World Animal Day
World Animal Day 2016: When is it and why is it celebrated? In picture: The official poster for World Animal Day 2016.World Animal Day official website

Human beings coexist in nature with a variety of flora and fauna, and have struck a balance with them that has enabled them to live together for eons. Over this time, the fauna has been meted out such bad treatment by humankind that being "treated like an animal" has taken on an extremely negative connotation. 

In what can be seen as an effort by some like-minded people to champion the cause of animal welfare and animal rights, World Animal Day is celebrated on October 4 every year. It usually does not have an official theme. 

According to its official website, the mission of World Animal Day is: "To raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe. Building the celebration of World Animal Day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals. It's celebrated in different ways in every country, irrespective of nationality, religion, faith or political ideology. Through increased awareness and education we can create a world where animals are always recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare."

What are the origins of World Animal Day? 

German author Heinrich Zimmermann, who was also the publisher of the magazine Mensch und Hund [Translation: Man and Dog], first propagated the idea, and wanted it to be celebrated on October 4, to align it with the feat of St Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of, among other things, ecology.

However, the Sport Palace in Berlin, where Zimmermann wanted to organise the event, was not available on that date, so the first World Animal Day was celebrated on March 24, 1925. It would come to be celebrated on the intended date of October 4 from 1929.

Initially popular only in Germany and a few neighbouring countries, World Animal Day is now a day recognised by the United Nations, and has from 2003 been officially celebrated by the Naturewatch Foundation, which is based in the United Kingdom. That happened because the International Animal Protection Congress in Florence in Italy accepted Zimmermann's proposal for October 4 to be observed all across the globe as World Animal Day.