Saudi Ministry of Agriculture: Animals have rights too! |
Arab News - 06 July, 2012
Author: Maha N. Mufti
Just over a week ago, local media reported that the Ministry of Agriculture issued tough new laws and punishments on animal cruelty. Financial penalties against violators start at SR1,000 and go up to one million riyals. In extreme cases, violations could lead to imprisonment for up to five years. This applies to both livestock and domesticated animals. Coincidentally, this piece of interesting news regarding animal cruelty penalties, overlapped with a story of a man who cut off the tail of a cat, because it broke his car’s windshields! Which in turn, created brouhaha in Twitter land.
Twitter cynics, women and family rights’ activists had a good time sarcastically, or angrily commenting on these new laws. Some compared the penalties to those very weak laws, weaker punishments and often suspended prison sentences in Saudi Arabia, imposed on men who are abusive and violent toward their wives or children.
Commentators felt that at a time when current family protection laws in Saudi Arabia are not up to standard with international laws, it is ironic that animals should now have more rights than humans. Some felt the penalties were grossly exaggerated. Others wondered, practically speaking, how would the ministry implement these tough measures?
Far from belittling the importance of implementing tougher laws on domestic abusers, I don’t think there is any discrepancy. In the West, they have organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the UK (RSPCA). Interestingly, Islam preceded these societies hundreds of years ago. In fact, abusing animals domesticated or otherwise, is considered a grave sin in Islam, just as much as abusing humans. There are seven chapters in the Qur’an named after animals, including the second and longest chapter named Al-Baqarah (The Cow). Al-Bukhari reported a Hadith by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), regarding a woman who locked up a cat, refusing to feed it and not releasing it so that it could at least feed itself. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that on the Day of Judgment she would be sent to Hell.
I am an animal lover and a cat owner, and I applaud new laws that protect animals in Saudi. However, I really don’t think these new laws are just about cute loving pets or poor stray animals. I believe they also protect professional breeders of racehorses and camels that are reared for racing or for entering camel beauty pageants.
These animals cost their owners up to millions of riyals. Who wouldn’t want to protect such valuable animals from acts of aggression or sabotage? Not forgetting to mention exotic or wild animals held in unsuitable conditions. So in retrospect these new laws are neither unnecessary nor frivolous after all. I truly hope these laws will be implemented, and not just remain lofty ideals on paper.