Last week a dog was sold by its owner to some youths who killed the dog and cooked its meat. Upon coming to know of it the city’s animal lovers’ and environmental group Yening Animal Foundation (YAF) immediately swung into action and traced the three youths after which the police arrested them. For their commendable work the animal activists of YAF have won the support of many people in the state, although a certain section of people have also been making unsolicited calls to the foundation in the past few days. However, the animal lovers led by the foundation’s chairperson, Sapna Laishram, who is also the honorary wildlife warden of the forest department, are undeterred by the opposition from some quarters and even as the FPSJ spoke to her on Wednesday Sapna was monitoring another episode of tracking down some miscreants who had taken away the dog of a small girl who sobbed as she reported the matter to Sapna. Photos had already come in from the site in Monsangei and would be used in making the charges against the culprits.
According to the YAF chairperson the incidence of dog meat consumption has risen considerably during the Covid-19 induced lockdown as the youths are lying idle posing a threat to pet dogs and those dogs who do not have owners and roam around in the locality. And this blatant dog abuse is happening even as all the while a strong opinion is forming against animal abuse in the state culminating recently in the putting of a memorandum by animal lover Sapna before the state’s chief minister drawing his attention toward the cruelty to animals in the state and demanding a legislation to ban the sale and consumption of dog meat in Manipur along with other issues aimed at saving the state’s environment. The memorandum was submitted just days after a law was imposed in neighbouring Nagaland that bans the sale and consumption of dog meat. Mizoram, also among the north eastern states where dog meat consumption is popular, has a similar law in place since March this year giving hope to dog lovers in Manipur that their dogs would soon be protected in the state.
Trafficking in dogs is rampant in Manipur and for those who might not be aware of the extent of it, Sapna informs that recently 600 dogs were impounded in a matter of just two days. The dogs were brought in from Myanmar through the Moreh border. It is cause for alarm for the dog lovers and animal activists that dogs brought in from Moreh are being sold at Kakching and even in Singjamei right in the centre of Imphal city. Other trafficking routes being used are through the Mizoram border with dogs from there being sold in Churachandpur apart from dogs from Churachandpur itself and the hilly areas near Sekmai from where dogs are brought to be sold at the Sekmai market.
Another problem that arises after trafficked dogs are impounded is their safekeeping in the interim period before they can be given away for adoption. The Yening Animal Foundation in a tie-up with the Veterinary department arranged adoption for the 600-odd dogs over a period of seven days during which the Veterinary department doctors medically examined and treated the dogs in the recent case of trafficking. The Animal Welfare Board of India accords dog shelters to be set up in all the districts of the state but except for one at Porompat there are no other shelters available making it difficult for the activists every time dogs are saved and need a home. The process for shelters has just not been implemented in spite of the guidelines of the welfare board and this is one of the items listed for urgent attention in the memorandum to the chief minister, says Sapna.
Sapna has been making frantic enquiries at the old and new secretariats in a bid to get feedback on the memorandum but has been officially told that due to the Covid-19 pandemic there are other priorities with the government. The response is just not there, she says being concerned by the fact that killing of dogs has increased manifold in the time being and this fact is being overlooked by the state government. Sapna has meanwhile also finished compiling a PIL that is to be filed before the Manipur High Court, but adding to her worries the court keeps opening and closing at short notice due to the pandemic lockdown. Another matter she has to currently attend to is the Mantripukhri police summoning her in a case where a particular khul (community) in the area complained to the police about the YAF taking to the media an incident where a dog was shot in the area. This along with the hate calls has compounded her anxieties but she is planning to push through the PIL as soon as possible and get the law implemented on the matters listed on the memorandum to obtain more legal teeth to their efforts at saving animals. The items are under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
All the same messages have been left in Sapna’s inbox and she has also received many calls from elderly as well as younger people pledging their support to her cause. But she feels that the animal lovers as lone individuals are not enough to change things. The generation has to be rebuilt, she says asserting that a book on environment is called for in schools and colleges where students can be taught about issues like love for animals. People have a general idea but they have to be taught again, she says observing that educational institutions are second homes and teachers, parents, media, clubs and organisations – everybody needs to play a part in this reform. If teachers tell their students that chasing animals was a thing of the past and now things are changed according to time, the outlook will be different, Sapna says stating that animal lovers and activists alone cannot accomplish animal and environment protection. Even the Coronavirus is a man-made problem due to environmental degradation and animal meat consumption, she mentions.
Certainly stealing and killing of pet dogs for meat consumption can hardly be condoned and a law is urgently required to stem such crimes against animals. As Sapna informs, the situation is very bad in some localities where grown up people are teaching even their kids to like dog meat. As Sapna is serving as the honorary wildlife warden of the forest department along with attending to her work of saving animals and the environment as chairperson of the Yening Animal Foundation it is hoped that because of her position and her personal attention the message of love for animals will go a long way in saving the animals and environment of the state. She is also in the process of acquiring a demarcated land from the government for releasing saved animals into the wild. It will be a kind of sanctuary in Yairipok or Khangabok area where the animals like monkeys, deer, bears, pythons and birds among others can enjoy all the freedom they deserve under the protection of animal lovers and environmental activists.