Not so many years ago, many kinds of social injustice were experienced on a daily basis by many people in many countries around the world.
It is not that we are lacking in the domain of discrimination and injustice today and we clearly cannot deny the urgent need for better legal, social and cultural frameworks improving human life on this plant, even though we have vastly improved the situation.
However, as late as up until the beginning of the 20th century, and even up until 1945 if one counts Nazi Germany, there were societies in which slavery was legally accepted. This was a timeline in which people were miserably exploited, misused, discriminated against and denigrated due to circumstances beyond their control.
Today, many years after the official abolishment of slavery, people in different corners of the world still suffer outrageous racial discrimination and slave-like conditions.
Furthermore, sexism is still a “visible” and powerful political and social weapon for some, while groups of women work hard to wipe out the rotten stigmatisation in people’s heads of women being inferior to men. Still today, a human is judged lesser than another human being, solely because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities and/or social status.
We surely ask ourselves why this is the case. Why, even after years of social and legal progress in our societies and countries, do we still not find peace among one another? Within our very own species?
And not only should we ask why this is the case within our own species, but we should also question why, despite them being capable of feeling pain and joy just as humans, we still decide to kill and slaughter millions of animals every day.
It is a true and scientific fact that non-human animals are sentient beings, in the same way that human beings are. Animals are deserving of our consideration and respect as fellow creatures capable of suffering. Yet, we do not consider them as such.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing an enormous amount of injustice done to animals, comparable to what we inflicted upon fellow human beings in the past. This is why Peter Singer (the author of “Animal Liberation” and a world-renowned moral philosopher) rejects the stance of those who wish to give less weight to the interests of animals than to the interests of human beings.
On one hand, he argues, if we seek to give such unequal consideration to the interests of animals, we will be forced to extend this unequal consideration to the interests of different human beings. On the other hand, respecting and recognizing human rights and dignity necessarily means also recognizing animal rights and dignity. One without the other will never bring about a truthful peace in society.
Society in general sees animals as less important, solely because they do not belong to our own species or even worse, due to their incapability to speak for themselves.
Not so different from many other countries around the world, Kosovo too is facing difficulties in understanding the importance and the necessity to work harder on ensuring the well-being and rights of non-human animals.
In Kosovo, it is common to hear people say things such as “we have good laws, but they are never properly implemented in real life.”
However much it hurts hearing and reading this, it is indeed true. Everyone in Kosovo witnesses a number of illegal actions every day, and the worst is that most people simply accept and live with these actions. They become normalized.
However, it is quite hard to become the “black sheep” of society — fighting and calling for change in a society where indoor smoking is prohibited by law, but where you see everyone doing and supporting it; where child labor is prohibited, but where you still see dozens of young children selling chewing gum, lighters and peanuts until late into the night.
Yes, it is quite hard and it demotivates you to live in a place where you need to breathe in and out from stress and anxiety every day, just to calm down and find the slightest possibility of a way to intervene and try to change something, be it for humans or animals.
On top of the many things that go wrong in Kosovo, be they political or social — the poor application of the law remains one of the main reasons for which Kosovar society faces so many problems.
“Human rights” alone are difficult to understand, that is clear, given how much pain humans still inflict upon humans — but if that is the case, how much more difficult is it then to understand and accept the rights of other living and sentient beings?
Talking about animal welfare alone is considered a luxury in Kosovo because animals should always come after human beings, and since we are far from solving the human problems in Kosovo, “animal dignity” is brushed under the carpet and anyone who might get courageous enough to talk about this topic, is deemed either crazy or “too European.”
The mandated institutions working directly with animal welfare and protection in Kosovo are the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development (MAFRD) and the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning. Within those ministries, the Kosovo Food and Veterinary Agency (KFVA) is responsible for all animals except wildlife, which are under the responsibility of the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA).
Even though Kosovo has important public institutions mandated to develop policies in regard to animals and their well-being, there is sadly no nation-wide analysis mapping the animal welfare situation in any form. However, it is obvious that irregularities and problems arise from the weak commitment of all stakeholders involved in these topics.
Nevertheless, in order to ensure that the regulatory framework and pragmatic daily work of professionals embraces a dignified protection and treatment of all non-human animals in Kosovo, basic animal rights and welfare components need to be introduced to different stakeholders. These actors need to understand that it is their responsibility to design and develop different policies that might improve the lives of animals.
The European Commission report for Kosovo in 2018 noted that Kosovo is at an early stage of preparation in the area of fisheries. Up until now, however, no proper progress has been made in this regard and many illegal fisheries are still not being tracked or even institutionally identified.
On the other hand, based on the animal market monitoring done by the Animal Rights Foundation, livestock husbandry conditions defy proper standards and Kosovar legislation. The trade of livestock is not always based on legal procedures, which leads to the illegal slaughter of cows, sheep and poultry in public spaces without the animal first being checked by a veterinarian.
Moreover, as in many countries in the world, Kosovo is also has a high number of stray dogs and cats. Stray animals is a very serious problem in many developing countries.
Despite this, the situation could be easily managed if Kosovar society and institutions would make a more significant commitment and effort to resolve the stray animal issue, on the one hand for the sake of the dogs’ welfare (since they live in poor conditions on the streets) and on the other hand for the sake of people, to assure better safety and health conditions in public spaces and in open environments where also stray animals usually live.
Another very important aspect that needs urgent attention from Kosovar authorities and society is the constant danger that faces wild fauna, due to the lack of proper protection against threats, such as poachers.
The relevant institutions and the Kosovo Police rarely detect illegal hunters. In Kosovo, there are many registered hunting associations who have no proper strategic action plans or reports on their work and activities — nothing is clear, and many species that are in theory protected by laws and regulations in Kosovo are endangered.
The situation of negligence concerning this topic in Kosovo is also strongly related to a lack of societal awareness. In general, people need to start by learning about animals and the concept of their welfare first, in order to then be able to understand their rights and their importance.
Many people still buy their food from animal markets, where they see animals being slaughtered in front of their eyes without basic hygienic criteria. They still buy it, unaware of where the food comes from, how the animal gets killed and the risks that their use as food entails if not controlled and tested.
Empathy and the understanding of why protecting one another is important — humans or non-humans — will lead to a more sustainable and secure lifestyle in Kosovo, in such a small country with a large young population that could do so much good for society if well educated and instructed.
Schools need to learn more about nature, especially nature conservation, considering how much garbage we find in any park and green environment we visit in Kosovo. Part of nature are non-human animals and of course, ourselves as a more advanced animal species that evolved intellectually and created the moral agencies of not harming, abusing, killing and degrading “others.” “Others” is everything around us that feels pain, joy or anxiety. This should be enough to open up our minds to accept and recognize the rights of every sentient being.
Feature image: Arrita Katona / K2.0