THIS PIECE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE NEWSDAY AND EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS.
Revenge is a purely human trait and while every person concerned about animal welfare wants transgressors to be punished, in my view, it ought not to include prison time. Here's why.
The government has gone to great lengths to convince us, and many who inhabit, work in or visit any prison will agree that our crumbling infrastructure is inadequate to hold and ill-equipped to treat those sentenced to be housed there. Therefore, in the spirit of joined-up thinking and the compassion we crave for all animals, why not make the repercussions for animal cruelty serve the greater good rather than a punitive human urge for vengeance.
I am recommending that the organisations that treat, rescue, care for, board, spay, neuter and educate be the beneficiaries of the justice meted out to perpetrators. Include an annual subvention to these organisations to sustain their tireless, donation-funded work. Instead of a $100,000 fine, why not have the perpetrator contribute part of his/her income to a recognised animal welfare organisation? Instead of a year in prison, how about a yearlong non-custodial community service that mandates weekly hours logged at a recognised animal welfare organisation?
We are all angered, saddened and revolted at the mention of any form of cruelty to animals but our ire should not extend to our fellow human beings, who in my view are capable of change. I am too closely acquainted with the stain of a prison record, impossible to remove, years or even decades after release. A certificate of character that lists an offence against the state is a death knell to future earnings, condemning the holder to a lifetime of scorn and revulsion by society.
I applaud the legislative change to the Summary Offences Act but the legacy of animal welfare activism in Trinidad and Tobago ought not to reinforce the punitive approach to justice of which we are so fond in T&T. It doesn't work and it achieves little in the way of rehabilitation or forgiveness.