Do I ever have the right to decide that it’s time for someone’s life to end?

Philippines has a big problem with stray dogs and cats. You can see them walking around pretty much anywhere you go, mostly malnourished and dirty, sometimes sick or wounded. My empathy for these animals is of course huge, all I wanted to do when seeing them was to take them all in, feed them, bathe them, give them medicine for their problems and somewhere safe to rest. All I wanted to was to give them a loving home, but I couldn’t.

One of the dogs we saw was in worse shape than all the others; I have never before seen an animal that look like it’s suffering that much. The fur was mostly gone and the skin filled with rashes and wounds, he stood for hours in the same spot without moving, and worst of all; someone had put a metal chain so tightly around his neck that it created an infected wound and most likely limited his breathing. Just watching him was painful, imagining the suffering he must go through every day, every moment.

R made a decision to have him euthanized to end his suffering. He called a veterinarian, who after some talking agreed to come for free if we would just pay for the medicine injection. It took some hours before they came, but the dog was still standing in the exact spot where we had left him.

Watching them catch him and give him the first injection to put him to sleep was painful. Already before they caught him, he knew that something was going on, so he got angry and started moving away from them. His scream when he was caught and given the first injection in his thigh was heartbreaking. I had expected a painless death to end his life full of suffering, but he was in such bad condition that this small injection tore his skin and caused him pain. I couldn’t watch, and I couldn’t help crying. I was wondering if this really was the right thing to do, did we really have the right to decide for this poor creature that his life was over and this was the way he was going to die?

In a little while, which felt like an eternity, everything grew quiet. Finally I dared to go closer and look at him. He was sleeping, his chest slowly raising and lowering; peace. The veterinary assistant prepared the injection that would go into the cardiac muscle (the heart), and once it was given the dog’s legs moved for the last time before everything was over.

Death had come. Was it better? I’ve thought about it so many times afterwards, praying that he is now in a better place. A place where he can run around without pain, a place where he never has to be hungry, a place where no one will deliberately cause him pain. Do I have the right to decide when it’s better for someone to die than to go on living, even though this someone is a dog? I don’t really know. I live after the premise that we don’t have the right to take someone’s life, or use someone, for our own purposes. But how about taking someone’s life to end their suffering? Do I have the right to take such a position of power, even if I use this power for what I believe is the best for that living being?

This dog, who lived his whole life without a name, without love, without anyone caring for him even the tiniest bit, has gotten a special place in my mind and in my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget him, and I don’t either think that I want to.

R.I.P.

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European elections

If you live within the European Union, don’t forget to vote in the European Elections this May 22-25! Eurogroup for Animals, the federation of animal protection organizations in the European Union, started a campaign for the elections already last year. They have created a list of points about animal welfare that they would like political groups to include in their manifestos for the elections;

1. Improve farm animal welfare
2. Reduce the number of animals used in research and testing
3. Protect cats and dogs
4. Improve the welfare of wild animals
5. Use EU trade agreements to boost animal welfare in partner third countries
6. Ensure that animals are recognized as sentient beings in all legislation

More about what these points include and about the campaign in general can be found at www.voteforanimals.eu. For the Finnish campaign go to elainpolitiikka.net under “Europaparlamenttivaalit 2014” (in Finnish).

On Thursday last week, the local Animalia activist-group hosted a political discussion around these points and animal welfare in general within the European Union. Running politicians from different political parties had been invited, and in the end seven of them agreed to come; Sanna Lehtinen from the Centre Party, Jere Riikonen from the Christian Democrats, Johanna Sumuvuori from the Green party, Eila Aarnos from the Left Alliance of Finland, Juhani Tanski from the Workers party of Finland, Petrus Pennanen from the Pirate party, and then Helena Eronen from Change 2011, who did not show up to the actual discussion.

The politicians were asked questions about for example how the animals’ position in the EU can be improved, what they have done for the animals during their political career, what they would do to turn the trend of rising meat consumption, as well as questions about animal testing and slaughter transports. I was positively surprised by most of the politicians and their knowledge and interest in the subject, and the discussion turned out to be really interesting.

The only sad thing about the event was the small amount of people who turned up. Apart from the politicians and people who work for Animalia in different ways, only few came. Maybe the advertisement hadn’t been so good, or maybe people are not so interested in listening to political discussions, I don’t know. But I hope that next time a similar discussion is held there will be more people there to listen, because I found it very interesting and helpful. It’s different to actually have the politicians there and being able to ask them questions, than to just read their pamphlets and campaign-websites and try to decide who to vote for based on those.