The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Schools to turn into cradles of animal rights activism

Guwahati, April 18: The next time you pick up a stick to shoo away a straying beast of burden, do it at the risk of a tongue-lashing from the neighbourhood kids.

After filing cases against three owners of horse-drawn carts for carrying excessive load, animal rights activists in Guwahati are taking their campaign against cruelty to animals to schools in the city. Doya, the NGO behind the “chargesheets”, has teamed up with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the programme.

“We believe sensitising schoolchildren towards animals is the best way to spread the message of preventing the kind of cruelty that we see around us everyday. We have decided to tie up with schools and teach students about how to ensure that animals are treated better,” Srimanta Borthakur, president of Doya, said.

Indeed, animals could do with a little bit of doya (compassion) in a state where even wildlife is not being spared. Straying elephants and leopards are either attacked with weapons or poisoned. The sacrifice of animals — buffaloes and goats — as part of special rituals at the Kamakhya temple has long been a bone of contention between animal rights activists and votaries of tradition.

Borthakur said Doya would set up “Karuna Clubs” in schools to involve students in the mission to prevent cruelty to animals, primarily beasts of burden. Apart from functioning as vigilance squads, these clubs will spread awareness about the need to create “an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence between humans and animals”.

The campaign to prevent overloading on horse-drawn carts in the city’s commercial areas was launched yesterday.

Borthakur said cartpullers were taught how to keep their horses in good shape. “We were forced to file cases against three unrepentant cartpullers under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. But many others regretted overburdening their horses and promised not to carry excessive load on their carts.”

Lectures and film shows on the issue will now be organised at the school level. “We have already sought the police’s co-operation to prevent cruelty to animals. Traffic police personnel can play a pivotal role in preventing horse-drawn carts from carrying excessive load,” Borthakur said.

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