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Raina Byanjankar: All in for animal welfare

Raina Byanjankar, founder of Oxsa Nepal, says individuals, organizations, and the government must join hands for animal welfare

Raina Byanjankar: All in for animal welfare

Founded 15 years ago with an unwavering commitment to the welfare of stray animals in Nepal, Oxsa Nepal has emerged as a compassionate non-profit organization dedicated to providing food, shelter, and healthcare to the vulnerable canines of Jwagal, Lalitpur. Beyond its vital street interventions, Oxsa Nepal has transformed its home into a haven for over 50 dogs, cats, and birds, offering a sanctuary for these voiceless creatures. At the heart of this altruistic endeavor is Raina Byanjankar, the founder of Oxsa Nepal, who inherited a legacy of compassion from her parents. Byanjankar spoke to Evana Manandhar from ApEx about the state of animal welfare in Nepal. 

Can you shed light on the state of animal welfare in Nepal?

The state of animal welfare in our country is influenced by a combination of cultural attitudes, government policies, enforcement of animal protection laws, economic conditions, and the active participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to animal welfare. Cultural beliefs and practices shape how animals are perceived and treated, impacting the level of care they receive. Government policies, including the existence and effectiveness of animal welfare regulations, set the foundation for ethical treatment. The enforcement of these laws is crucial, ensuring that they translate into tangible protection for animals.

Economic conditions play a role, as the availability of resources affects the ability to invest in and prioritize animal welfare initiatives. The presence and effectiveness of NGOs are pivotal, as they often act as advocates, educators, and implementers of initiatives that contribute to improved animal welfare. In essence, achieving a positive state of animal welfare necessitates a holistic approach, addressing these interconnected factors through collaboration between government entities, NGOs, and the wider community. 

What makes working in the animal welfare sector challenging in Nepal?

There is a lack of strict animal welfare laws, making animals vulnerable to mistreatment. Strengthening and rigorously enforcing comprehensive legislation is imperative. Traditional practices, deeply ingrained in the culture, don’t necessarily align with modern animal welfare standards, necessitating a delicate balance between cultural preservation and humane treatment. 

Inadequate enforcement of existing laws worsens the problems, emphasizing the need for improved mechanisms and training for law enforcement personnel. In rural areas, where agriculture and animal husbandry prevail, there are challenges such as insufficient veterinary care and shelter for livestock. Solutions lie in promoting sustainable and humane farming practices, coupled with educational initiatives and enhanced veterinary services. Wildlife, rich in biodiversity, faces threats from habitat loss and poaching, necessitating robust conservation efforts. Moreover, animals in Nepal are susceptible to the impacts of natural disasters. Disaster preparedness plans must include provisions for animal evacuation and care.

Are there specific laws that address the rights of animals in the country?

Nepal has several laws addressing the protection and rights of animals. These include the Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, focusing on regulating slaughterhouses and ensuring meat inspection, including provisions for the humane treatment of animals during slaughter. The Transport of Animals and Birds Act governs the transportation of animals, covering aspects such as adequate space and proper handling. The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act is specific to the protection of wildlife and conservation of natural habitats, including regulations against hunting and poaching. There are quite a few laws outlining the general principles for the humane treatment of animals but the effectiveness of these laws depends on factors like enforcement mechanisms and public awareness.

How can the public be made aware of the importance of animal welfare and rights?

Educational strategies play a pivotal role in making the public aware of the significance of animal welfare and rights. One effective approach involves integrating animal welfare topics into the school curriculum. Public awareness campaigns by utilizing diverse media platforms to disseminate information, dispel myths, and encourage responsible behavior towards animals are also important.

Workshops, seminars, and community outreach programs can provide direct interaction and address local concerns, fostering a deeper understanding of ethical animal treatment. Online resources, webinars, and partnerships with educational institutions can broaden the reach of educational initiatives. Animal-assisted therapy programs offer practical demonstrations of the positive impact of human-animal interactions.

What are some of the ways in which people can support or contribute to the animal rights movement?

Financial support for reputable local animal welfare organizations is crucial, providing essential resources for rescue operations, medical care, and advocacy efforts. Supporting well-established international organizations that work globally or specifically in Nepal amplifies the reach of contributions. Raising awareness through social media platforms and other communication channels can shed light on specific animal welfare issues.

Advocacy for legal reforms and participation in campaigns for stronger animal welfare laws are essential for sustained change. Collaboration with local organizations, offering skills or expertise, and exploring remote volunteering opportunities can provide valuable assistance. You can also support educational initiatives that promote responsible behavior towards animals or collaborate with veterinarians or veterinary organizations. There will be plenty that you can do. You can play a vital role in advancing the cause of animal rights in Nepal by leveraging your resources, networks, and influence.