The festive season is all about lights, delicious savories, fun and frolic with family and are much awaited by the people across the country . But amidst the sight and sounds, an unaccounted number of birds and animals scamper. Similar to a human infant or elderly person, they too are unsettled by the wild display of fireworks and shrill or explosive sounds. The helpless animals are distraught in the face of the overall increase of heat in the surroundings, the chemical fumes entering their bodily system and the general melee all around.
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As though all this was not sufficient cause for agony, there have been many reported cases of humans abusing these animals, both domestic and stray, by attaching crackers or sparklers to their bodies. For a few years now, animal activists have made concerted efforts to convince local residents to celebrate a festival like Deepavali with simple display of lights or sparkles and colour, without resorting to fire-bursting. However, most of such requests had gone unheeded.
But following the Supreme Court order in 2018, several states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Hyderabad, were among the first to announce restrictions on pollution-causing fireworks. Though the SC ban almost brought down the curtains on the entire industry, eventually a leeway was granted that allowed the use of low-emission ‘green crackers’ in prescribed format. Besides, the manufacturers were also required to ensure that the decibel level of these ‘green crackers’ would be 30% lesser than the conventional ones. Most states laid down specific time slots within which citizens could burst these green crackers.
Recently, the Union Health Minister also lauded the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for its efforts in developing environmentally friendly fireworks that emit less sound, with noise decibel reduced from 160 to 125 decibels and also lower pollutants. The crackers developed according to CSIR guidelines were duly validated by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).
But while these efforts have certainly been encouraging, animal activists said that irrespective of the ‘time-slot’ clause or the low-emission low-decibel crackers, the ‘artificially’ produced sound and noise are still bothersome to the animals at all times. “Among domesticated animals, one can clearly spot the change in behavior. Be it cows, dogs, cats or any animal, their acute sense of noise detection alerts them of imminent danger in their mind. Panic struck they howl or make senseless noise and are forced to run to hideouts in attempts to escape the commotion,” Mahesh, a Mangaluru-based animal rights activist said.
The situation is even further aggravated and tragic in the cases of stray animals, who in an attempt to run away from the noise, either end up under moving vehicles or injure themselves fatally, as they fall into a ditch or canal. Besides the psychological impact, they are also exposed to several unknown chemicals that could be poisonous.
The lights, piercing through the sky, also create confusion among the birds who lose their natural sense of navigation and are completely disoriented. “Ultimately, the birds can’t find their own nest and are under constant threat of being attacked by other birds and snakes if they are discovered,” said Babitha Madhwaraj from Madhwaraj Animal Care Trust.
All it takes is a bit of empathy
So what can we do to be empathetic to the needs of fellow living species?
- Request friends, family and neighbours to settle for sparklers or Diya or non-smoke and non-sound emitting ones, instead of the conventional fire-bursting.
- In due consultation with veterinarians, anti-anxiety shot can be administered to the animals to help them relax.
- Securing pets indoors in sound-proof enclosures is the best way to help them.
- “Report to the police, animals activist or forest officials, if someone tries to procure or sell owls for a sacrificial ritual during Deepavali (followed by some communities) to bring good luck,” said Mangalore based animal activist Tauseef Ahmed said. The animals are well protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1960.
- Also do not ignore stray animals; along with the professional animal rescuers, volunteer to help stray animals to find a secure shelter and temporarily try to provide for space away from the fire-bursting and celebration.
- Sensitize residents and ask them to avoid bursting crackers altogether in the areas frequented by stray animals to spare them from injuries from projectiles, remnants, and residue or hot metal parts discharging from the crackers.
- Do not allow the pets to be home alone or unattended, take turns in comforting the pet or seek professional help to look after them.
- Insulating homes with thick curtains, closed windows and light music can also distract the animal to calmness.
- Once again in due consultation with the veterinarian, sufficient food and fluid must be provided to the animals and their behaviour must be monitored both before and after the fire-works. This will ensure that the animals are not under-nourished or malnourished due to stress.
- Do not use animals and report animal abuse of any form during celebrations; it is brutal practice by a few to use animal tails to light fire crackers or their bodies to fire projectiles.
Depending from one animal to another, each one takes individual time to recover from their anxiety and distress. The Mangaluru-based Animal Care Trust (ACT) said that it receives a lot a request from house owners to take care of their pets during Deepavali. “Almost all the facilities get booked and we are here round the clock for animals, to monitor them and give them assurance that things are alright,” Mahesh said.