“The greatness of a nation
and their moral progress can be judged
because of the way their animals are treated.”
The traditional annual Dog Day pilgrimage to Jeannette Ryder’s tomb,1 at Columbus Cemetery in Havana became an april 7, 2019 demonstration of claim – with posters included – for an Animal Protection Act and the cessation of animal abuse, an old demand that does not advance on the island.
For a good number of years, diversity of Cuban non-governmental institutions have worked on animalist legislative projects that have not achieved their goal. But hopes were reborn last year in the heat of discussions over the Republic’s new Constitution. However, the omission of the subject in the final text of the document filled the many animal lovers in the country with unseanthing and unease.
On the website of the Cuban Association of Cat Fans (ACAG), its honorary president, Dr. Angel de Uriarte, left the testimony of his disappointment:
“[t]he more than thirty years we have longed for and fought in vain for a protective law of animals, and at last it seemed that the opportunity had come! Cubans throughout our island are apprehended to express our criteria on the urgent need to end the impunity with which the cruellest and most cowardly mistreatment of helpless creatures, who like us, also feel pain, and worse, do not know why they do so.
“We knew that thousands of Cubans in many assemblies had made very well-argued propositions to include an article that reflected the feeling of the majority of our population. […] What is the reason why our National Assembly has been so reluctant, over time, to hear the will of the people? […] By what criteria did the commission responsible for the analysis of the proposals exclude their inclusion and thus the aspirations of thousands of Cubans?”
For her part, Caridad Linares García, member of the board of directors of the Cynological Federation of Cuba and president of club Dalmatian, stated:
“Animal protection law is much needed in Cuba. Many people indolently mistreat an animal, because they know there are no laws on it. I have even heard: “total if there is no law against animal abuse in Cuba.” In my neighborhood I see sick, poorly nourished dogs, and I wonder why a person wants to have a being to whom he does not devote any attention. These animals are unprotected because they are not required to have at least one health card for them, which not a few owners do not vaccinate or dewom; this could also be seen as a spread of epidemic. Many remain moored, sun and serene; we need to act at once against these indolent people. If the protective law existed, they would take care not to mistreat them so freely; If you can’t care for an animal why you took it home, they’re like eternal children, they can never do anything for themselves; if you’ve decided to have it, take care of it the way it deserves.”
Cuba’s lack of animal legislation provides a framework of impunity for those who mistreat and assault dogs, cats, roosters, horses, scapes, birds; savage acts that shame society as a whole, which denigrate the human being.
Cuban society has made clear the campaign for non-violence towards women, and also against child abuse, but animal protection does not seem to be on the agenda of the government and the state, at least until now. It is contradictory, because the relationship between animal abuse and violence against people is well studied and documented. The abuser has rarely been immersed in a chain of abuses whose history can come from childhood. He was born and raised within a circle of domestic abuse (against his mother, against him, against his dog), he became trapped in it, and once an adult reproduces that pattern of violence.
The unprotection of animals has many faces. People who have affective animals and maintain responsible behavior towards them know how difficult it is in Cuba to maintain the health of their pets. The precarious conditions that exist in the veterinary clinics of the State, the decay and the price of medicines, the cost of the few veterinarians who exercise on their own, the prohibitions faced by these professionals, form a chain of misfortunes that impacts the lives of animals.
Still, as demonstrated on April 7, the animal movement on the island is large, and it is alive and acting. So strong was the impact of the march that the official media could not ignore it, and it also caught the attention of numerous international media outlets.
The authorization for the march was requested from the government of the municipality Plaza de la Revolución by the protector Odalis Jamamillo and by Beatriz Batista, of the magazine El Arca. His realization, in the words of Grettel Montes de Oca, leader of the Cuban Project in Animal Defense (CEDA), was the fulfillment of an old longing:
“It was a dream, for years, to make a great march, but it had not come true until now. We appreciate this initiative that has made us very happy. In 1994 a large march was also made, but this also has the importance of being the first in which civil society participates: animal protectors and lovers and voluntary animal protection groups came to claim an animal protection law in Cuba, with a motto ‘Cuba against animal abuse’. It was a historic day for the entire Cuban animal movement that is increasingly united and strong.”
According to Nathalie, also a member of CEDA, it was an unforgettable event, of great significance, that will mark a before and after. We don’t question it. We’ll have to see the results from now on. Ω
1 The American philanthropist Jeannette Ryder founded in Cuba the Protective Society of Children, Animals and Plants, also known as the Side of Mercy. But his figure has transcended popularly by the legend woven around his tomb in the necropolis, “the tomb of loyalty”, because after his death, in 1931, his dog Rinti threw himself at the foot of the tomb and rejected the food and water they offered him, until he died.