 animal rescue operations from the streets, 66 well rescue operations, 9 adoption drives, and the 10th one comes up in a fortnight, rehabilitation of the rescued animals, street dog sterilization, 4 vaccination drives and in addition to all that providing a shelter for abandoned and injured animals which presently houses 60 dogs, 24 cattle and even a pig that was rescued during the floods last year. PAWS Thrissur also ferries pets from homes to hospitals.
PAWS Thrissur is a recognized charitable trust with an 80(G) certificate from the IT department and they have great ambitions to fulfil, some of these being to start a veterinary hospital with 24x7 facilities, a goshala for old/injured/retired cattle, to start awareness at a more widespread level and to teach children compassion from a very young age.
Despite all the good work, PAWS Thrissur faces colossal challenges and she says, “Lack of manpower is our major hurdle followed by a lack of awareness in the common man and authorities alike about the system”. Today, the Organization has grown beyond its seams, so to say, in terms of its responsibilities, the name has spread across the District and the calls that come in each day are enormous, however, lack of manpower and limited funds have made it practically impossible to respond and reach everywhere! She adds, “There is so much to do and there are not enough of us”.
So has being a woman ever posed a challenge and she quickly responds in the negative. She says being a woman has never come in the way of performing her duties as an animal activist as she was honed from girlhood to be strong and she credits a few very powerful feminine influences in her life for this and they are her mother Usha, the Principal of her School, Nalini Chandran, her aunt Shobha Rajagopal and her grandmother who is incidentally also the biggest donor to PAWS Thrissur. Each of them instilled in her various life skills and taught her to face the world up-front! Like most of us animal lovers who have witnessed cruelty against animals Preethi too is not a huge fan of the human race and is highly opinionated against mankind! She believes that all our problems begin with overpopulation.
So how did it all begin? She narrates a story…
“One day, a few years ago, a pig fell off a truck carrying them to be slaughtered and the animal lay injured on the road. As I watched in horror not knowing what to do, the truck came back, picked up the animal and sped away and all that I could do was cry at the helplessness of the situation. That was the cardinal moment when I realized that it wasn't enough to be just a lover of animals and that there was a lot that needed to be done, a lot to be changed, many wars to be waged - to improve the lives of innocent animals in our midst. I decided to plunge into action and become an activist".
But the seed was planted much. Born into a family of animal lovers, love for animals was already coded into her core and caring for animals was part of a natural instinct she was born with. Her first pet was Monty, a Guinea Pig and she recollects how her parents encouraged her to take care of Monty which made her highly responsible towards animals. Slowly she started looking out for animals in distress and suffering cruelty and began bringing them home for stray was a word that didn’t exist in her dictionary! She opines, “Compassion needs to be instilled in children and not adults. It is cruel to deny children the experience of growing up with animals because mingling with them can teach them to be kinder individuals”. One can’t agree more for kindness is surely what the world needs and lacks!
Today PAWS Thrissur is an Organization recognized by the Animal Welfare Board of India and is also a member of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO). The Organization is currently working on holding classes for those interested to know more about what they can do when they see cruelty against animals. Preethi says that most people are unaware of their basic rights and creating this awareness is the need of the hour because it is important that when people spot cruelty on the street, they needn’t wait for an NGO to take the first step which is to alert the authorities concerned.
She says, “We have a system in place with very strong rules for animal welfare, unfortunately they are not implemented. While the scene in Kerala is rather pathetic, outside Kerala especially in the North, animal activists have been doing stellar services for several years now”.
A day in the life of this animal activist and her volunteers is a diary chock full of activities and the phone never stops ringing. If one day she is found dropping herself into a well to rescue a dog that has fallen in or climbing up a rope ladder from a pit, another day finds her in an altercation with illegal animal slaughterers on the street who have often tried to scare her and her people with sticks and yet again on a brand new day she is found running up and down the lawyers’ offices, police stations and courts fighting legal battles for the rights of animals! What drives this young lady beyond limitations are perseverance and love for animals. Her strong resolve and a deep sense of conscience may have often put her life at risk but not one to be deterred, determination is undoubtedly the key word that defines her best.
While common man mechanically continues to share news of the tortured baby elephants, PAWS Thrissur reports successful legal battles, more rescue operations and a variety of related activities. Indeed it is time for conscientious individuals to come out of their comfort zone as its high time that man changed his perception of this earth and its other inhabitants – the animals!