Animal rights activists condemn culling practices for stray dogs in Karachi

Animal rights activists condemn culling practices for stray dogs in Karachi
A stray dog on a street as people line up maintaining social distancing to buy groceries from a governmental subsidized shop during a nationwide lockdown in Karachi in April. (Files/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 22 July 2020

Animal rights activists condemn culling practices for stray dogs in Karachi

Animal rights activists condemn culling practices for stray dogs in Karachi
  • Officials say thousands of stray canines killed so far in the city initiative

KARACHI: The frequent culling of dogs in Pakistan has angered both animal rights activists and citizens, but officials in Sindh province say it is necessary because packs of wild strays pose a threat to residents, with up to 5,000 people dying of rabies every year.

However, experts aren’t convinced.

Last Tuesday, Dr.  Naseem Salahuddin, the head of the Rabies Free Pakistan (RFP) project, woke up to discover that months of work by her team to vaccinate and neuter stray dogs in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, had been thrown away.

Overnight, municipal authorities in an upscale neighborhood in southern Karachi had killed at least 50 strays that Salahuddin’s team had treated. And this was not the first time this had happened.

Authorities estimate the citywide operation has culled thousands of dogs by shooting or using poison tablets hidden in food but do not have a full count for all six districts that make up Karachi city.

“You work from dawn to dusk, put in your best effort, spend time and resources, and they kill the dogs without any reason — it’s like being stabbed in the back,” said Salahuddin.

Officials say it is part of the city’s anti-rabies measures, mainly since vaccines for the disease, mostly imported from India, always seem to be in short supply at Karachi hospitals.

Rabies is a neglected disease in Pakistan, with scant data available, although the cases of dog bites are rising, doctors and officials said.

Around 150 patients come to Karachi hospitals daily with dog bites, doctors said. Indus Hospital treated more than 7,000 cases of dog bites last year and said it had already handled 4,000 cases this year. Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Hospital, the largest health facility in Sindh, said the hospital treated 6,000 patients for dog bites between January and July.

Street animals, particularly dogs, are often a part of the urban landscape in developing countries such as Pakistan. In Karachi, a city of more than 15 million, it is common to see strays lurking in public parks, guarding street corners and howling in neighborhoods at night. Joggers say they have to carry a stick to scare dogs away, and cyclists keep stones in their pockets to throw at chasers.

Malik Fayyaz, the chairman of the district municipal council in southern Karachi, confirmed that authorities were killing, as well as sterilizing, dogs due to a rising number of complaints from residents.

He said a vaccination and spaying project the council had started in collaboration with Indus Hospital had stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and culling strays was the only option.

Another program launched last year in Karachi’s district central, the largest municipal cooperation in the city, had also stalled.

Rehan Hashmi, the central district council chairman, said dogs had to be taken off the streets even if that meant killing them. Authorities would stop killing dogs, he added, if there was a program that could vaccinate and spay “100 percent stray dogs.”

“Saving a human life is more important than saving the life of a dog,” Hashmi said.

In August 2016, the district council of south Karachi killed 800 stray dogs, pushing lawyer Muhammad Asad Iftikhar to file a petition in the Sindh High Court. Last December, the court finally directed authorities to stop culling animals and instead to neuter and vaccinate them. But cull tactics continue.

Last month, the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF), which has neutered more than 6,000 stray animals in Karachi in the past seven years, filed a petition in the Sindh High Court after hundreds of dogs the organisation had vaccinated and spayed were found dead. Many of the dogs were given poisoned food, the Foundation said, and were found with their legs tied to other dogs so they could not run away or seek help as the venom took effect.

The ACF petition, which is yet to be heard in court, is seeking a uniform policy by the government to curb the spread of rabies and contain rising stray populations in Sindh instead of sentencing dogs to death.

In Pakistan, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890 was amended in January 2018 to include fines and punishments for animal abuse. The law does not provide a “holistic approach” towards animal welfare, rights activists say, and needs to be replaced with new legislation recognising animals as sentient beings that need protection and care.

Animal welfare advocates say Pakistan has never made a priority of pushing responsible animal control policies, including spaying and neutering, which would have helped avoid the current problems.

“Killing dogs is not only inhumane but ineffective also,” said Aftab Gauhar, a project manager at RFP, a project of Karachi’s Indus Hospital which operates across the city and has vaccinated nearly 24,000 dogs and neutered and spayed over 3,500 since 2018. She said rising dog populations and rabies infections could be tackled with sterilization, mass vaccination drives and community engagement to teach people how to behave around strays.

There are currently several charities in Karachi who cruise the city treating sick dogs and taking healthy ones to shelters for vaccinations and sterilizations before depositing them back exactly where they were found: on the streets.

Chundrigar, who founded ACF, said sterilization could lead to a 50 percent fall in the number of strays within a year.

“Stray dogs should be neutered and left to live in their natural habitats, which are the streets,” she said.

In an emotional video message posted online last month after hundreds of dogs were found dead, Chundrigar said: 

“We [ACF] are about to complete seven years next month. It has been a hard seven years. We feel grieved. We have no success to show. Because all of our success stories are dead.”

Related


Shear luck: Afghan karakul traders lament decline of ‘Karzai cap’

Shear luck: Afghan karakul traders lament decline of ‘Karzai cap’
Updated 6 min 18 sec ago

Shear luck: Afghan karakul traders lament decline of ‘Karzai cap’

Shear luck: Afghan karakul traders lament decline of ‘Karzai cap’
  • Tradition risks being lost as lamb stocks deplete and anger grows over ‘pelt peeling’

KABUL: For generations, the pelts of newborn karakul lambs were one of Afghanistan’s major export items, sought after at home and abroad to produce the iconic caps worn by rulers, statesmen and trend-setters — prized fashion items that sold for up to $3,000 each.

However, in recent years, there has been a drastic decline in demand for the eye-catching headwear due to the special breed of sheep that produces the pelt becoming endangered.

“In the past 10 years, the industry has gone bankrupt. There is no market for it now,” Mohammad Salim Saee, head of the agriculture department of northern Balkh, one of the key production areas of karakul sheep, told Arab News.

At its peak in the 1970s, the volume of karakul sheepskin exports to the West stood at 10 million pieces, he said, adding: “You cannot compare it in terms of the percentage now with what we used to produce and export.”

It is now difficult to find a single shop selling karakul sheepskins among the dozens of stores lining the famous avenue of Shahe-Do-Shamshera in the Afghan capital Kabul, where former president Hamid Karzai used to source his trademark hats.

The karakul cap became so synonymous with Karzai that US designer Tom Ford once named him “the chicest man on the planet” for his sartorial choice.

Besides Karzai, regional leaders such as Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and other rulers in Central Asia and across Russia have been seen donning the popular fashion accessory.

Mohammad Aref, head of the agency for karakul production in Balkh, said that Afghanistan exported almost 500,000 skins to the West and across the region just four years ago.

However, there has been a gradual decline in volume since then, with just 17,000 pieces exported to Uzbekistan last year.

Mirwais Ibrahimi, a karakul trader in Balkh, said: “Until a few years ago, 280 shops were selling karakul skins, but now only three or four are left.”

He traces the decline to growing opposition, both at home and abroad, to the “barbaric” practice of ripping the skin off newborn lambs to source the fur.

“In Afghanistan and abroad, the killing of the newborn lamb is regarded as a cruel act. That is why there isn’t much desire for it as there was some years ago,” he told Arab News.

Soon after the birth of a lamb, dealers peel the pelt from its skin before it is fed by the ewe, “because it affects the quality of the skin.”

Rahmat Shah, a dealer in Jowjzan, another key karakul region, said: “Some butchers in the past would even cut through the abdomen of a pregnant sheep to take its baby, but the practice was stopped as it was considered too cruel.”

Kazim Hamayoun, a senior official in Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, said that no regulation or law bans the practice, “which is a concern.”

He added: “Indeed, it is a major concern. The younger a karakul, the higher its value, and the quality of the fur will be finer, too. It is a serious threat to wildlife.

“We do not have anything preventing this — no law or directive. We have distributed leaflets informing dealers about it, but have not done a poll to determine its impact. We hope to launch a national dialogue on this.”

However, Shah lamented the loss of business and the end of an Afghan tradition.

“There is no business at all. We do not know how we and the government can save this industry and tradition from being buried in history forever.”

Related


Indian state in lockdown after ‘super spreader’ poll

Indian state in lockdown after ‘super spreader’ poll
Updated 13 min 4 sec ago

Indian state in lockdown after ‘super spreader’ poll

Indian state in lockdown after ‘super spreader’ poll
  • Daily deaths across country stay near 4,000 as total cases reach 24.37m

KOLKATA: An Indian state stricken by coronavirus after mass rallies were held for a key election ordered a two-week lockdown on Saturday in a bid to halt the spread.

All offices, stores and public transport in West Bengal were told to close for 15 days after the region reported its biggest spike yet in deaths and infections.

West Bengal along with a host of southern states are bearing the brunt of a COVID-19 surge in India that has taken the nation’s infection total to nearly 25 million with more than 265,000 deaths.

The strain of the virus responsible has been declared a variant of “global concern” by the World Health Organization.

West Bengal accounted for 21,000 of India’s 326,000 new cases reported on Saturday and hospitals in the state say they are swamped with patients.

In the past 24 hours, India tally of COVID-19 cases reached 24.37 million, with 3,890 deaths, for a toll of 266,207, Health Ministry data shows.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew tens of thousands of people to rallies in the region last month ahead of state elections in which his ruling nationalist party failed to unseat Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Banerjee also staged major rallies ahead of the polls and on Friday her brother died from coronavirus in hospital.

Many experts have said the election campaign was a “super-spreader.”

In the resort state of Goa, more than 70 people have died in four days from medical oxygen shortages at hospitals, an opposition party in the region said.

A court ordered emergency supplies of oxygen to be sent to Goa Medical College Hospital to prevent more deaths.

The state’s main opposition party said the patients died from a lack of oxygen but the government said the cause of death had not been determined.

Goa authorities nevertheless said they had asked the central government to nearly double the state’s oxygen supply to 40 tons per day.

Coronavirus restrictions in Goa had been relatively relaxed until the current wave of infections. 

The virus is now causing more than 60 deaths a day in the region and Goa has one of India’s highest infection rates.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization’s chief said India was a huge concern, with the second year of the pandemic set to be more deadly than the first.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s remarks to an online meeting came after Modi sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of the disease through the vast countryside.

India reported its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in nearly three weeks on Saturday, with deaths still near the 4,000-mark, but federal health officials said cases and fatalities are rapidly stabilizing in this wave
of the pandemic.

The overall rate of positive cases per tests had dipped to 19.8 percent this week from 21.9 percent last week, federal health officials said in a briefing, but warned that cautiousness must continue.

The slow growth may also reflect test rates that are at their lowest since May 9.

Randeep Guleria, director of AIIMS Hospital in Delhi, warned that secondary infections like mucormycosis or “black fungus” were adding to India’s mortality rate with states having reported more than 500 cases recently in COVID-19 patients with diabetes.

Earlier in the day, Modi told officials to focus on distributing resources including oxygen supplies in the hard-hit rural areas, according to a government statement.

He also called for more testing in India’s vast countryside, which is witnessing a rapid spread of the virus, it added.

Four thousand WHO-supported oxygen concentrators arrived in Delhi on Saturday and will be rushed to states over the next 2-3 days to support the COVID-19 response, Tedros tweeted.

During the past week, the south Asian nation has added about 1.7 million new cases and more than 20,000 deaths in a second wave of infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff.


Japan, US and France hold military drill

Japan, US and France hold military drill
Updated 23 min 6 sec ago

Japan, US and France hold military drill

Japan, US and France hold military drill
  • Around 200 troops took part in Saturday’s exercises

TOKYO: Dozens of Japanese, American and French troops landed amid pouring rain from a CH-47 transport helicopter onto a grassy field at a training area in southern Japan, part of Saturday’s joint scenario of defending a remote island from an enemy invasion.

The three nations’ first joint drills on Japanese soil — dubbed “ARC21” and which began on Tuesday — come as they seek step up military ties amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.

Japanese soldiers and their counterparts from the French army and the US Marine Corps also conducted an urban warfare drill using a concrete building elsewhere at the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s Kirishima Training Area in the southern Miyazaki prefecture. 

Around 200 troops took part in Saturday’s exercises.

On Saturday, the three countries were also joined by Australia in an expanded naval exercise involving 11 warships in the East China Sea, where tensions with China are rising around the island of Taiwan.

The drills come as Japan looks to bolster its military capabilities amid a deepening territorial row with China in regional seas. 

Japan is increasingly concerned about Chinese activity in and around Japanese-claimed waters surrounding the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing also claims and calls Diaoyu.

Since the end of World War II, Japan’s constitution has limited the use of force to self defense. 

Japan in recent years has continued to expand its military role, capability and budget.

Japan’s Vice Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, who observed the exercise, stressed the significance of French participation in the joint exercises regularly held between Japan and the US, and often with Australia.

“It was a valuable opportunity for the Japanese Self-Defense Force to maintain and strengthen its strategic capability necessary to defend our remote islands,” Nakayama said. 

“Together we were able to show to the rest of the world our commitment in defending Japanese land, territorial seas and airspace.”

France, which has territories in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, has strategic interests in the region.

“It is obviously very important for us because we need to be side by side with people who are sharing this part of the world,” Lt. Col. Henri Marcaillou from the French army told reporters after Saturday’s exercise.

US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeremy Nelson said the three countries showed they can work together “for a common goal or common cause.”

Britain, which recently adopted a policy of deeper engagement in the region, is sending the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group, due to arrive in the region later this year. 

Germany is also set to deploy a frigate to the region.

Japan and the US have been promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific vision of defense and economic framework based on democratic principles in the area in a group known as the Quad, which also includes Australia and India, seen as a move to counter China’s escalating influence in the region.

China has criticized the US-Japanese framework as an exclusionist bloc based on a Cold War-era mindset.


UK’s Labour slams Israel over destruction of media building

UK’s Labour slams Israel over destruction of media building
Updated 15 May 2021

UK’s Labour slams Israel over destruction of media building

UK’s Labour slams Israel over destruction of media building
  • ‘Targeting of media offices in Gaza completely unacceptable. Press freedom is a fundamental right’

LONDON: Britain’s main opposition Labour Party on Saturday branded an Israeli airstrike that leveled a media building in Gaza as “completely unacceptable,” as up to 100,000 protesters marched through central London to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The high-rise building, which hosted offices for journalists from international outlets such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, was destroyed on Saturday afternoon.

The strike leveled the building an hour after people were told to evacuate. It followed an earlier Israeli attack in Gaza City that killed eight children and two other Palestinians from an extended family.

“The targeting of media offices in Gaza by Israeli air strikes is completely unacceptable. Press freedom is a fundamental right,” said Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy.

“The devastating escalation of violence — including Hamas rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and air strikes on the Gaza City refugee camp — has cost more civilian lives and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” she added.

“The UK must join our international partners in calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end to all rocket attacks and air strikes, and work with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to prevent this dangerous situation deteriorating further.”

Labour MP Diane Abbott told the crowd at the London demonstration: “We must remember we’re part of an international movement. This is a worldwide movement for justice.”

She added: “Palestinian people are having their land seized ... and they’re now being killed in their homes. All of this is illegal.”


Thousands march on Israeli Embassy in London

Protesters carried placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanted “Free Palestine” as they marched toward the Israeli Embassy. (AN Photo/Lauren Lane)
Protesters carried placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanted “Free Palestine” as they marched toward the Israeli Embassy. (AN Photo/Lauren Lane)
Updated 15 May 2021

Thousands march on Israeli Embassy in London

Protesters carried placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanted “Free Palestine” as they marched toward the Israeli Embassy. (AN Photo/Lauren Lane)
  • Palestinian envoy: ‘We won’t be denied anymore. We’ve had enough of oppression’
  • Organizers: UK ‘must stop allowing Israel’s brutal violence against the Palestinian people to go unpunished’

LONDON: Thousands of people staged a protest march in central London on Saturday in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Protesters carried placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanted “Free Palestine” as they marched toward the Israeli Embassy.

Organizers said “immediate action” is necessary from the UK government to put an end to Israel’s “brutal violence.”

A makeshift stage was set up, and protest leaders urged calm amid a surge in numbers and growing police presence.

London’s Metropolitan Police, who oversaw the march, said its strategy “was to ensure everybody is kept safe and to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Organizers said at least 100,000 people joined the march. Among the protesters was Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the main opposition Labour Party, who told crowds that “international action” could provide urgent help to those suffering in the conflict with Israel.

“Think what it’s like being a mother or father and seeing a building bombed in front of you, knowing your family is in there, and you can do nothing,” he said.

“It’s our global voices that will give support to those who are suffering at this time. End the occupation now. End all the settlements now and withdraw. End the siege of Gaza now.”

Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told crowds: “This time is different. This time we won’t be denied anymore. We’re united. We’ve had enough of oppression. Today we’re saying enough, enough with the complicity. Thank you for standing with us.”

The demonstration was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain.

“It is vital that the UK government take immediate action. It must stop allowing Israel’s brutal violence against and oppression of the Palestinian people to go unpunished,” said a spokesperson for the march.

“The bombardment of Gaza, which is killing civilians including children, is a war crime. It is occurring in the context of the illegal forced displacement of families in Jerusalem and attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel by far-right groups including illegal settlers from the West Bank,” the spokesperson added.

“The UK government is complicit in these acts as long as it continues to offer Israel military, diplomatic and financial support. Such support must end, with a minimum start being an end to the two-way arms trade and trade with illegal Israeli settlements.”

Demonstrations also took place in other major UK cities, including Birmingham, Coventry, Bristol, Cardiff and Edinburgh.