Following a week of peace and quiet in the Rupununi, I returned to the noise and turmoil of Georgetown. I was saddened by the story (Kaieteur News, Sept 19) about the cattle farmer, Sookdeo Singh (Port Mourant) who reported being brutally attacked and beaten by eight stray catchers. He said he was following all the rules (walking with his animals and using a red flag to cross roads, etc) when suddenly a white car pulled up and 8 stray catchers armed with cutlasses emerged from their vehicle, threw his bicycle aside and started beating and firing chops at him, cuffing and kicking him in the stomach and back. The thing that strikes me as being out of the ordinary in this case is the white car, the 8 cutlass carrying and organized stray catchers and the increase in the level of brutality displayed in this ongoing battle between animal owners and “the authorities.” While that is sad, my main concern is with the mistreatment of the 16 head of cattle that were taken hostage and are being held at the Albion Police Station pound. My particular concern is for the lactating cows, and even more so for the small calves alone at home “crying out for their mothers.” It was reported that one has already died and the cattle owner is being prevented from feeding and watering her animals at the compound.
This battle between animal owners and rice and vegetable farmers, homeowners, and the general public, has been ongoing for decades but it is obviously getting worse as agriculture expands, vacant lots turn into housing developments, railroad embankments become parking lots and grasslands become ever more scarce. In the meantime, animals (cattle, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep and baby calves) are made to suffer from the non-solution of impounding strays and, now it seems, even impounding animals on their way home and accompanied by their owners.
Last year I had the opportunity to volunteer at a police pound and help animals in distress over a period of 11 months. During that period I saw several impounded animals die for lack of attention and/or vet services. I observed that personnel hired to cut and carry grass for animals were more often employed doing other tasks so that animals often went without feed and water and many times were tied up inhumanely in the sun or in filth. I am convinced that the impounding of strays and “non-strays” is not a solution to the problem but only a temporary fix. In fact, it creates more problems and adds to the suffering of innocent animals.
If there was such a thing as an “animal court” in Guyana, would any competent magistrate find these 16 head of cattle walking home to Port Mourant guilty of a crime? Of course not, they were only doing what animals have been trained to do by “man.”
So then, why should animals be made to suffer just because “man” cannot come up with a real solution to the real problem of animals on our roadways?
“We domesticate animals for our benefit; that means we owe them some respect. Nature is cruel but we don’t have to be” – Mrs Temple Grandin