Syed Hassan of Project Save Animals of Pakistan
Syed Hassan of Project Save Animals of Pakistan Image Credit: Supplied

In this world clouded with much that is dark, there is nothing more valuable than kindness and empathy. Those who are good, those who are kind, with their words and actions, they diminish the shadows of cruelty. More special are those whose kindness and empathy extends to every living being in the world—human and animal. Despite the fullness of their lives, they never fail to notice the pain of others. Even that of animals. Those kind, empathetic humans are my heroes. Syed Hassan is one of them.

Hassan is 19 years old and does work that is nothing less than heroic. He rescues animals that are either abandoned, were born on the streets, or are kept in conditions that are too awful to be anything but human. The oldest of three siblings, Hassan belongs to a lovely family of animal lovers, who he says “are always supportive of what I do.”

A resident of Lahore, Hassan is currently a first-year student, majoring in business administration. In June 2018, when he had just turned 16, he became involved in his rescue work “with the sole purpose of helping as many animals as possible.” His foster based rescue organisation, Project Save Pakistan, now comprised of four people, worked for three years on the passion and work of just one person: Hassan himself.

Syed Hassan
In June 2018, when he had just turned 16, he became involved in his rescue work “with the sole purpose of helping as many animals as possible.” Image Credit: Supplied

What is utterly remarkable is that Project Save Animals, to date, has rescued more than 721 animals. What is also absolutely wonderful is the 100 hundred percent success rate of their adoptions. As Hassan tells me, “All of my rescued animals are adopted and living in their forever homes; 90 percent of them were from the Tollinton Market, and the rest abandoned or from the streets.”

One of the volunteers of Project Save Animals wrote this about the teenager who I think is an angel for animals in pain: “To those who truly know Hassan know that he is quite a simple fellow—someone who loves animals and will go to the ends of the world for them. He started rescuing [animals] three years ago and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. Over the years, he has rescued countless animals and has worked tirelessly to nurse them back to health and found loving homes for them.”

I asked the founder of Project Save Animals and animal rights activist Syed Hassan a few questions:

Mehr Tarar: You are 19. How at the age of 16 when teenagers have so many important and trivial distractions you became interested in rescuing animals? What was your most significant motivation?

Empathy is a very complex emotion for us humans. In many aspects, empathy has been diminishing in our society. The constant barrage of violence, despair, and death that animals suffer daily is something we cannot even begin to fathom. I have always had animals around me, and I was brought up in a household where we had more animals than humans. We were always taught to be empathetic towards animals.

What brought me to the idea of rescuing animals was when I visited Tollinton Market, Lahore, for the first time. Tollinton is the epitome of hell on earth for animals. Animals at this market are abused, neglected, and starved to the point that they simply give up and pass away. Visiting that wretched market was the push or motivation that I needed to step into animal rescue. Saving as many animals as I can has been my goal ever since.

Tollinton Market of Lahore, describe the conditions in which animals are treated in that so-called market for buying and selling of birds and animals?

Tollinton Market is one of the worst markets on this planet. Animals at this place are kept and left without food, water, and sunlight with absolutely no cleaning or upkeep done. Shopkeepers at the market are so heartless they lock their shops for hours without any form of ventilation for a whole night. It is the poor animal that suffers this entire time.

We rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome animals from the Tollinton Market. However, it’s not easy to find homes for our dog rescues in Pakistan so they travel all the way to Canada to find loving, forever homes. We sincerely hope that Tollinton Market shuts down, and all animals at that wretched place are brought to safety.

How can we reach the hearts of individual Pakistanis to start protecting animals? What is your suggestion for a collective change of behaviour?

I believe that the constant media onslaught of violence and despair that we see every day has desensitized us. I believe that the person who is going to go out of their way to read this interview about being compassionate to animals is already on the road towards kindness. Animals and humans have to coexist, and we just have to believe that. Animals feel the same emotions of hurt, love and comfort that we feel. They just can’t speak and that is even more of a reason for us to be their voice and help them.

What legislation should be put into place to protect animals?

The government of Pakistan needs to take animal rights seriously and introduce laws that protect the weakest of our society. We, animal rescuers, urge the government for laws that protect and improve the lives of these innocent beings.

What can the average Pakistani do to advocate and protect animals?

There are many ways an average Pakistani can contribute towards improving the plight of animals in Pakistan. If you see an animal in pain, don’t look away. Help that animal by taking them to the nearest veterinarian. Children being the future of our society must be taught how to care for animals.

What has been a source of great happiness for you in your voluntary work for the be-zaban of Pakistan?

The before and after. The feeling you get when an animal after being in the most deplorable conditions is finally safe and healthy is priceless. Animals are the beings with the purest of emotions, something that us humans severely lack.