What is World Animal Day and why should we care?
The news "It's World Animal Day!" is usually met with either an absent-minded nod or apathetic shrug. We all pay our £3.50 a month to adopt a dolphin and we all give our next door neighbour's Labrador a scratch behind the ears, right? So what more can we really do?
But the complacency of the human race is perhaps the reason why the commemoration exists in the first place. The event, held across the globe every single year on October 4, reminds us that many animals in the world deserve so much more than what homo sapiens is willing to give them.
In case you weren't aware on the ins-and-outs of the whole affair, it is an annual occasion that, according to its website, was invented to "raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe. Building the celebration unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals." The event, which highlights how animals enrich and diversify our lives - aims to celebrate all animal life, whether the creature in question be King of the Jungle, the almighty lion, or a small and delicate ladybird that has crawled into our path.
Although it might've passed you by over the years, the world has still dedicated 24 hours out of the year to raising a toast in honour of all creatures great and small since 24 March 1925. The event was thought up by Heinrich Zimmermann, the German writer and publisher of the magazine Mensch und Hund/Man and Dog, who organised it in Berlin and quickly developed a following across for it Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia.
Yet, like all causes, it took a while to gain steam, with only 5,000 people attending the first celebration, the host Sport Palace only being big enough to hold that many. In fact, it was only in May 1931 at a congress of the world’s animal protection organizations in Florence Italy, that Zimmermann's proposal to make 4 October World Animal Day universal, was unanimously accepted and put into action in all countries. Since then, the event has taken place in honour of Francis of Assisi, a patron saint who, legend has it, may have been able to talk to animals, much like an ancient incarnation of kid favourite, Dr. Dolittle.
Nowadays the event is practically unrecognisable from its humble beginnings, although the sentiment of standing up for the rights of animals is still ever-present. The spirit of caring for the creatures that share the planet with us is expressed throughout a mixture of important events, including educational concerts, films and shows, shelter open days & pet adoption events, peaceful protest marches and vaccination camps.
Yet, amid all of this influx of information, you may be sitting there thinking, that's nice but, still, why should I really care about some day used to celebrate animals?
Once in a while a story about an animal emerges that inspires a heartfelt outpouring of anger from society. Whether it be the butchery of Cecil the Lion - or perhaps the even more recent death of his son - the plight of orca whales held against their will in captivity in SeaWorld or the shocking incident where seals threw themselves from a cliff top to escape flocking tourists, every once so often, we are reminded of the injustices inflicted on the beautiful creatures that walk the animal kingdom. There's no denying that we should indeed be angry about these stories, but having a day that focuses directly on animals acts to remind us that these tragic incidents are not the only time that the animals of the world need us.
Unfortunately, when you look closer at the everyday lives of many animals around the world, it is a sorry state of affairs. With more than 100 million animals reported murdered by hunters each year - not counting the millions for which kill figures are not maintained by state wildlife agencies - and an estimated 10,000 puppy mills currently active in the United States, things aren't looking good for the wild residents of Planet Earth.
Not to mention that about one million animals per year abused due to domestic violence, as well as 250,000 animals falling victim to hoarding, a cruel practice where animals are kept in bulk by "collectors" who have no room for more pets, yet continue to take them in.
To put the cherry on top of the cake, it is estimated that nine percent of all species become extinct every million years, meaning that between one and five species disappear from our planet, never to be seen again, every single year. This rate of extinction has sped up five times in the Earth’s history and is expected to continue to thrive if we don't do something about it soon.
So, people of Planet Earth, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit back and watch the animals that enrich our planet Are you going to sit back and watch the animals that enrich our planet slowly but surely disappear, or are you going to stand up for them, not just on World Animal Day, but every day?