Some years ago I wrote about animal rights people who had been elected to the Dutch Parliament. The Party for the Animals is the first of its kind in the world and it is a vocal presence in the halls of power. It first entered Parliament in 2006, and now holds two of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives; one seat in the Dutch Senate, and nine seats in eight provincial governments. Its chairperson is Marianne Thieme.
Now they have achieved another milestone – and I am so jealous, I could cry. The Dutch government has decided that there will be a special police force of 500 officers on the streets protecting the rights and welfare of animals.
For once television has had a good effect. The idea came from the channel Animal Planet and the show is “Animal Cops.” "Animal Cops" chronicles the work of animal welfare officers in different US cities.
Within a short time the animal rights political party has become amazingly powerful – and that too in a country that eats mainly meat and cheese. They proposed the idea but it has been brought to be by Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV), a rightist party led by one of Europe’s most well known and outspoken politicians.
When the gods want something to happen, everything falls into line. The Party for Freedom is part of the Dutch coalition in government. 3000 officers were slated to be cut from the police force. The Party for Animals suggested that the country needed animal police. A PVV Member of Parliament called Dion Graus, who had once held a job selling veterinary products, pushed his own party to agree. Geert Wilders then decided that 500 of these policemen should be retrained and made into animal police. Working on animal welfare issues.
The new "animal police" will be regular police officers, with the same powers, but with special training. The first 100 should be in place by the end of the year. Let us hope they don’t just protect the rights of pets or cruelty on them. What is needed is to look at the keeping of livestock, transport of animals for meat and the cruelties in slaughterhouses.
The Dutch police chiefs' organization is taking the new force seriously. "It has a public demand, and it has a political demand, so we don't make fun of it," said spokesperson Jelle Egas.
Until now, most animal cruelty cases in Holland have been investigated by a private entity, the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals. Founded in 1865, the organization has more than 200,000 members and employs 14 full-time investigators. Along with 150 volunteers, the investigators are dispatched on 8,000 calls a year.
The SPCA is delighted with the move but says that the next logical step would be to change the laws so judges can more easily sentence animal offenders for their crimes. This step is likely to find support, as 60 percent of Dutch people rank animal welfare as an important issue. Are animal police going to be found in other countries? 74 % of readers surveyed by a German newspaper thought Germany should have animal cops, too.
Please God, let me be alive when India gets them. So much cruelty on the roads: overloaded bullocks who fall down and die from carrying 2 tonnes of weight; dogs locked up in balconies in the rain and heat; cats poisoned by neighbours; slaughterhouses that hammer calves to death; trucks that carry 50 cows and buffaloes jammed and crushed together so that half die on arrival; sharks that have their fins cut off at sea while they are alive; cock, goat and bullfights; races with cows and horses tied together and made to run for 10 kilometres; animal sacrifices in temples; elephants that are made to beg and parade in the heat; old animals that are thrown out on the streets when they get ill; mongoose and snake fights; monkey dances and langurs made into watchmen….The list is endless.
None of this cruelty would be possible if we had good policemen. But the police are not just useless. Many of them take money from the criminals and allow these heinous crimes to take place – especially in the transport of animals and in illegal slaughter. By law we should have SPCAs (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in every district. In fact they exist nowhere except Delhi where the entire lot of so called inspectors are in league with the illegal transporters and take a monthly “hafta” from them. They have not done a single cruelty case in 30 years because they never go to work during the day. They come at night to escort the overloaded trucks to slaughter. They exist in Chennai where till recently they were selling confiscated cows back to the illegal butchers.
And the wildlife inspectors? Delhi, with a population of 2 crores, has 6. Of these, half have been suspended several times for selling wild animals. Most districts have a District Forest officer and a couple of rangers. They do no work. The DFOs in Meerut supervise India’s largest illegal bird market and take haftas.
We have tried to educate the police about the laws. Many of our people have been to the police academies. I have written a booklet for training which is used at the Andhra Police Academy, but until the government takes cruelty seriously and realises that animal crime is huge and closely related to crime on people and terrorism, India will continue on the downslide.
If we could simply have animal police, it would solve so many people problems. If the Netherlands can do it, India with its tradition of compassion should be able to do so quite easily.
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org
*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*