What about the stray animals and birds dependent on our castaway morsels?
As the weather turns warm, a tabby cat stretches out on the marble counter of a meat shop, waiting for the owner to open it and feed her the leftovers. Outside, a dog prowls close to a heap of garbage, looking for food. The lockdown has sure affected not just us humans but also the animals — both domestic and stray.
Since March 22, when the city was locked down and all eateries, restaurants, schools, colleges, offices and shopping malls were closed, only grocery stores and pharmacies have been allowed to open to the public. Deliveries from poultry farms and meat suppliers have scaled down, as not many people are buying meat or chicken lest it should carry the deadly coronavirus. The tradition of giving away meat in charity or leaving meat pieces on balconies and rooftops for birds of prey and felines to eat has also taken a hit. As a result, there is a lack of food for stray animals and birds all of which are dependent on our castaway morsels.
Muhammad Afzal, a butcher at a meat shop in Ayubia Market, complains of “no business in lockdown. Majority of our orders would come from restaurants in the area. Since they are closed, we aren’t able to earn enough money to make both ends meet.” He also speaks of cats and dogs that are slowly leaving the area to look for food elsewhere.
In a video message released online recently Dr Aamir Liaqat Hussain appealed to the people to feed the stray animals as they don’t get enough food these days. A number of animal rights activists and groups are also advocating the same. On social media platforms, hashtag FeedAStray is making the rounds. Todd’s Welfare Society, an animal rescue organisation, has circulated key points that should be kept in mind when feeding the strays. These include:
Safety first: Do not put your life or that of the strays in danger. For example, if your neighbourhood or street is hostile towards the act of feeding the strays, change the location because you will be returning to your homes afterwards but the animals will still be out and vulnerable to stone-pelting at the hands of the locals.
If your neighbourhood or street is hostile towards the act of feeding the strays, change the location because you will be returning to your homes afterwards but the animals will still be out and vulnerable to stone-pelting at the hands of the locals.
Choose the right time: Late night and early morning work best for the purpose, because there are less people around.
Responsible feeding: Most animals cannot digest foods that are high on spices or sugar, or which might contain allergens. Do some research before heading out with your food bag.
Environment: If you are using feeding bowls, don’t throw them away, you might need them again. Similarly, avoid plastic materials so that the environment is not polluted. Clean up once you are done feeding (difficult initially but doable).
Along with cats and dogs, we must not ignore the avian species. Siblings Mumtaz, Mahnaz and Zara are at home due to school break, and they find enough time from their virtual learning sessions and assignments, so they feed strays in a nearby park with boiled chicken.
Wearing hand gloves and facemasks, they step out to feed the animals. They are happy that “not only the quadrupeds but crows and kites also swoop down to grab their share.”
Sarah Gandapur, an animal rights activist who runs the Voice for the Voiceless group on Facebook, says that people “often ask me why I am advocating animal rights when no one cares about human rights. I tell them that these creatures cannot speak up for themselves, so we must come to their defence.”
Gandapur admits that feeding the strays requires a lot of money and effort. “You can’t possibly ensure that every [animal] is adequately fed in the city. Yet, if we join hands, no animal will starve to death.”
Abu Absar, who lives in a gated colony and feeds strays every day, is of the opinion that the city government should follow the example of Istanbul where water and food troughs are placed around town; they are replenished for animals and birds to feed from. “Although we feed our strays daily, until the government shows support and kindness towards them, (more) people will not come forward.”