In the human history, we observe that some days are indeed very special for the entire world as they give the message about our ultimate existence, humanity. And a special day like the “world animal day” creates a good reminder of our responsibility towards the animals around us. In current article, we will discuss the importance of animals and observing world animal day. The definition of an animal is a member of the biological kingdom Animalia, and is typically characterized by a multicellular body, specialized sense organs, voluntary movement, responses to factors in the environment and the skill to acquire and digest food, reproduce sexually, and go through an ontogenetic stage in which the body of animals consists of a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. A Camel, horse, dog, lion and human are each an example of an animal. The scientists worldwide have described over 1.5 million species of living animal, of which around 1 million are insects. However, it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total on globe. It has been reported that animals vary in size and the length varies from 8.5 micrometres (0.00033 in) to 33.6 metres (110 ft). The animals interaction of animals with each other and their environment is complex, forming intricate food webs. The scientific study of animals is known as zoology i.e., branch of biology dealing with animals and animal life, including the study of the structure, physiology, development, and classification of animals. Zoologist is an individual who specializes in the field of zoology. The maximum living animal species are in Bilateria, a clade whose members have a bilaterally symmetric body plan which include the protostomes containing many groups of invertebrates like nematodes, arthropods, and molluscs and the deuterostomes, containing both the echinoderms as well as the chordates, the latter containing the vertebrates. The life forms interpreted as early animals were present in the Ediacaran biota of the late Precambrian and several modern animal phyla became noticeably established in the fossil record around 542 million years ago as marine species during the Cambrian explosion. In the literature, it has been reported that from a single common ancestor lived 650 million years ago, common to all living animals 6,331 groups of genes have been identified. Historically, animals were divided into groups, those with blood and those without by Aristotle. The first hierarchical biological classification for animals was created in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus with his Systema Naturae, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck expanded that into 14 phyla by 1809. Ernst Haeckel, divided the animal kingdom into the multicellular Metazoa (synonymous for Animalia now) and the Protozoa, single-celled organisms no longer considered animals in 1874. The biological classification of animals in modern times relies on superior techniques, like molecular phylogenetics, which are effective at demonstrating the evolutionary relationships between taxa. We observe that humans use animals for food, transport, pets and for materials. The global cattle population is estimated to cross one billion head in 2021 and from ancient times up to the present, cattle are bred to provide meat and dairy. Cattle are also employed as draft animals to plow the fields or transport heavy objects from one place to other. Livestock plays an important role in the economy of a country. The nonhuman animals have appeared in art from the earliest times and are featured in mythology and religion. In different religions and indigenous cultures across the globe a variety of animals and birds have special significance. In India cows and elephants are treated as holy. The Christians considers Owl a creature of darkness and see it as an unclean bird as it defecates in its own nest. In ancient Egypt, rabbits were related with Goddess Ishtar who was the deity of fertility and motherhood. In the Old Testament, however, the rabbit is seen as an unclean animal and a symbol of unbridled sexuality and lust that can lead one astray from the path to salvation. In ancient Egypt several temples were dedicated to Bastet, the Cat goddess who was the deity of protection, fertility and motherhood. Cats were highly respected in Egyptian society and many cats were mummified just like humans. In Islam Cats also hold a special place as it is said that once Prophet Mohammed’s favourite cat Meuzza fell asleep on the sleeve of his prayer robes. So he cut off the sleeve instead of waking her up. In fact, he also prohibited the persecution and killing of cats. In medieval Europe, however, cats, especially black cats came to be associated with witchcraft and many cats along with their mistresses were killed. The Holy Quran refers to animals as independent communities to be acknowledged and respected. (Quran 6:38). Regardless of whether we gain any benefit from the animals around us, the Islamic perspective on animal welfare includes treating all animals as independent communities sharing this earth, finding the balance between respecting their independence while at the same time enjoying their benefits and friendship as God intended, all the while avoiding any type of cruelty toward animals. Despite not having the free will or brain power that is bestowed upon humans, animals nonetheless live their lives the way God created them to obey His laws and follow the natural cycle of the earth. When Prophet Nuh (Peace Be Upon Him) built his ark, he was not only commanded to save the believers among his tribe, but also to preserve the existing animal species by collecting a pair of each. This shows us the importance and value of animals within our living cycle. In the Quran, it says, “[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). According to the Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings, farmers and caretakers must abide by certain guidelines when dealing with animals: (a) Provide appropriate food and fresh water (b) Provide a safe and comfortable shelter (c) Separate them from aggressive behaviors of each other (d) Allow males and females to mate during mating seasons (e) Not to harvest them for food faster than their ability to breed (f) Not to overburden them (g) Not to neglect them, especially in sickness and advanced age. These Islamic directives came to us over 700 years ago. Similarly, in more modern times, we have what is internationally known as the Five Freedoms outlining five aspects of animal welfare as developed in the United Kingdom in 1965 and formalized in 1979 by the United Kingdom Farm Animal Welfare Council. Subsequently, these Five Freedoms were adopted by internationally prominent animal welfare societies, including the World Organization for Animal Health and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Five Freedoms are: (a) Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor (b) Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area (c) Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment (d) Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind (e) Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. Indeed, killing an animal for no beneficial reason, or treating them with cruelty is a sin and a violation of their rights. Islam teaches us to be careful and respectful to our animals. There is a great reward for treating them kindly and great punishment for violating their rights. For example, it was narrated from Abu Huraira, that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “A prostitute was forgiven by God, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, God forgave her because of that.” –Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadith 127. Despite her lifestyle, her mercy toward the dog elevated her in the eyes of God, as He rewarded her with forgiveness from her sins. Once, the Prophet of Mercy spoke of God’s forgiveness due to the humane treatment of animals. He told his companions the story of a man who got thirsty on his way. He found a well, climbed down inside it to the water, and quenched his thirst. When he came out he saw a panting dog licking on mud out of extreme thirst. The man thought to himself, ‘The dog has become as thirsty as I was!’ The man went down the well again and got some water for the dog. God appreciated his good work and forgave him. The companions asked, ‘O Prophet of God, do we get rewarded on humane treatment of animals?’ He said, ‘There is a reward in (doing good to) every living being. On another occasion, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), described God’s punishment of a woman who was sent to Hell because of a cat. She kept her locked up, neither feeding her nor setting her free to feed herself. Just as we are created on this earth to serve a purpose, so have animals, plants, and all other known and unknown living species. We must take our place in this circle of life and try to leave it behind a little better than what we inherit.
What is world animal day? We can guess it’s a day for the animals, but there’s some motive behind observing a day worldwide. And what’s that? Worldwide, several animal welfare organizations, youth and children’s clubs, community groups, businesses, and individuals organize and celebrate world animal day every year with a motto to create a fair place for all the living creatures in the world. The main aim of celebrating world animal day is to raise the status of an animal to improve animal standards around the globe. It is expected through this celebration, awareness and education, human beings worldwide show positive behavior towards animals, the speechless creatures on earth. The celebration may differ from country to country because of political ideologies, religion and faith. However, all human beings collectively support the rights of innocent animals and force the world to change their cruel attitude towards animals. It is encouraging that the inner feelings, animal love and compassion, has never changed. In 1925, a German writer and publisher of the magazine Mensch und Hund/Man and Dog, Heinrich Zimmermann, first gave the proposal of observing the animal day as a special occasion for animals. Thus, it was celebrated on 24th March in Berlin for the first time. In 1929, the authority groups had observed this day on 4th October for the first time and very few countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia accepted this day. In 1931, world animal day was globalized at a world animal protection organization conference, Florence, Italy. This resulted from Heinrich’s hard work and dedication to providing animals with the care and safety animals deserve. In 2002, The Finnish Association of Animal Protection Associations (SEY), an organization, celebrated this day by organizing events and distributing materials among school children. In the year 2003, the Naturewatch Foundation raised its voice by developing a website and started fundraising to provide ultimate care and protection to all the wild and domestic animals. It was limited to the United Kingdom only at that time. In 2007, this organization launched the ambassadors’ program and started getting help from the global ambassadors to continue the movement for animal rights. At present it’s spread to more than 76 countries worldwide. In 2020, several countries from all the continents took part in celenbration of this day by organizing events like taking shelter dogs out for a walk, creating awareness of the endangered species, organizing Facebook campaigns, creating different vaccination camps, providing support to several animal welfare organizations, cage-free campaigns, organizing several contests among kids, and much more. The theme for world animal day 2020 was “man and dog.” Whereas in 2019 it was “Life below water bodies: for the people and the planet,” with a special focus on life below water and in 2018 theme was “Celebrating human relationship with the bigger and better animal kingdom” to protect animals and create a safe environment for them. The theme for world animal day 2021 is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” Even if there are different themes in different years, the main mission of world animal day remains the same. This is a special day for animals, we need to explore creative ways to celebrate it with pride such as (a) Donating something for their welfare (b) Volunteering with community groups, youth groups, running clubs, animal welfare organizations, etc. (c) Do something on purpose and spread the images with the hashtag #worldanimalday on social media. This helps to raise awareness among the people worldwide. (d) Further, grooming and taking care of your pets. (e) Educating the world through online or offline workshops, seminars, or campaigns. (f) Also, try to replace products that need animals with products that don’t harm them. (g) Enjoy and spend time with your pets daily, go to the vet for their regular check-up at least twice a year (h) Adopt pets, or feed stray animals near you daily. Well, there are lots of other ways through which we can respect world animal day. However, the simplest way is to take a pledge to care for and protect animals. This can help others to understand their responsibilities towards animals.
( While Bilkees Nazir is a Research scholar at Department of Zoology University of Kashmir Srinagar, Dr Bilal A Bhat is an Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology Kashmir – Shalimar Srinagar. Views are their own )