STRANGELY, WE DON'T THINK SO AT ALL


There was dust everywhere as the noise of blaring honks from impatient minibus drivers rushing to meet their targets for the day grew louder and louder. This writer sat and watched, in utter amazement and reluctant admiration as the driver of the minibus made near impossible maneuvers in an effort to wiggle his way out of the myriad of buses tightly packed together each waiting their turn to fill up on passengers. When suddenly there was a stirring within the bus and the sound of a young boy’s voice crying “ayi! Tasiyani!” he was protesting the intrusion of a man’s hand who was jokingly trying to grab a little hamster from his hand. Everyone broke into inarticulate sounds of affection, the uuuuuhs, awwwws and ahhhhs, everyone was warmed by the boy’s determination to defend his little hamster. He too broke into laughter, holding his little hamster more closely, as he settled in once again on his mother’s lap. He was a little too old to still be sitting on his mother’s lap really, but it was probably to keep from paying for two and cut on costs.

 It is sometimes said that Africans do not care for animals, a view that was also expressed by one of Africa’s most powerful individuals, South African president; Jacob Zuma. It is reported that he said owning a pet dog is not African. That was obviously not the case with this little boy with a hamster on the bus, him and his mother could barely afford a bus ride within the city, but he obviously cared about his hamster. So we engaged Dr. Richard Ssuna for a professional take on the matter, especially considering that he is an African vet, working in Africa and interacting with African animal owners.
“It is my opinion that all human beings have an inherent love for animals but the circumstances in which they grow up determine how much of that love they portray to animals” Dr. Ssuna said.

For many, love toward animals is marked by care, and adequate care often requires money. Dr. Ssuna said “As a race, we have been so encumbered due to poverty, disease and deficiencies which may not allow us to show love for animals”, this therefore rules out this most widely used indicator as a measure by which we can determine how much Africans love their animals, “when one’s basic needs are met even the needs of the society  and people have disposable income, then there is a perceived love for animals as it is enhanced by wealth” He further said that in his experience, vaccination campaigns are held when children are on their School break because they are the ones who bring their animals for vaccination, he pointed out that this is because the child’s love for animals has not yet met with opposition.

Malawian children bring their pets for vaccination

 “African children who are dependent on their parents love their animals, but in their later lives the pressures they begin to face determines how they treat animals, they become encumbered by responsibilities such as taking care of their parents, such pressure cause a lot of the perceived negativity as they cannot afford the care for the animals”

Dr. Ssuna further pointed out that “people who depend on animals love their animals for instance in pastoralist communities, some know each of their 3000 heads of cattle individually”. This brings to mind a heartwarming scene from the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” in which a bushman killing a buck apologizes to it and explains that it is only out of necessity that he is killing it. Arguably, the Bushmen remain the most unadulterated of Africans, yet in their raw ‘Africanness’ show kindness and regard for the animal.


photo of bushmen sourced from the internet


It may be safe to say that Africans do love their animals and that this love should be determined by correct or rather fair indicators; in Malawi alone the number of people who live with pets (dogs and cats especially) is enormous, it’s pretty hard live with someone by choice and not grow a little fond of them isn’t it?

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