Animals Are Sharing Humans' Suffering In Ongoing Disasters

Animals Are Sharing Humans' Suffering In Ongoing Disasters
In the aftermath of the 7.8 Richter-scale earthquake that devastated the region, some 35,000 and 5,500 deaths have been reported in Turkey and Syria, respectively. This number would have been higher if trained animals had not been deployed, who, since day 1, have been on a 24/7 basis continuously searching the rubble for the cries of humans anywhere from 2 to 80 years old.

Consider the case of Proteo, a German Shepherd deployed by Mexico in Turkey, who eventually lost his life in the line of duty, as he searched for several survivors and led them to safety. On the 13th of February, the defense minister for Mexico, Luis Sandoval, thanked Proteo for his heroic work. For the humans who are now alive because of many like Proteo, from a moral standpoint, humanity owes an unpayable debt to these animals. The debt is unpayable because we have no comprehensive policy to account for the animal death toll in natural disasters unless those animals are livestock, i.e., carry a financial value and serve a human function.

Last year, in Pakistan, when the floods struck our country, over 1,700 humans and 1.16 million livestock animals died. No data for the deaths of animals other than livestock was ever recorded. The ongoing Kenyan drought since 2016 has led to the deaths of several animals. Kenya wildlife officials counted the deaths of various species between February and October 2022. They found that the drought has killed 512 wildebeest, 381 zebras, 205 elephants, 49 Grevy's zebras, 51 buffalo, 12 giraffes, eight reticulated animals and four Massai animals. Pakistan, like Kenya, also faces yearly droughts, and countless animals die annually.

In the US alone post-2018, the combined number of animal deaths in Hurricanes Micheal and Florence (both occurring in 2018) was 5.5 million, out of which 3.4 million were chickens and 5,500 pigs, many of which drowned.

Unfortunately, in the last 50 years, the world has lost a mindnumbing 69% of biodiversity. A further loss would eventually fuel climate change and lead to the demise of human civilisation. That is an inevitable natural disaster waiting to happen.

[So it was], until when Our command came and the oven overflowed, We said, "Load upon the ship of each [creature] two mates and your family, except those about whom the word has preceded, and [include] whoever has believed." But none had believed with him, except a few.( Quran 11:40)

Seven thousand years ago, when the Flood engulfed the world, God ordered Prophet Noah (AS) to provide safe passage to two mate animals. From this, we can see the Divine wisdom in ensuring animal survival in floods - for the benefit of both animal-kind and humanity.

If we were to consider only the number of humans that creatures like Proteo saved in the earthquake-stricken regions of Turkey and Syria, we would never vote for any law that propagates animal cruelty.

Altamush Saeed is an LLM candidate in Environmental and Animal Law at the Lewis and Clark Law School