Previously published on Egyptian Streets.
His name is Chiko, a five year old who was found in a cemetery. His beautiful golden hair had fallen off, and with little to no food, Chiko could not fight the horrendous infections he had in his eyes and was left with multiple burns on his bare skin. He was frail and weak but had the personality of a devoted angel.
Yet, he was just yet another case of an abandoned, abused, and forgotten dog at ESMA’s (Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals) shelter.
It was around that time my younger sister was begging my mother to get a dog, and after multiple sit downs and discussions, she finally agreed. A few short days later, Chiko became a part of our family and even though he is a feisty little fellow, we cannot imagine our lives without him.
The reason why I felt the urge to write this article was because no matter where you go or what street you are on, there is always some sort of cruel act directed at an animal by someone. Whether it is kicking or flipping a cigarette at them, it is something that has become so common that it has become the norm. It is the norm to dismiss, injure or physically harm an animal.
In 2007 and early 2013, a mass shooting of stray dogs took place in Egypt. With hundreds of animals dead and their blood left to rot on the streets, the Egyptian government decided to look for other alternatives. Consequently, the government as well as large groups of the Egyptian society has found a ”cleaner” way to eliminate those stray animals by using poison instead. This does not only cause untimely deaths of countless cats and dogs that belong to numerous families and individuals, but it also causes the suffering and incredibly painful deaths of innocent animals.
People have become so egotistical and vain to the point where they do not only dismiss innocent beings that are hurt, but are also actively participating in the harm that is being afflicted on them. Who cares if a cat is kicked so hard it limps away? Why slow the car when a dog is crossing the street? Who cares if a dog is distressed from the heat and is in desperate need of water? It is just an animal at the end of day, right?
People within the animal rights community always hear the same excuses and arguments when they try educating the public on animal rights and welfare. We always get the “when we help the poor we’ll think about the animals” argument, or the ”they’re everywhere and they’re over populated, so what if we kill a few” argument.
These common perceptions need to change for a variety of reasons. For starters, a human life is no greater than a non-human’s life. Life is life, and like human beings, animals have the ability to think and the ability to feel – they have a real comprehensible understanding of feelings on an emotional level. Meaning, like humans, animals can experience negative and positive feelings and are able to develop thoughts and retain memories.
Second of all, killing stray animals is a ridiculous solution to the problem of overpopulation. The human race is over populated so why not just ”kill a few”?
The solution to the over population is to neuter and spay those animals. Multiple well respected veterinary clinics and active members within the Maadi community have come together to resolve the issue without the needless killing of animals, which is how the Maadi TNR Initiative (Trap, Neuter, and Release) was born.
This program is a community based initiative that is not sponsored by the government and is solely run by active members within the Maadi community and veterinarians. The ultimate goal of the Maadi TNR Initiative is help capture stray animals. Veterinarians then neuter/spay them, provide the needed medical care and then release the animals. Perhaps other communities can come up with similar programs or at the very least, take on this one?
There is a common belief among animal rights activists that when you rescue or adopt animals you are rescuing them when, in fact, it is the opposite that is true – you are the one that ends up being rescued. Letting go of the social stigma that accompanies stray animals is another needed change.
Rather than buying animals from pet shops and breeders, visit shelters and adopt instead. After all, if you are looking to include a family member or welcome an addition to your family, the breed of the animal you are rescuing should not be a factor in your decision making process. You are rescuing a soul not buying an expensive watch.
Educational reform is an initial factor and if focused on, animal rights in this country will actually be addressed. Children are tender and instinctively compassionate and curious about all living beings around them. Yet, at a young age, we disconnect those feelings by allowing them to see the disturbing slaughter of animals and encourage them to play with the blood of what was, a few seconds ago, a breathing, living life. Therefore, they grow up to be disconnected, apathetic and oblivious to anything else that is not a human being.
ESMA is currently running campaigns to try to change that perception in our youth. They’re going to schools and enabling children to once again connect with animals and see how innocent and harmless they really are.
The public as well must take on a similar approach to animals and let go of the common fear that all stray cats and dogs are diseased and are bound to hurt us. Rather than being so hell bent on getting rid of them, why not strive to help them?
Many shelters, like ESMA, are now closed and can only accept urgent cases due to the lack of funding and resources because they have no sponsors or endorsements from the government, major companies or corporations, and as a result, they rely merely on public donations and support.
For this reason, we cannot neglect and overlook a problem that is undeniably clear and existent in our society only because the targets of the problem belong to a different species than us. Non-human species are at the mercy of human beings – they are not inferior, they are only different than us and that does not and should not diminish their rights.