“Putting food on the table”

Image by Masban

You never know what you’ll find in a Malaysian mega shopping mall. On my way home from work on Wesak Day, I took a detour through Sunway Pyramid Shopping Center in Petaling Jaya. Two booths, one bearing a large banner with the words, “Kechara Animal Sanctuary”, caught my eye. Drawing closer, I realised the other was screening a documentary called EARTHLINGS. Here was compassion being ‘sold’ to shoppers in a way I had never come across before in this country.

Phoenix narrates the tragic tale of humankind’s systematic torture and slaughter of other living creatures, ostensibly for food and to earn a living. This industrial-scale slaughter for profit is glossed over and made normal by advertising campaigns and the mass media, which very rarely publish images of how food – or what we have come to accept as food – gets onto our tables.

Earthlings was made in 2005, which makes its documentation of the atrocities committed in it at least six years old; the fact, however, is that animals who are bred in industrial quantity for human consumption (whether as pets, processed food, fashion accessory or sporting spectacle) or in the name of “science”, are merely commodities to be traded in a ‘globalised’ economy.

Earthlings uses footage obtained through the use of hidden cameras, to chronicle day-to-day practices of some of the largest industries in the world, and the results of rampant commercialisation are plain to see. It will make you profoundly sad.

The screening drew me in to find out more about the Kechara group. According to a Kechara representative, Kechara means ‘land of purity’ (in the sense of a calmness). The Kechara group is a large and complex one (and beyond the scope of this article), but the immediate objective of the Kechara Animal Sanctuary is to provide food, shelter, medical aid and, most importantly, love and care, to unwanted, abandoned and helpless animals.

Kechara is currently soliciting donations to acquire a 30-acre plot of land, which is approximately the size of 15 football fields, which would be large enough to shelter a fair number of rescued animals and allow them to roam freely, which aids their psychological rehabilitation. Find out more at http://www.kechara.com/animal-sanctuary

The quietly impressive thing about the Kechara Animal Sanctuary is the focus of its members on realising the values they would like to live by, in a non-contentious way. When I asked them to comment on certain issues brewing among animal welfare groups here, they declined to do so, preferring to channel their energies towards how they might contribute instead.

The reason is simple: if they’re successful, so will others benefit. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

You can watch Earthlings here.