Animal welfare must be integrated with human welfare and due importance should be given to zoonotic diseases. These two fundamental tenets, stressed by a city-based animal activist, have been adopted in the resolution of the Asia for Animals Symposium held in Hong Kong from September 3 to 6.
Debasis Chakrabarti, founder, Compassionate Crusaders Trust, and managing trustee, People for Animals, Calcutta — both city-based animal-welfare NGOs — was the sole invitee from Calcutta on the speakers’ panel at the Hong Kong meet.
In his presentation at the session titled ‘Communicating the message: marketing for animal welfare groups’, Chakrabarti emphasised the need to coalesce animal and human welfare projects to derive maximum benefits and to treat zoonotic diseases on a war footing to prevent epidemics like SARS and rabies.
The conference, which attracted delegates from 15 countries and representation by 50 organisations from all over Asia, decided to include the moot points in Chakrabarti’s discourse in its final resolution. Co-hosted by Animals Asia Foundation and SPCA Hong Kong, the four-day convention debated on what is needed in Asia to realistically reflect the needs of animals.
Topics like rabies-control, live animal markets and SARS, use of animals in traditional medicine, caring for street dogs and cats and how local groups can improve their working relationship with government departments were dealt with through structured presentations, Q&A panels and open forums.
“Animal welfare is low priority because most people fail to understand its relevance to our welfare,” argued Chakrabarti, pointing out that some people think all animals are a nuisance from lack of awareness and sensitivity, which “must be rectified”.
He also reasoned that preventive healthcare is several times cheaper than curative healthcare and that some zoonotic diseases are incurable, anyway. More than 70 per cent of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India and it’s a 100 per cent zoonotic disease — almost always transmitted from animal to man, he said in his presentation.
“At home, it is easy for any animal advocate from any nation to feel overwhelmed by all the suffering he/she must cope with. But, at conferences like this, people like Debasis, who have made significant headway despite all the obstacles, are able to substantially help others with their accumulated wisdom,” summed up Merritt Clifton.
The editor of Animal People, a leading US-based independent newspaper providing “original investigative coverage” of animal protection worldwide, felt the conference was “a landmark in the growth of the animal advocacy movement in Asia”.