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Freedom of animals

How the global lockdown has taught us to empathise with caged animals

“How would you feel if you were kept in a cage indefinitely?” Activists and animal rights advocates often ask this question to help people imagine the life of caged animals.

Locked in a steel cage, away from their home and family—life of a caged animal is no life at all. Yet, we have remained indifferent. The line of empathy, connecting us with caged animals has remained blurred, until now.

The global pandemic has brought the world to a screeching halt by introducing chaos and uncertainty into it. But, as is said, every dark cloud comes with a silver lining, so has the coronavirus. While it took away lives, jobs, and freedom, it gave humanity a new perspective to re-evaluate their lives and that of the animals kept in cages.

Today, if we were asked the same question about the freedom of caged animals, the answer will be quite different and empathetic. In this feature, Soulveda explores humanity’s shift in perspective, its learned lessons, and what we can do for the freedom of caged animals.

The true value of freedom

Be it a self-imposed quarantine or a government-issued mandate, many are confined to their homes, unable to step out. The four walls have become invisible bars of a cage. No wonder this lockdown has put millions in distress; taking the anxiety levels and the cases of panic attacks through the roof. Imagine being stuck like this for years to come, like animals at your favourite zoos.

While your time in quarantine will eventually come to an end, many wild animals are trapped in zoos and other such establishments for their entire lives. And for what, our amusement? This lockdown period is the perfect opportunity to build the bridge of compassion between us and the caged animals. Because if not now, when?

The chirping birds inside the cage, may not always be singing. Just like your sigh of frustration can easily be confused for relief.


A newfound sense of empathy

News reports of animals taking back the streets once crowded by us have emerged from all across the globe. With minimal intervention from humans, scientists believe the ecosystems can rebound from pollution and environmental degradation, as they are. But what about the animals living in cages? Who is going to save them?

As humans, we tend to lack empathy for others until we’ve experienced the same mishap. Now that we are living in forced captivity to some degree, we can understand and extend empathy to all other living beings we share our planet with. A ray of hope in an otherwise nightmare-like situation is the lessons human race is learning—the importance of compassion, social interaction, and freedom.

In her book, Animal Madness, Laurel Braitman talks about the mental health issues caged animals face. “Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time,” she writes. Just like physical pain, animals too experience emotional and mental anguish like humans. The chirping birds inside the cage, may not always be singing. Just like your sigh of frustration can easily be confused for relief.

The chirping birds inside the cage, may not always be singing. Just like your sigh of frustration can easily be confused for relief.

What we can and should do

Some of our fondest childhood memories are of trips to the zoo, sometimes with our families and other times on school picnics. Zoos, safari parks, amusement parks, and other such establishments have long made us believe that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity—bored, cramped, lonely, trapped. Away from their actual homes, imprisoned in cages, and living at the mercy of their caretakers who are not always caring. But, with the realisation brought on by the pandemic, it’s high time we do something about their freedom.

What can you do to help them?

As the privileged species, humans have the voice and the ability to make a choice that can move mountains. It is time we do what we can for the rights of those who do not share our privileges.

Support the right NGOs and activists who fight for animal rights. Urge the authorities to pass bills in favour of animal welfare. Boycott zoos, circuses, and amusement parks that have animals confined for their profits. Spread awareness among your friends and families on why wildlife is better left untouched. Talk about caged animals and zoos, as much and as often as you can.

Even educating yourself and your loved ones on the inhumane conditions caged animals live in is enough to spark a debate.

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