Editorial feature: Humane work is a collateral casualty of the “War on Terror”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2004:
ANIMAL PEOPLE in a September 2004 cover feature extensively
examined the personal and political history concerning animals of
U.S. President George Bush and his November 2 election opponent,
Democratic nominee John Kerry.
Both Bush and Kerry strive to present an animal-friendly
image at the same time they tout being hunters.
Kerry, however, has reinforced the animal-friendly image
and earned the endorsement of the Humane USA political action
committee with a distinguished legislative record on behalf of
Bush has administratively attacked endangered and threatened
species habitat protection throughout his tenure in public office.
Bush has signed only one pro-animal bill of note, the Captive
Wildlife Protection Act of 2003, which was introduced and sponsored
in Congress by prominent Republicans. Previously, as Texas
governor, Bush vetoed a similar bill.
The Bush record has not improved. On September 21, 2004
assistant Interior secretary Craig Manson, a Bush appointee,
recommended a 90% cut in the designated critical habitat for bull
trout, a threatened species. Eight days later the Bush
administration issued a “temporary rule” allowing the U.S. Forest
Service to ignore a 1982 mandate to maintain “viable populations” of
fish and wildlife. Instead, the Forest Service is to base forest
plans on “the best available science.”
The old rule made keeping abundant fish and wildlife a
priority, regardless of their status as “game” or rare species. The
“temporary rule” merely requires the Forest Service to accurately
quantify whatever actions are taken. Choices among goals and
priorities are left up to appointed administrators.
Charged Kerry, to Associated Press, “George Bush wants the
Endangered Species Act rolled back. One way to accomplish that is to
do a terrible job of implementing it.”
Kerry at least credited Bush with having an objective. No
such allegation could be made as regards the increasingly negative
impact of the Bush-directed “war on terror” on efforts to improve the
status and care of animals in the Islamic world. Humane work, there
or anywhere else, has been beyond White House notice.
Like thousands of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan who
have been killed or wounded by misdirected ordinance, animals and
animal advocacy are collateral casualties. The damage was never
planned, never intended, and even now is little seen, but that
does not make it less real, or make recovery from the recent
setbacks less difficult.
Progress continues…where it can
The good news is that efforts to make humane progress are
still underway from Morocco (where the Massachusetts SPCA has funded
a western-style humane society since 1927) to Indonesia. As this
editorial was written, ANIMAL PEOPLE received a bulletin from the
Azerbaijan SPCA, announcing their schedule of events in
commemoration of the “World Animal Protection Day” proclaimed in 1931
by the otherwise long forgotten International Congress for the
Protection of Animals. Two weeks ago a conservative mullah in
Kalantin state, Malaysia, denounced the often quite needlessly
cruel methods used to cull poultry as part of efforts to halt the
spread of the deadly H4N1 variant of avian flu.
Most promising, as reported in the June and July/August 2004
editions of ANIMAL PEOPLE, Turkey has adopted a new national animal
control law that appears to be among the most progressive in the
world. The law introduces as national policy the example of
successful street dog and feral cat sterilization and vaccination set
in recent years by Fethye Friends of Animals founder Perihan Agnelli,
with the help of European and U.S. donors.
Given sufficient ongoing donor support, the Fethye Friends
of Animals program combined with the new Turkish law provides a
viable mechanism for eradicating rabies and dog and cat
overpopulation, parallel to similar programs underway in India,
Costa Rica, much of the U.S., and in many other places, but not
previously demonstrated on a large scale in an Islamic cultural
Turkish charitable contributions to animal aid may not yet be
sufficient to enable Fethye Friends of Animals and other programs
like it to achieve the 70% sterilization and vaccination targets that
are necessary to reduce the dog and cat populations and keep rabies
outbreaks from spreading, but once those targets are reached,
Turkish resources should be sufficient to maintain sterilization and
vaccination at the necessary level.
Success in Turkey might inspire emulation throughout the
Islamic world. The regional success already achieved has encouraged
organizations in Egypt to attempt to start similar projects.
But getting help from the U.S. and Europe has become
increasingly difficult. The economic slump that hit the U.S. at the
start of the Bush administration, followed by the effects of the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq, have
markedly diminished both individual giving to the humane sector
generally, and the ability of foundations to make large grants.
Sweeping new “security” measures have made bringing humane
personnl from Islamic nations to the U.S. for training unreasonably
For example, Pakistani attorney and newspaper publisher
Khalid Mahmood was not allowed to come with his wife to attend the
2002 Conference on Homeless Animal Management and Policy, despite a
long record of both human rights and animal rights advocacy, in
daring direct opposition to militant Islamicism.
Powerful in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are
Muslims, militant Islamicism is not strong in Ethiopia. About half
the Ethiopian population are Muslim, a third are Christian, and the
rest practice animist tribal faiths. Most have resisted decades of
efforts by Sudanese and Somali warlords to split domestic political
conflicts along religious lines. But because of proximity to Sudan
and Somalia, Ethiopia too is suspect in the “war on terror.”
Because Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida set up bogus charities
to route funding to their terrorist network, grant-giving agencies
in all branches of charity increasingly fear that routing any aid to
that part of the world might expose them to stressful audits.
In 2001-2002 ANIMAL PEOPLE helped the Homeless Animal
Protection Society of Ethiopia with start-up funding, and the
British charity Dogs Trust provided animal shelter management
training to cofounders Efrem Legese and Hana Kifle. But even with
the ANIMAL PEOPLE and Dogs Trust good recommendations, HAPS has not
been able to find the resources it needs to start sterilizing and
vaccinating street dogs and feral cats.
In July 2003 the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme and
Born Free Foundation suspended the only dog sterilization and
vaccination project that was active in Ethiopia, limited to working
dogs and pets in a few villages near Bale Mountains National Park.
Instead, the EWCP began actively encouraging efforts to kill street
HAPS cofounders Efrem Legese and Hana Kifle are longtime Bale
Mountains National Park employees. Since exposing the dog-killing
through ANIMAL PEOPLE in November 2003, Legese and Kifle have fought
retaliation from EWCP and Bale Mountains National Park officials. In
midsummer 2004 they won two court judgements in their favor, but
they were then transferred to remote locations. Legese resigned from
the park service, keeping HAPS alive at cost of significant personal
and economic stress.
Killing homeless dogs has a long history, reinforced by fear
of rabies, inflamed by tyrants who use the threat of rabies as
pretext for hiring thugs whose chief work is intimidating potential
These tendencies are augmented in the Islamic world by
sayings of Mohammed which when quoted out of context appear to be
But as Ph.D. candidate in Islamic studies Kristen Stilt
pointed out in a May 2004 ANIMAL PEOPLE guest column, “The Qur’an
mentions a dog on only one occasion, in a story about a group of
persecuted Christians, and the dog is depicted in a positive light.
Numerous other verses instruct that all of God’s creatures are to be
respected and treated properly. Nothing in the Qur’an calls for or
permits violence against the species of dogs.”
Cultural materials for building humane work exist as much in
North Africa, the Middle East, and central and southern Asia as
anywhere else, if the tools are provided to enable inspired and
determined local people to make use of them.
Before September 11, 2001, there were some “no-go” areas
for animal advocates, including Afghanistan and Iraq, but for the
most part the major obstacle to transferring resources and know-how
to the Islamic world from the U.S. and Europe was just the usual
difficulty of finding activists trying to develop programs in
far-away places and then introducing them to potential sources of
Between the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 and
the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the “no-go” areas seemed to be
shrinking. Among the most encouraging post-invasion news from
Afghanistan was the saga of the rescue and resurrection of the Kabul
Zoo by a coalition including the American Zoo Association, the
European Zoo Association, the Brooke Hospital for Animals, the
Mayhew Home for Animals, and the World Society for the Protection of
The same organizations and others in mid-2003 set about
rehabilitating the Baghdad Zoo, forming perhaps the first humane
society in Iraq, and arranging the transportation of hundreds of
dogs and cats rescued by soldiers to adoptive homes in the U.S. and
Altogether, ANIMAL PEOPLE reported on 31 developments
reflecting spreading concern for animals in the Islamic world between
the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, including the Brooke Hospital
extending services from Kabul to Jalalabad in February 2003.
Unfortunately, only seven such newsworthy developments have come to
our attention since the immediate aftermath of the Iraq invasion,
including updates about work begun earlier.
Humane progress has not only stalled but reversed. Fear of
introducing leishmaniasis and other zoonotic diseases to the U.S. has
produced a series of orders inhibiting the rescue and transport of
animals by troops, as we reported in March 2004.
Instead of rescue stories, we are now hearing about soldiers
in Afghanistan and Iraq being directed to shoot street animals.
Instead of demonstrating sterilization, vaccination, and an ethic
of kindness, the troops are reinforcing the misguided idea that
killing homeless dogs and cats is how economically and
technologically advanced societies deal with them.
Optimism that a native-grown humane movement might soon sweep
the Islamic world was still so strong, as recently as a year ago,
that Mustafa Bakrawi of Sudanese Animal Care made his way across the
length of Africa to the All Africa Humane Education Summit in Cape
Town, with help from HAPS in arranging his traveling papers.
The Sudanese government authorized Bakrawi to go in the hope
that humane work could help to re-establish long fractured diplomatic
relations with the rest of the world.
Bakrawi made a favorable impression, but the “war on terror”
prevented ANIMAL PEOPLE from donating a computer to Sudanese Animal Care.
Subsequently the Bush administration, with military strength
badly diluted by the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, for months
ignored ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where
Bakrawi lives. ANIMAL PEOPLE in our September 2004 letters pages
published his most recent plea for help, together with responses
from the multi-national animal charities that we contacted on his
behalf. They all said they could do nothing, for now, because the
Darfur situation is too unstable to allow relief workers to visit.
Difficulties that from the donor end of a humane crisis look
like red tape all too often mean spilled red blood where activists
and animals are in urgent need. The frustration felt by would-be
donors and helpers may translate into feelings of betrayal and
depression among the caregivers at the scene.
Even if the caregivers keep their faith in the cause,
through all manner of hardship, the people around them get a
negative message. Their animal advocate friend or neighbor may
personally be setting an outstanding example, but what people see is
that regardless of the one person’s dedication, animals are not
really a high enough priority in western nations to receive the aid
that would be needed to demonstrate sterilizing and vaccinating
street animals instead of killing them. The stature of the local
animal caregiver and impressions of the commitment of international
animal advocacy are both diminished.
Now that most of Afghanistan and Iraq are again “no-go”
areas, along with many other places where resentment of the U.S.
invasion of Iraq has created new “no-go” areas, more of the Islamic
world than ever is in effect Darfur, for animals. Poisoning and
shooting continue unrestrained and unchallenged. Because organized
humane work has not been introduced and established in relatively
peaceful times, any arrival of foreigners with unfamiliar equipment
may be perceived as a threat.
After Turkey, where the initiatives now underway must
succeed or squander an unprecedented opportunity, Egypt may offer
the most prominent opportunities for popularizing humane values in
the Middle East and North Africa.
Egypt has had western-style humane societies for more than
100 years. Several are still funded and managed by expatriates, as
they were during British colonial times, but others are locally
supported and directed, with some expatriate contributions, and
some of the strongest were founded by Egyptians.
In June 2004 ten Egyptian animal charities formed the
Egyptian Federation for Animal Welfare, perhaps the first national
humane federation in the Islamic world except Malaysia. Headed by
attorney Ahmed El Sherbiny, who also chairs the Egyptian Society of
Animal Friends, EFAW was asked by the Egyptian government to help
draft a comprehensive animal welfare law, which might build upon the
same combination of humane principles and Islamic teachings as the
new Turkish law.
Potential for progress appears on three fronts in Egypt: the
treatment of dogs and cats, reform of slaughtering methods, and
growth of public interest in wildlife.
The most recent news from the dogs-and-cats front was the
September 19 announcement of Cairo governor Abdlazim Wazir that he
intends to purge the streets of homeless animals through poisoning
“These methods have been used against strays before, but
never before was it announced as if it was a great honor to do it,”
noted Cairo animal advocate Mona Khalil.
Why is this happening now?
ANIMAL PEOPLE suspects that amid outrage over the Iraq war,
festering as much in Egypt as anywhere beyond Iraq itself, public
officials who for whatever reason despise dogs and cats feel uniquely
empowered now to ignore U.S. and European opinion, and to dismiss
local protest as unduly influenced by western values.
Cairo veterinarian Petra Sidhom initiated successful
slaughter reform in 2002 by helping Al-Asrah University to start a
training program for the mullahs who supervise hallal slaughter.
Christa Blanke of the German/British organization Animals Angels
described in the May 2003 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE how Sidhom’s
initiative achieved “a dramatic slowdown of slaughter in the streets
of Cairo” during the Abd-el-Kabir holiday, after the government
decreed that all ritual slaughter must be done in slaughterhouses
staffed by properly trained personnel.
But Sidhom told Gay Alcorn of the Melbourne Age in January
2004 that “despite numerous discussions and reports over the past
four years, the changes” she has recommended in Egyptian
slaughtering procedures “are still not effectively implemented.”
Many of the sheep and cattle slaughtered in Egypt, as
elsewhere in the Middle East, are raised in Australia and New
Zealand. Animal advocates Down Under have long campaigned against
overseas livestock transport, hoping to replace the live traffic
with the export of frozen carcasses. As this is written, four
Australian activists led by Ralph Hahnheuser, 41, are on a hunger
strike planned to continue for the length of time that is required
for an animal cargo ship to sail from Australia to port.
Regardless of activist determination, however, their
effort is unlikely to succeed. Egypt and other Middle Eastern
nations want to keep slaughtering and butchering jobs at home.
Maintaining cultural attitudes that favor live imports is to their
Further, even if Hahnheuser et al succeed in eventually
halting live shipments from Australia and New Zealand, China served
notice on September 22 that it is ready to compete for market share,
ending an eight-year hiatus in livestock sales to the Middle East by
dispatching 42,525 sheep and 1,800 cattle to Jordan.
As a whole, the Middle East imports about 20 million live
sheep and cattle per year. Slaughter reform can save those animals
much misery. If Egypt shows the way, as the mercantile
trend-setting nation for the region, slaughter reform may follow
throughout the Middle East. Conversely, if anti-westernism whetted
by the U.S. presence in Iraq enables hallal slaughterers who don’t
want to change their ways to hide behind the pretense of obeying
tradition, much preventable cruelty will persist.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has often pointed out that Islamic nations were
for centuries far ahead of the western world in developing humane
approaches to animal exhibition. When opened in 1891, the reportedly
now scandalously decrepit Cairo Zoo was perhaps the best in the
world, and the Kabul Zoo, opened in 1971, was likewise considered
As elsewhere, zookeeping in the Islamic world originated
with menagerie-keeping by royalty. By the latter half of the 20th
century, oil-rich Middle Eastern royalty mostly abandoned displaying
wildlife to show off and share their wealth, while civic
administrators trying to prevent unrest among the growing numbers of
urban poor found other priorities for tax money. Zookeeping
standards markedly declined.
Recently, however, the rise of an educated and relatively
affluent Egyptian middle class has coincided with increased interest
in viewing and learning about wildlife. This occurred in the U.S.
and Europe at a parallel level of economic development, and is also
happening now in China. This will be good for animals eventually, as
introduction opens the way for appreciation and empathy. Meanwhile,
there is an urgent need to revive the pride that Islamic zoo builders
and keepers once took in giving their animals the best facilities and
On September 29, 2004 Associated Press described the
emergence of at least three privately operated roadside zoos along
the Cairo-Alexandria highway, and described how Zambezi Rest Stop
menagerie owner Tarek A. Makarem entertains visitors by feeding live
pigs to lions. Ahmed El Sherbiny soon documented the practice in a
photo sequence e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
On October 4, Marine Connection cofounder Liz Sandeman
issued an Internet appeal for protest letters on behalf of the
dolphins and beluga whales kept at Dolphinella, a “swim with
dolphins” facility in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. Photos at the Marine
Connection web site indicate that Dolphinella is a pretty facility,
but much too small to maintain the animals in good health.
Of importance to note is that both the Zambezi Rest Stop zoo
and Dolphinella appear to be better environments than many U.S.
roadside zoos and dolphin attractions of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Feeding animals alive to large carnivores to thrill crowds was a
relatively common roadside zoo practice in the U.S. as recently as
the 1960s, and was not completely ended until the USDA closed the
former Steel City Petting Zoo in Florida in mid-1996.
The issue is not that our animal exhibition venues are
“better” than those of Egypt; rather, it is that those of Egypt
must be encouraged to become better than they are.
Improving zoos may yet become the middle ground where the
humane communities of the Islamic world and the rest of the world
find ways to assist each other. Americans and Europeans are still
helping to rebuild the Kabul and Baghdad zoos, and none of those
people, to our knowledge, have been kidnapped or beheaded yet. We
hope their work on behalf of animals is sufficiently respected even
by dedicated opponents of the U.S. presence that no harm ever comes
to them, and that the outreach projects begun on the zoo grounds to
help dogs, cats, horses, and livestock are able to thrive and
Meanwhile, every bomb and bullet that kills anyone who isn’t
shooting back, every murder of civilians by vengeful guerillas for
cooperating with increasingly hated Americans, and every posturing
statement by the Bush administration further inhibits the
opportunities for helping animals–or children, or women–anywhere
in the Islamic world.
We may be caregivers, but to people who don’t yet know us,
we look too much like the enemy.