Caged Realities: Zoos in Bangladesh and their mistreatment of animals

Photo Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune

We treat the animals in our zoos the same way we treat the students in our schools. Both institutions were established for the purpose of education. But none of them actually accomplished that goal but rather make the lives of their inhabitants miserable.

We lock our students and zoo animals up in a cage without their consent. We make them participate in socially acceptable tasks because it will appease society. In the process, we forget how their cruel treatment altogether.

The space problem

The Dhaka national zoo resides over 186 acres of land. Which is not a small space.  But no space will ever be big enough if you exceed the carrying capacity of that place. We find 26 alligators caged in a reservoir that was meant for 8. You’ll notice the same tragedy if you look inside the deer cage. Or the cage in which the elephants are. It’s the same everywhere.

Caged Realities: Zoos in Bangladesh and their mistreatment of animals

Thanks to the lack of proper funding and attention, most of the zoos in our country, including the biggest zoo that is situated in Mirpur, Dhaka, has not seen a renovation in years.

Even though the designs of the zoos were made decades ago and remains unchanged, the number of animals in the zoos keep increasing.

This unplanned increase in the inhabitants of the zoos has resulted in going over the maximum capacity of the zoos and has made the living conditions of the animals unbearable.  

Read more: Bengal Tigers may not survive the upcoming climate change

Unhygienic conditions

Due to lack of adequate space for the animals to sustain, the overall conditions inside the zoos of our country has become very unhygienic. There aren’t enough people employed to look after the animals and the ones that are employed don’t have adequate training to take care of them.

Caged Realities: Zoos in Bangladesh and their mistreatment of animals

That’s not all. There is also no littering policy in place that is strictly maintained. So, when visitors come, they end up throwing things here and there and even end up throwing things at the animals.

Read more: Dhaka: A city on the edge

Safety of animals

Most animals within the zoos are not taken care of properly. But, sadly, not being taken care of isn’t the worst thing that happens to them.

Caged Realities: Zoos in Bangladesh and their mistreatment of animals

The animals face cruel treatment from the zookeepers. Due to having inexperienced people in charge of taking care of the animals, most of the times they don’t understand the gestures made by animals or are able to identify the reason for their discomfort. Result? they end up ignoring the helpless cries of the animals and display cruelty out of ignorance.

Lack of awareness from the people

Despite all these, neither the zoos nor the government is the biggest culprit for this failure. This is because, despite the way in which the authorities treat the animals, zoos in our country get thousands of visitors every day.

Caged Realities: Zoos in Bangladesh and their mistreatment of animals

According to an article by The Daily Star, the Mirpur Zoo still gets over 30lakh visitors a year. This is a clear indication of our ignorance as humans and our failure as a nation to stand up against the mistreatment of animals who spend all their lives in captivity.

Its time that we as a nation start acting as we care instead of just sharing a cute dog photo of “bideshi” dogs and start showing through our actions that we care about our animals in captivity, like Raj, The  Royal Bengal Tiger and proud father of a white tiger cub. That is probably the only way to make our Government care about these animals too.

References

  1. https://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/spotlight/the-zoo-not-119140
  2. https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/05/26/dhaka-national-zoo-cages-too-many-animals-in-too-little-space

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Challenges of being a vegan in Bangladesh

One or another form of animal product is present in most of the popular foods in Bangladesh, be it biriyani, mishti, or doi fuchka, or the distinctly non-vegan or non-vegetarian menu at desi weddings. Just the thought of giving up any one of these for life seems unbearable to most Bengalis. Vegetarianism itself is a difficult feat to follow through here, considering the kinds of food items usually available at dawats and restaurants. For vegans living in Bangladesh, this journey is packed with ten times as many hindrances, but – as many a  successful vegan will tell – with sufficient perseverance, achievement is not only possible, but sweeter. Biplab Das is one such Bangladeshi vegan.

Image : Gemma Correll

While vegetarianism – where one can consume dairy products and eggs in their diet while avoiding meat – is more of a diet, veganism is its own lifestyle.

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from consuming all sorts of animal products, particularly in diet, and is associated with the philosophy of abnegation of any kind of harm to animals.

For Biplab, a follower of the Vedic philosophy, just the knowledge of the requirement of veganism in this philosophy was insufficient in strengthening his efforts to convert to veganism for four years. Biplab had considered going vegan several times since 2012, but what finally helped him stick to it was the renewed revelation of the core idea of the Vedic philosophy – to never cause violence to any animal. With the realization of the true essence of this ideology, helped achieved by a friend, turning to the vegan lifestyle was a simple choice for him, and he has been following it for two years now.

Image : kondratya

Like the adaptation of any other major life-altering philosophy, the beginning was awkward – not because of the diet itself, but the idea behind it. While family members resisted a little at the beginning, and the cultural practice of over-hospitality at dawats even hurt a few hosts when he refused to “try just a little bit of this non-vegan dish, it won’t count!”, those family members are now Biplab’s strongest supporters, and the same dawat hosts are now so understanding they even prepare special meals for him.

While vegetarianism – where one can consume dairy products and eggs in their diet while avoiding meat – is more of a diet, veganism is its own lifestyle.

The awkwardness of having to customize orders at every restaurant still lingers, and decent ready-made vegan meals are still unavailable at a lot of places, but having friends of the same lifestyle and learning to adapt has helped Biplab in seeing through this. With the help of a nutritionist, he started by creating a diet chart to ensure that his nutritional needs are still met. It’s an ongoing hassle to pick out the right items and go through every ingredient list to make sure it’s vegan – finding a suitable salad dressing took a whole year! With places like Unimart, Gourmet Bazaar, and even the food places near Hindu temples, it has become easier for Biplab to maintain his diet.

Photo : Nataliya Arzamasova / Shutterstock

Practicing veganism – or any kind of diet – purely for reasons of personal health can prove to be difficult – after all, who hasn’t retorted to just a small plateful of kachchi the day after vowing to go on a diet?

The real trick to sticking to this lifestyle is the acknowledgement, appreciation, and embracing of the core idea behind this lifestyle – that is, the abstinence from harming any animals.

Once the philanthropic element behind the philosophy is ingrained into one’s decision, nothing can sway them from the vegan lifestyle. Whether it is to convert to the vegan lifestyle or not, there are some beautiful lessons to be taken away from Biplab and other vegans living in the very meat-obsessed culture as is in Bangladesh – lessons of perseverance, strength, and core values. Theirs are the stories that teach us that the incredibility of spirit needed to achieve anything is always matched with an equally incredible feeling of accomplishment. As Biplab himself would tell, the only regret is not having started earlier. Be it veganism or anything else, to feel that way about any aspect of one’s life is truly the essence of fulfillment in life.