Pakistan became a hotspot for animal welfare issues and concerns this summer, which prompted the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to take an active interest in helping the concerned authorities revamp and create policies to protect animals on different fronts.
PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk; Chief of the Science Advancement and Outreach Division, Dr. Katherine Roe; and Vice-President, Shalin Gala, had a Zoom meeting with the Head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms, Salman Sufi, on 22 July, to discuss action points for a wide array of proposed strategic animal reforms.
Gala shared the details of PETA’s discussion with Sufi with ProPakistani, the highlights of which are:
1. Fostering Childhood Education About Animals’ Inherent Value
Gala mentioned that PETA India has an award-winning humane education program called ‘Compassionate Citizen’ that was designed to help students aged 8 to 12 understand and appreciate animals. PETA has offered to rework the Compassionate Citizen/Share the World materials for a Pakistani-specific audience, and asked to have the program formally recognized and included in schools’ curricula to encourage Pakistanis to embrace the government’s new animal policy reforms.
2. Repatriating Exotic Animals
Sufi and the Minister of Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, are working on reforms for the protection and repatriation of wild animals in Pakistan, and the former had requested PETA’s guidance on the matter.
Gala responded, “For animals who are members of species that are native to Africa, we recommend reaching out to representatives of international NGOs with a presence on the continent. These groups can advise on both the feasibility and legality of repatriation, as well as alternatives where repatriation to the wild is not possible, such as sanctuaries in Africa where animals can live in naturalistic settings in their native territories”.
He also suggested that the reforms team reach out to pertinent officials from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society International, and the Born Free Foundation.
3. Modernizing Veterinary Training
PETA had recently written to Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University – Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR), Riphah College of Veterinary Sciences, COMSATS University, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, and the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination (which oversees the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council) about the footage of gory experiments conducted on kidnapped stray dogs at these institutes.
Gala reiterated that PM Sharif’s initial set of landmark strategic reforms (announced on 30 June 2022), which prohibit live testing on animals in veterinary colleges and industrial complexes in Islamabad, should quickly be enforced all over the country.
He also cited a ProPakistani article (21 June 2022) detailing Riphah International University’s reply to PETA “deflecting criticism for their role in these cruel veterinary trainings”. He added, “We encourage Pakistan to issue a circular or a regulatory reform that explicitly embraces humane simulation training models, and bans training methods that are not medically necessary and don’t directly benefit the animals involved. This could perhaps be done at the federal level or through the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council”.
Gala recapitulated PETA’s suggestions for several alternative simulation models for both basic and advanced veterinary and zoology training for Pakistan to adopt to do away with veterinary training procedures on animals. These include the SynDaver Surgical Canine model, the Critical Care Jerry and Critical Care Fluffy models, the Bovine Breeder™ artificial insemination simulator, the Virtual Animal Anatomy, and Biosphera softwares.
He continued, “Before we can proceed with our veterinary simulation donation program in Pakistan, we request information from you regarding an assessment of the universities’ needs with respect to acquiring simulation models so we can best plan how to assist them”.
4. The ‘Apparently Missing Dogs’
Citing two more ProPakistani articles about the case of 12 reportedly kidnapped and missing dogs from PMAS AAUR, Gala remarked, “We understand that an FIR was filed at a police station and it’s unclear why the university released these dogs to Sonia and Misbah Hussain instead of their original human guardians or the rescue organizations. We’ve spoken with several people on the ground there who are concerned about the condition and whereabouts of these 12 dogs”.
“Hopefully you might be able to assist in securing their safe return to their original homes, if suitable, or to reputable rescue organizations,” he added.
5. New Case of Cruelty at Veterinary Colleges
PETA’s also apprised Sufi that it has received “information and a disturbing video” from a whistleblower at the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Jhang, Punjab, about “a separate veterinary case that has not yet been reported in the news”.
As per this information, veterinary teaching hospitals in all of Pakistan’s colleges use live and healthy cattle and buffalo in Theriogenology training “to practice rectal palpation by almost 100 students per day at this one college alone”.
Gala mentioned in his letter that “they use irritant solutions and do this forcefully, sometimes two students insert their complete arms at a time, causing bleeding. Students also use artificial insemination (AI) rods daily to practice and pass them from the vagina to cross the cervix. It causes lacerations and bleeding inside these soft organs. After their internal organs have been damaged, these animals are auctioned off for slaughtering”.
He noted that it “appears though that the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC) may require live animal use for this training” as it currently states, “There must be minimum one large animal available per six students to perform rectal palpation, passing of AI rod, etc. Minimum strength of cattle/buffalo at an institution must be 10”.
Gala categorically told Sufi that “there’s no need for any of this to happen since there are effective simulation models that are available for this training, such as the aforementioned Bovine Breeder™ artificial insemination simulator”.
“This may need a regulatory solution, and we’d like to pursue it with you if you’re amenable, in addition to working with the colleges to switch to available simulation models and supervised non-harmful training on veterinary clinic cases,” he offered.
6. Modernizing Human Medical Training
PETA had advised the now-defunct Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) to replace the cruel use of animals with non-animal methods in the local MBBS curriculum, particularly in pharmacology and physiology training, among various reforms.
Gala told Sufi, “We would like to resume this potential reform with Prime Minister Sharif and you, which would put Pakistan’s medical education system in sync with the U.S., Canada, India, and others that no longer use animals for undergraduate medical training. Indeed, in India, the Medical Council of India, the Pharmacy Council of India, and the Dental Council of India all adopted formal bans on animal use at the undergraduate level after we spoke with them”.
7. Replacing Animal Dissections in Classrooms
Gala’s email highlighted that India’s University Grants Commission abolished animal dissection nationwide in 2014, which has saved 19 million animals from dissections every year.
“We would like to work with Prime Minister Sharif and you to emulate this reform and prohibit archaic animal dissection in Pakistan as well, in favor of superior and modern non-animal dissection training methods,” he stressed.
8. Creating a National Non-Animal Biomedical Research and Training Methods Database
PETA’s Vice-President continued, “Our scientists would like to work with Prime Minister Sharif and you on setting up a national database in Pakistan for non-animal biomedical research and training methods, and drafting regulatory language that the use of animals for biomedical research and training must be replaced by approved non-animal methods that appear in the database”.
He explained that “in its simplest form, this database is something that is already maintained on the PETA Science Consortium e.V. (PSCI) website and it’s already been replicated on other government websites. In addition to the PSCI’s recommended non-animal methods for biomedical research, we could also add replacements for the use of animals in biomedical training to such a database in Pakistan”.
9. Implementing PETA’s Research Modernization Deal
Gala restated that PETA has a comprehensive new report called the ‘Research Modernization Deal’ for government agencies around the world, that “offers a strategy for identifying and eliminating funding for biomedical research methods that don’t work and refocusing resources on more promising human-relevant areas”.
It also presents the US government’s evidence that “95 percent of all new medications that test safe and effective in animal tests fail in human clinical trials” and “90 percent of basic research, most of which involves animals, fails to lead to treatments for humans”.
The deal entails that human-relevant research methods, such as genomics and proteomics, sophisticated uses of human stem cells, organs-on-chips, imaging, and computer modeling, can replace animals in laboratories.
Gala again urged Sufi to accept PETA’s offer to work with PM Sharif for the implementation of the following proposals:
- The immediate elimination of the use of animals in research in which they have been shown to be bad ‘models’ for humans and have hindered progress.
- Rebalancing the public funding of medical research so that the majority goes to sophisticated human-relevant, animal-free research methods.
- Conducting scientific reviews of the efficacy of animal use to identify additional areas that have failed to advance human health, and can be ended quickly due to the availability of non-animal methods.
- Implementing a cost-benefit analysis system for research that involves animals and includes an ethical perspective and consideration of the lifelong harm inflicted on animals, as is used in the UK.
- Working with other world leaders to harmonize and promote international acceptance of high-tech non-animal testing strategies in regulatory toxicity testing.
Yes, I agree it’s about time we have some laws for the animals as well. God created this world for all of us.