The parliament is considering allowing individuals to breed and use wild animals for any reason whatsoever
In 2011, a captive mother bear in a bile farm in China strangled her cub to death and then killed herself by smashing her head against a wall. The two were kept in crush cages (very small cages), which confined their movement, and were used for collecting bile by milking their gall bladders. In this process, the bile juice is harvested through a permanent hole punctured in the stomachs of Asiatic Bears. This excruciating process that lasts till their death not only prohibits their freedom but condemns them to great torment. This was why the mother bear broke out of her cage when she heard the cries of her cub when it was about to be cut open. She then held her cub when she was unable to break it free from the chains and then strangled it before killing herself, saving both of them from unfathomable cruelty.
In 1994, a female elephant called Tyke broke her confinement from a circus where she was made to perform for 20 years. She was shipped to Honolulu when she was a child and was then “trained” with bull hooks and sticks; and she was beaten repeatedly for years to make her obedient. She had tried (and failed) to escape twice before, before breaking free the third time with so much rage bundled in her that she killed her trainer and injured many before being shot 87 times, after which she took her last breadth. The impact of the incident was so profound that after Tyke, not a single elephant has performed at the circus in Hawaii.
These events are direct outcome of animals being kept in captivity, by force, so that humans can exploit them. The purpose varies from harvesting organs and using them for entertainment to lab experiments to smuggling their body parts. The motivating factor of course is money and it overlooks any context of compassion. This leads to mistreatment of animals in every form. The same motivation has inspired the Environment Protection Committee of the Parliament to table an amendment to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973.
This proposed amendment has a clause that specifically permits individuals to breed and use wild animals for any reason whatsoever ranging from harvesting organs and body parts, exporting and selling them, keeping them for entertainment, reproductive purposes and even for zoos for educational purposes. The amendment clearly states that any individual, business house or group of people can be issued licenses to use wild animals for profitable measures. This opens the possibility of fur farms, bile farms, circuses, mini zoos, meat farms, slaughter houses, experiments on animals and so much more.
Animals have been proven to be sentient beings with family ties; the ability to feel and express emotions; fight for territory and survival; and even share strong bonds with their human counterparts. They suffer, experience fear and pain, retreat from threats and attack only when prompted. There have been instances when animals have saved people, risked their own lives for the ones they guarded and shown immense sympathy for other species.
Some animals like elephants suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, others like chimpanzees can communicate in human sign language and then there are those like the mother bear who choose to kill her own baby. Animals, in their own might, communicate more humanely than humans possibly can. Subjecting them to exploitation is what this amendment will achieve.
Biodiversity and animals have faced great threats in the form of human ignorance and apathy since the beginning of their interaction with the latter. Organized crime and state-led operations have played a big role towards their demise. According to the recent “Illegal Trade in Wildlife” fact-sheet presented by United Nation Environmental Program (UNEP, May 2016), environmental crimes are worth an estimated US $213 billion annually with Illegal wildlife trade alone worth $15-20 billion annually. Illegal trade flourishes by influencing governments that are weak and populations that are struggling to make their ends meet. Nepal easily falls into this category.
Due to decades of unstable politics, Nepal has been subjected to foolish and self-centered decisions. So protected species are not adequately covered by the proposed amendment and there is big question over monitoring and implementation of rules. Nepal is a major transit for wildlife trafficking. Since 2010, at least 15 rhino horns, 335 kg of pangolin scales along with six live pangolins have been confiscated in Nepal. Similarly, in 2015-2016, 15 tiger skins were seized among which six were from Nepal. Moreover, 327 leopard skins were seized from 2003-2013, but leopards have still not been given highest level of protection in the proposed amendment. There is a high possibility that without strict monitoring and stable government, this amendment will encourage smugglers.
Continuous confiscation of exotic birds from Nepal (where selling only local birds is legal) proves that the related authorities are not ready and competent to handle these kinds of crimes.
Animals have been exploited for countless purposes including fashion and vanity, medicine and research, entertainment and sport, consumption and religion. Globally this trend has been challenged and tweaked on behalf of animals in recent times. New-age interventions encompass alternatives that work for conservation and not for milking profit. Prohibition of bush meat, cruelty-free alternatives for animals in laboratories, closing down of entertainment businesses like The Ringling Brothers Circus, operations against ivory and wildlife trade are examples of such interventions.
Nepal has made great strides in conservation through its zero-rhino poaching years and use of high-tech collar navigation system. However, the implementation of the amendment that allows for wildlife breeding and farming will reverse decades of progress. Lack of strong governance and rule of law, poor monitoring systems, and the absence of animal welfare policies are already hampering conservation. By 2020 more than half the species of the planet will be extinct and legislations like this act will hasten this trend.
In 2003, the government of Nepal brought the Wildlife Farming, Breeding and Research Policy allowing the export of local rhesus monkey to US laboratories. A group of animal rights activists came together and were able to close down the breeding center at Lele in 2009 after years of pressure. The then Minister of forest and soil conservation, Deepak Bohra, took the historic step of closing it down. Today, animal rights and welfare groups are seeking the same level of support from the current government. It is also the responsibility of all citizens of Nepal to join the coalition and come together to stop this cruel initiative.
These animals and wildlife belong to us. It is our right and the right of our children to experience the rich biodiversity and celebrate our connection with the natural world. Each one of you who reads this article needs to be angry and uncomfortable for what the Environment Protection Committee in the parliament and sections of government are trying to achieve. Our animals should not be forgotten. After all, they have as much right to be here as we do. We share this planet with them and our existence is connected.
This is the time to make the choice between greed and humanity. This is the time to say NO to the wildlife breeding, farming and research legislation, a work of greed.