By Juliet O. Nyang’ai, Adv
Ms Juliet O. Nyang’ai is an animal enthusiast & a practicing lawyer with an apt interest in Animal Law .This paper seeks to explore the loop between animal rights, democracy and political protests and to contribute to the debate whether the claw for democracy in political rights supersedes animal rights.
In October, 2017, various counties were plugged in political protests before and after a contentious election rerun. The same was marred with pockets of reported violence and boycott. Voter turnout in many areas was reported to significantly lower as compared to the August Election. Among some of the pictures captured in the protests then was a picture of a man carrying a dog shoulder high amidst other demonstrators.The question that then arose among animal rights advocates is whether the act of the man carrying his dog in a political protest was in order?
In the capital city, Nairobi there were scenes captured of dogs dressed in political party T-Shirts. Further dismaying was the circulation of a picture of a Marabou stock adorned in a political party T-Shirt. The scavenger bird is normally found along one of the city’s busiest highways’, Uhuru Highway on the acacia trees along Nyayo Stadium. The said birds have borne the worst of animal abuse as Nyayo National Stadium has often been an epicentre of politically instigated protests.
One of the basic tenets of Animal Rights is the disuse of animals for our own purposes which include but not limited to clothing & entertainment. Let it be understood that Animals are sentient beings. In Kenya we have made strides in the treatment of Animals which is known as Animal Welfare but we are still lagging behind in Animal Rights and yes animal do have rights. Animals should be protected and deserve moral consideration.
It goes without saying that use of animals in a protest is outright Animal Cruelty. Animal Cruelty is not only defined by neglect of an animal but any act perpetuated towards the animal that causes an animal distress. What many might not be aware it that the Kenya Constitution promulgated in 2010 covers both domestic and wild animals. The Fourth Schedule of the Constitution clearly explains the roles of the two levels of government in promoting animal welfare. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (2012) prohibits cruel behaviour towards an animal. Being in violation of this law carries a fine of three thousand Kenya shillings or an imprisonment of 6 months.
It is not abnormal to have animals used in public political protests and demonstrations. In December 2014, Kenyans woke up to news that a herd of donkeys were dumped right in the heart of Nairobi’s Central Business District in “an apparent protest” as reported. The donkeys had graffiti spray painted with the word “Tumechoka”, which is a Swahili word for “We are fed up.” Witnesses came forth to say that they saw a lorry drop off the animals in the wee hours of the morning with the driver saying he had been paid to do just that. The act was inferred to be a protest against the top leadership and in particularly the rising cases of insecurity in the country then.
In the previous year, 2013 the month of May, Nairobi residents woke up to view a clutter of Pigs feeding on blood right outside Parliament Buildings. Civil Rights protesters had dumped the pigs in protest against Kenyan Members of Parliament who had just passed a bill pertaining to their salary increase. Some of the animals had been sprayed with graffiti of Parliamentarian names. The use of the pig in the protest was symbolic of the inferred political leadership greed. The country was in frenzy, the excitement was palpable and the act captured headlines in local dailies as no such protest had ever been recorded in the Political History of Kenya. The question then arose, was the act of dumping blood smeared pigs at the heart of the city in protest a cruel act?
This paper concludes by arguing that, despite the need for clamour for democracy, positive politicking and transparency in the electoral space, animal rights should not be undermined. It is unwarranted and needless to undermine animal rights in the clamour for political space. It should be taken into consideration that all animals have the ability to suffer the same way humans do. Animals do have emotions and do feel pain, happiness, depression, frustration and many other feelings that human beings also go through. Violation of animal rights by use of animals in political protests is something that should be strongly castigated and frowned upon as sentience of animals cannot be disregarded.
The above article appeared on the Aniworld Veterinary Clinic blog in June, 2019
Ms Juliet O. Nyang’ai is an Animal lover, Animal Rights Advocate, Animal Lawyer & Principal Partner at Juliet Nyangai & Company Advocates. She can be reached on email@example.com