Animal protection and welfare, an impossible subject

by: Jesús Arencibia Lorenzo

Movimiento animalista cubano

It’s two in the afternoon and the sun almost literally burns the skin. There is no bus on the horizon and the stop is full. The coachmen take advantage and the troubled aspiring passengers appreciate it. With some nuance come up the first, then more, and more, and more, and “I stay right there, chochero”, “well, give it, give it, but hurry, my people, that if I get the ‘fiana'”… and in the end they ride fourteen in a car for ten. And the horse, dripping sweat from the ears to the hoots, perhaps without having eaten, almost from the start begins to take cuerazos and blows: “Cabaallooo, walk condemnation’o, I’m going to break your back!” …

The guy was one of those who talked little: he worked in a workshop, he fixed what he played for the plan and he “fought” his pieces “to throw it out, you know”… But when the conversation was about killing cats, that’s where his tongue was dropped. Since that time a hungry mini-boy stole a chicken pole, his love was poisoning them. He enjoyed it when those who roamed the neighborhood came to his yard. There he “fell in love” with some piece of meat or something and then enjoyed seeing them writhing or swollen and stinking – already dead – in some corner. “With me they don’t eat those face-to-face.”

His parents have taught him little. But that said, impact stuff. Self-defense: “If they get in with you you give them, and I don’t want plains, that you’re a male, a male!” Conquest of women: “Let’s see, tell all the world there how many little jebitas you have. Tell him, tell him, and what do you do to the jebitas? Yes, yes, with the machete.” Indifference to the snarl: “Who hag over you? The neighbor? Bahhh, you tell that old lady to leave. We can scold you, that we are your ‘pure'”. That’s why no one was surprised when the baby was started training in his most recent game: hunting chameleons and frogs and dismembering them alive. Delight in watching the little animals try to escape as they have limbs amputated… “How funny, the boy”…

I could continue to recreate scenes and experiences like these; but for sample button is enough. The adoption of a law that protects and ensures the welfare of animals; of a legal instrument that can at least be used against the continued, multiple and unpunished abuse of these creatures is one of the subjects that Cuban society should no longer delay.
In the process of popular debate prior to the referendum that ratified the new Constitution of the Republic last February, many voices were raised to request that a specific article on the subject be included, the seed of future legislation.1 The Drafting Committee and the parliamentarians spoke deafly. In the Magna Carta that governed us from 1976 to 2019 and in which it will govern from this year, the matter was reduced – vaguely – to the citizen duty to protect “the fauna”.
This term, “as stated in both Constitutions, has been interpreted as protected species, endemic birds or exotic molluscs, for example. Street dogs, abandoned cats and horses subjected to the violence of their elm, in the meantime, find no legal protection in the legal norms of the island”, reasoned the journalist and protector Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez.2
And since we are talking about felines and abandoned dogs, the colonies of these that swarm in the cities of the country constitute one of the thorny edges of the complex matter. Many citizens reject them and see only a potential danger in them as vectors of disease. Protectors, individually or under the cover of groups that have emerged in the country at the counter-blame for official recognition,3 strive to feed, heal and include them in massive vaccination and sterilization campaigns, which often cost out of their own pockets or with the help of independent non-governmental organizations and philanthropists.
As in so many other aspects and processes of national life, the State has proved insufficient and inoperative in resolving this situation; but it does not approve or make it possible for alternative individuals or organizations to try to resolve it on their own.

Faced with the perruna and cat overpopulation in Havana, the director of the Provincial Veterinary Institute, Manuel Nicot, stated to reporter Hitchman Powell Escalona that the province does not have a network of institutions that assume the deworming, vaccination and sterilization of these, as there is only “one clinic and twenty-nine practices that serve animals, of which only two (Picota and Carlos III) offer surgery and emergency services”. However, the manager himself, being asked about independent campaigns or actions in this regard, emphasized that these were illegal proceedings, as veterinarians profited for each surgical intervention (about five convertible Cuban pesos, CUC) and the higher volume of medicines they use is obtained “diverted from hospitals belonging to the Ministry of Public Health, which is and should be punishable.”4
The day-to-day life of animal lovers shows, on the other hand, that there is also no stable and legal supply and sale of drugs for them, so, in most cases, the black bag trade should be used.
And as for veterinarians (technicians and specialty graduates), their amount is insufficient; the resources with which they work are scarce and outdated from current science, and the wages that accrue – stately – for their service, much lower than necessary to meet the minimum requirements of any family in the country. The problems of these professionals start from their own curriculum training, in which, although they receive adequate theoretical preparation, their practical training is minimal. They should form as “galenos” of the animal kingdom, almost without seeing patients.5
The problem as a whole, complex as it is, is crossed by cultural, economic, sociological matrices and therefore requires comprehensive approaches… what about the cocks’ fences – legal and furtive – where these beautiful feather dusters are fought and dying every day? Or the fighting dogs, who train like killing and killing machines (remember the masterful frames of Behavior)? What to think of the sacrifices of birds, scapedos, etc. based on religious practices or various creeds? How can we react to the work – necessary, but sometimes insensitively assumed – of an entity such as Zoonosis? And in the face of the clandestine (and almost always unpunished) capture and sale of species of the country’s wildlife (blues, canaries,, parrots…), in which several of the trafficked specimens often end up dead by unscrupulous procedures?
It gives for many reflections the subject, and above all, for urgent action. And if the convoluted state-government-official-bureaucratic skein doesn’t move, the population has done it and will do it on its own. That was the feeling that first began in the march “Cuba against animal abuse”, held on April 7 from the park of El Quixote to the necropolis of Columbus, in El Vedado habanero. Spontaneously convened and articulated by social media, more than five hundred people, from various provinces, grouped together, carried their posters in demand of a Protection Law and demanded that they be heard.
The authorities of the municipality Plaza de la Revolución, after having approved the walk, tried to abort it or at least reduce its dimensions; but already the signal was in the air, and many sensitive ears echoed.6 Troubadour Silvio Rodriguez was one of them. “Unfortunately in some respects we are still a homo that lacks sapiens. However, in others, it seems, we are moving forward, as it is said that an Animal Welfare Act is being worked on. Well done, if so,”7 the renowned singer-songwriter wrote on his blog Second Appointment, on the eve of the mobilization.
If in truth “work is being done” in this direction, the specific manifestations of the authorities around the animal cause do not seem to be very consistent with this work, because several days after the Habanera march the young law student of Villa Clara Javier Larrea – who runs the university project BIENAC (Animal Welfare in Cuba) – formally applied for permission for another walk against animal abuse and , after intense snevering, was denied by the government of Santa Clara. Argument: “because it is not of interest to the territory.”8
While, above the back and forth, tensions and pressures of humans in the Greater Antille, animals continue to show how good companions they are to assume with us the transit of life. Fidelity in a dog’s eyes, the watchful meekness of a cat, the patient strength of an ox and the inspired singing of a sinsonte, among many mysteries, will continue to encourage them to fight for them. Ω

1 Countries such as Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Turkey, among others, have legislation in this regard. Some such as Spain and Mexico have regulations at the state or province level, journalist Laíz Concepción Romero refers in her text: “An article, a law, many voices”, published in the Cuban animal magazine El Arca No. 21, Oct/2018, pp. 17-22. The author is the editor of such alternative digital publication. Several of the texts published there until April 2019 have been consulted for the elaboration of this article.
2 “Who will protect them?” in The Ark, No. 24, Jan/2019, pp. 26 and 27.
3 The only one officially registered by the State is the Cuban Association for the Protection of Animals and Plants (Aniplant), but also others such as Cubans in Animal Defense (CEDA) or City Animal Protection (PAC) have for years carried out commendable work for the good of these sensitive beings.
4 See the report: “Sterilization: Solution or Problem?”, by Hitchman Powell Escalona, The Ark, No. 22, Nov/2018, pp. 9-13.
5 Karlienys C. Padilla’s series “Veterinary training and practice (1 and 2)” is available in this regard: “Doctors without seeing patients?”, The Ark, No. 23, Dec/2018, pp. 8-13; and “The Account Does Not Give,” The Ark, No. 26, Mar/2019, pp. 20-24.
6 See: “And the March Was Made,” by Hitchman Powell Escalona, The Ark, No. 27, Apr/2019, pp. 10-15.
7 Recovered from
8 “They prohibit in Santa Clara an independent march against animal abuse”. Recovered from

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