This isn’t a story about a cat, or even a pet in the usual sense of the word: but a pet is a kept animal, and although most of us treat our pets very well, usually as a member of our family, and love them dearly, we know there are cases where animals are kept in horrible conditions, against all norms of decency and kindness toward another living being. Raju was such an animal, an elephant, stolen from his mother when he was young, illegally bought and traded many times by unscrupulous dealers looking to make income from him, by forcing him to “beg” on the streets in India. His legs were chained, with spikes digging into his skin.
Finally, after fifty years of captivity, cruelty, and daily beatings, he was freed in a rescue operation. His story is told in this CBC Radio documentary, and by the organization that saved him, Wildlife SOS India.
In August, people who were following this story were horrified to read headlines like this in the Daily Mail:
Raju the crying elephant faces life back in chains after cruel former owners launch legal battle to win him back
But on 2 December this year, the Daily Mail reported–
last night after a series of hearings, an Indian court ruled that Raju must stay with his rescuers from the British charity Wildlife SOS.
Founder of the charity Kartick Satyanarayan, who led the daring, midnight rescue to save Raju said: ‘We are beyond overjoyed that Raju is finally saved.
‘This is a huge victory, not only for Raju, but for every elephant suffering in pain silently.
The Dodo (www.thedodo.com), an online journal about animals, has a heart-warming follow-up story on Raju. The former owner of Raju went to court to get him back, claiming he was stolen by Wildlife SOS. Fortunately the courts turned him away.
Raju now is among other rescued elephants. Elephants, long-lived intelligent animals with large brains, have strong ties to their extended families, and yet they are still hunted in Africa for ivory (for Chinese customers) and captured to be used in circuses worldwide.
We don’t just value our cats, our dogs: the welfare of all animals should be our concern. This is why I stopped eating meat, why I believe cats should be kept indoors, and why I cannot abide cruelty toward any animal–or human! I don’t understand cruelty, I don’t know where it arises–ignorance, certainly; poverty of imagination and empathy, possibly; a feeling that we humans are privileged and that the world is ours to use and abuse.
In this inter-connected world, as John Donne (1572 – 1631) wrote:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Any animal’s death pains me. To see a raccoon that has been hit by a car, to see a truckload of frightened cattle as it travels toward the slaughterhouse, to hear the howl of a dog chained in a yard hour after hour, day after day: the only way we can build a kinder, gentler world is by considering all life precious, because we are all expressions of God.