Raising awareness of non human animals and their plight in often challenging and cruel environs makes this a fraught sentiment previously labelled as the premise of overly emotional animal extremists. Such stigma is slowly changing. World Animal Day is a universal movement which continues to grow in support annually and whose mission is to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the world.
With the dedication of over 90 Ambassadors in more than 70 countries, the impact is advancing animal welfare standards and championing the cause in countries not necessarily regarded as ‘animal aware’ and activist. The day focuses on animal issues where platforms such as social media, are securing their role as a major catalyst for change. Through increased awareness and education, it is intended the world will become a fairer place for animals. In 2017 World Animal Day trended on social media in 25 countries.
Notably the day strives to be the voice for the ‘unseen’, such as laboratory animals. As pointed out by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) More than 100 million animals suffer and die in the U.S. every year in cruel chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests as well as in medical training exercises and curiosity-driven medical experiments at universities. Animals also suffer and die in classroom biology experimentsand dissection, even though modern non-animal tests have repeatedly been shown to have more educational value, save teachers time, and schools money. Exact numbers are not available because mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals-who make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, are not covered by even the minimal protections of the Animal Welfare Act and therefore go uncounted.
Using a positive and informative approach has brought about great change as WAD Ambassador & CEO of LAWCS of Liberia, Morris Darbo states “To set aside a day for celebrating animals means a lot to people here, it tells them that animals are important and have value, and as such should be treated with respect and compassion”.
Lana El Khalil, Ambassador & President of Animals Lebanon states “The day has created a loving trend for animals in Lebanon. Every year people look forward eagerly to this day to show how much they care about their own animals as well as animal welfare. It has created a major change in our culture towards animals as well as having a huge impact on raising public awareness about animal issues”.
The idea was originated by Heinrich Zimmerman, a German writer and publisher of the magazine Mensch und Hund/Man and Dog. He organised the first World Animal Day celebration on 24 March 1925 in Berlin and moved it to 4 October in 1929. Initially he found a following only in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. Every year Zimmerman promoted World Animal Day and finally, in May 1931 at a congress of the world’s animal protection organisations in Florence Italy, his proposal to make 4 October World Animal Day universal was unanimously accepted.
Events include shelter open days, pet adoption events, conferences and workshops, animal blessing services, fund-raising events such as concerts, sponsored walks, shelter open days and gala dances, workshops to educate the owners of working animals, school events such as animal related competitions, concerts and film shows, spaying and neutering, vet treatment camps, rabies prevention awareness and vaccination, radio and TV interviews and peaceful protest marches.
Advocates around the world include everyone from villager to creative collaborator and high profile celebrities. Such supporters certainly help raise wider awareness and include mountaineer, Chris Bonnington UK, Linda Petursdottir-former Miss Iceland, IFEEL rapper from Croatia, Mel C-singer, UK and Dutch Political Leader Marianne Thieme representing ‘Party for the Animals’, the Netherlands. Equally local and global activists are ensuring animals take centre stage at a time when the need is great. It is often those on the ground, in the field and at the core that really make a difference, collectively. A list of events can be found on the website. www.worldanimalday.org.uk
(The author would like to pay personal tribute to the sudden loss of Hubert Kopek, a great friend, artist and animal advocate).