Palestine Animal League – Overcoming Animal Neglect and Abuse through Education – Jun 26, 2011
A mixed crowd of Japanese, Israelis and Palestinians listen to the PAL presentation titled “Changing Mindsets, Changing Behavior.”
Vacation from War is a collaborative project between the initiative Breaking Barriers and NGO Committee for Basic Human Rights and Democracy. The project brings together young people from both Palestine and Israel who rarely get to meet in neutral circumstances. For the first time ever Peace Boat acted as a venue for the seminar that usually takes in Germany. At the port of Kusadasi in Turkey, 38 Palestinian and 33 Israeli youth joined the ship with a group of mediators and observers. The participants underwent two extensive weeks of daily workshops, discussions and seminars in the spirit of communication and resolution. Many among the Vacation from War participants on Peace Boat are activists or work on specific peace causes in their homeland. Ahmad Safi and Sameh Ereqat founded the Palestinian Animal League (PAL) in 2008, an organisation with a very unconventional yet essential approach to peacebuilding. Officially registered as an NGO in September 2010, PAL is the first and only animal welfare group in the West Bank and Gaza.. Onboard Peace Boat Mr Safi met Israeli nutritionist Nufar Palti. Putting political differences aside together they gave a presentation about their common goal of building peace in the Middle East through animal rights.
PAL reasons that by educating children about respect for animals, the same respect will also be extended to human beings.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the greatness of nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This concept may be applied to any country, rich or poor, in conflict or in peace. It is perhaps of particular relevance in areas with military occupation. In Palestine, the inherit violence of the occupation is not exclusively human-to-human. According to Mr Safi, in Palestine today the chain of abuse all too often begins, or ends, with animals. For example, a father frustrated with the oppression might oppress his child. Feeling the need to vent his confusion and anger, the child then bullies a being weaker than her or himself. This situation, though hypothetical, illustrates the link. Young children often learn through sight and experience, therefore exposure to violence can also desensitize them. Mr Safi retold the story of his own brother who grew up living amongst the aggression of occupation. “As a child he would do things like shoot chickens just for fun. I think this made violent action easy for him, because when he grew up he joined a radical militant group and spent five years in jail.” Abuse of farm animals is another big problem, according to Mr Safi. “People believe that they are the owners of these animals so treat them how they want. They need to understand that if you treat an animal right, as an equal, it will provide and be of service to you.“
Communication Coordinator Fushimi Mayuko interprets the presentation from English into Japanese.
PAL’s aim is to create a culture of understanding and appreciation. This is done in a number of ways, the most obvious and effective being education. “We are going to universities, and recruiting then training volunteers,” said Mr Safi. “They then have the knowledge to go out to the villages, to teach children and farmers proper care and respect of animals. We believe that promoting responsibility will help break the cycle of violence towards animals, and in turn amongst human beings.” PAL is also providing services such as a mobile vet clinic, free vet care and neutering. In the future they hope to train vets who will then be able to assist farmers with sick animals in Palestine. The growing industrial meat industry is another cause for PAL’s concern. Currently no laws exist in Palestine regarding the rights of animals. With the exception of pets, this is actually the case in most countries. In many places throughout the world, animals like goats, cows, pigs and chickens were traditionally raised on farms. They were fed a natural diet, and killed by the hand of the person that raised them. This image is no longer the reality in many industrialized nations, where corporations aim to raise more animals, on less land, with more profits.Our growing population and increasing appetite for meat at cheap prices has meant extraordinary changes in the way our meat is produced.
Through media campaigns and the promotion of vegetarianism PAL hopes to discourage the spread of modern factory farms in favor of traditional family operations.
The reality of this modern industrial meat complex is a very grim one, ridden with antibiotics, hormones and abuse. “Factory farms” as they are known, use copious amounts of water, and pump out an equal amount of contaminants and faeces. Because the animals live in such a close proximity to each other, are stressed and are fed a cocktail of corn and animal protein, the possibility of disease is great. To combat this the animals are regularly fed or injected doses of antibiotics, which then gets into our bodies and the surrounding environment. PAL hopes to discourage the spread of these “factory farms” through media campaigns and the promotion of vegetarianism and veganism. Mr Safi is currently writing an animal product free Middle Eastern cookbook, and Ms Palti will provide the nutritional information. She explained her view that excessive meat eating is not only bad for the environment and animals, but also for humans. “Despite popular belief, a vegetarian diet is actually much healthier. Eating meat, especially from factory farms, has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers and of course obesity.”
Amad Safi is one of PAL’s founders, the first and only animal welfare organisation in the West Bank and Gaza.
Mr Safi also discussed the significance of animal rights in the religious beliefs of both Palestine and Israel. Muslim, Jew and Christian doctrines all encourage humane treatment of animals in life and in death. The Quran, for example, clearly evokes compassion and mercy towards animals. The Prophet Mohammed even classified the unnecessary slaughter of animals as one of the seven deadly sins, stating that “whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.” Mr Safi explained that according to Islamic belief animals should not witness the death of other animals, and the blade used for slaughter should always be sharp to ensure a quick and painless death. Unfortunately this is not always the case, especially in factory farms, another reason why PAL opposes their popularization. Nobel Literature Laureate Isaac Basheuis Singer stated, “as long as people shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty and no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice can no dwell together.” PAL’s presentation touched on issues relevant both to Palestine and Israel and to the greater world. Regardless of where we come from, the way in which we treat animals is a reflection of our respective societies. When we talk about the desire for peace we should consider that all beings, regardless of species, want a life free of pain and suffering, violence and oppression.