Animal advocacy rumbles to life in the Islamic world
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2006:
BALI–“Humane Society Inter-national disaster response
assessment teams have been on the ground in Yogyakarta, Bentul, and
Klaten,” in Java, Indonesia, “since May 28, one day after the 5.9
magnitude earthquake struck,” HSI Asia consultant Dawn Peacock
e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on May 31.
“Today,” Peacock added, “HSI sent a vet to join the already
tired assessment team, and we are making a plan based on the
information we get back. The most likely needs so far are food,
water and basic first aid and shelter for stray or lost animals.
“Preliminary assessments have found that there is a need to
help animals who have survived the earthquake and are left without
guardians to provide adequate food and water,” Peacock continued.
“Shelters for the animals have been destroyed. Two days of rain
following the earthquake intensified the need for action. Immediate
action is also needed to provide first aid and medical care to
injured and distressed animals.”
Peacock previously helped to lead the HSI Asia response to
the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the October 2005 Pakistan
HSI Asia had foreseen a possible need for disaster relief
help in Java for about two weeks, after volcanic activity began on
Mount Merapi. “Animals in this area were not in 100% good condition
pre-earthquake,” said HSI Asia coordinator Sherry Grant, “and just
don’t have enough body resources to get them through without food and
HSI Asia is partnering in Java with the World Society for the
Protection of Animals and the Yudisthira Foundation, founded by
Grant in 1998. Best known for the Bali Street Dog Project,
Yudisthira has also worked since 2003 to introduce humane slaughter
to the Javanese livestock industry.
“Animals [in Java] are valued,” said Yudisthira farm animal
rescue team coordinator I Wayan Mudiarta. “The people just need
time to get on their feet, and still have animals and a livelihood
to come back to.”
Grant acknowledges the paradoxes of keeping animals alive in
a crisis, only to be slaughtered soon afterward, and of seeking to
make slaughter more efficient when HSI policy now opposes killing
animals for human consumption. But Grant also believes that
developing a humane ethic in Indonesia must begin by encouraging
residents to recognize moral obligations to the animals in whom they
already have a personal interest. Most often the animals in an
Indonesian home are livestock, kept for eventual slaughter, not
pets. Most dogs are street dogs; most cats are feral.
The HSI/Yudisthira team represents perhaps the most ambitious
humane project serving the world’s fourth most populous nation,
struggling to respond to recent disasters also including the
Decem-ber 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and recurring outbreaks of the
avian influenza strain H5N1.
“We are concerned that people using poultry sheds as shelter
are at risk from avian flu and possibly salmonella infection,” said
Yolanda Bayugo, health director for the London-based aid group
Merlin, in statements to Agence France-Presse and Associated Press,
but World Health Organization epidemiologist Peter Mala disagreed.
“I don’t think the emergency has placed people at closer risk
of avian flu,” said Mala, who was already doing disease
surveillance in the area when the earthquake hit. “I don’t think the
disaster has brought people closer to poultry than they were before,”
H5N1 as of June 1, 2006 had killed 37 Indonesians, 26 of
them in 2006,
among 127 human fatalities worldwide. As at the scenes of other
H5N1 outbreaks throughout Asia, Europe, and parts of Africa, caged
chickens and other poultry were killed by any means available to try
to keep the potentially deadly disease from afflicting either more
humans or more birds.
Almost none of the killing was done with humane oversight.
Indonesian agriculture ministry animal health director
Syamsul Bahri told Reuters in mid-May 2006 that fighting cocks
possibly smuggled to Papua from neighboring Sulawesi island caused
the first H5N1 outbreak in Papua, in April. Gamecocks were killed
along with other domestic birds known to have been exposed to H5N1,
but there was no reported effort to halt cockfighting.
Indonesia has almost no organized humane community, let
alone organizations strong enough to challenge cockfighting and the
Neither is there a deep tradition of organized humane work in
most of the rest of the Islamic world. Most majority Islamic nations
have at least one humane society, often founded by British,
French, German, or American expatriates close to a century ago.
But few of the expatriate organizations have successfully used the
many pro-animal teachings of Mohammed and the rich tradition of
pro-animal Islamic literature to develop authentic cultural
resonance. Many are instead perceived as Christian missionary
outposts, or hobbies of dilettantes, who are far removed from the
day-to-day struggles of poor people.
Barrier issues have included lack of ability to reach out in
fluent Arabic; conflict over hallal slaughter, especially at the
Feast of Atonement, when amateur slaughter is often practiced in
public; and, most of all, pervasive fear of dogs in much of the
Islamic world, overlapping many of the regions with the most
persistent endemic rabies.
Often hostility toward dogs is mistakenly believed by both
locals and expatriates to have a foundation in Islam.
Mohammed was certainly concerned about rabies. On one
occasion, during a rabies outbreak within a walled city, recalled
in Hadith 4:539, Mohammed ordered that all dogs within the walls
should be killed, to stop the outbreak by killing the disease vector.
This is exactly what most of the world still does to combat
H5N1 and other serious diseases of poultry and livestock. Futile in
open habitat, where animals can freely migrate, “stamping out”
succeeds in closed habitats such as barns and stockyards.
Before vaccines were developed, “stamping out” was the only
way that anyone knew to fight rabies and many other contagious
But Mohammed was not anti-dog. He taught in Hadith 4:538
that a prostitute was forgiven by Allah for untying her head covering
and using it as a rope to drop her shoe to draw water from a well for
a dog who was dying of thirst.
Besides directly contradicting several of the most rigid
behavioral proscriptions of Islam, the woman put herself at risk if
the dog was “hydrophobic,” a Greek term for rabies which literally
means “afraid of water,” but actually refers to the inability of
thirsty rabid animals to drink.
The advent of the Internet appears to be sparking a humane
awakening throughout the Islamic world, in part by enabling women to
do things for animals even when their free dom of movement remains
In the western world, women do more than 85% of the
household pet care, and may do even more in the Islamic world,
where relatively few women work outside the home. From the
beginnings of the organized humane movement about 200 years ago,
women have also formed more than 80% of both the animal protection
donor base and the animal advocacy volunteer workforce–but in
societies where women have had little ability to organize activities
beyond their own neighborhoods, few have found ways to donate and
volunteer to help animals, beyond doorstep dog and cat feeding.
Now the isolated doorstep dog and cat feeders are beginning
to find each other, exchange information, and reach out for help.
Often the appeal comes too late, exemplified by frantic
requests for e-mails of protest against dog poisonings or shootings
which have already occurred, for which no one in authority admits
Equally often, the appeal is for financial help with futile
projects, such as trying to shelter all of the dogs at risk in a
particular city, lest they be poisoned or shot.
However, through correspondence with the outside world,
Islamic world activists are beginning to learn about humane animal
control strategy, including ways and means of providing affordable
high-volume dog and cat sterilization.
Turkey, largely through the efforts of Friends of Fethiyea
Animals founder Perihan Agnelli, has since 2004 had a law making
neuter/return dog and cat population control the official national
policy. The law also requires shelters to have a veterinarian, and
mandates a 10-day holding period for strays, to permit keepers to
reclaim them. If the animals are not claimed, they are to be
sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the locations where they
The Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt,
Egyptian Society of Animal Friends, and Egyptian Federation for
Animal Welfare, headed by attorney Ahmed El Sherbiny, hope to
emulate the Turkish success.
As in Turkey, Egyptian city governments still tend to favor
poisoning, which keeps patronage employees on the payroll, and is
done repeatedly, since the surviving animals quickly breed back up
to the carrying capacity of the habitat.
“In an article today in the El Masry El Youm daily newspaper
on the last page,” related SPARE board member Mona Khalil on May 4,
2006, “Cairo Veterinary Author-ity chief Dr. Hussein Khalafalla
announced that in cooperation with the mounted police department and
Cairo cleaning sanitation deparment they will start a new dog and cat
poisoning campaign,” delayed while the officials involved were
killing birds to combat H5N1.
Though expected, this was a disappointment, as animal
advocates had hoped that the hiatus would illustrate the futility of
killing dogs and cats for population control.
“In January 2006,” Khalil continued, “the Cairo Veterinary
Authority killed 3,000 dogs, but due to their work on the avian flu,
they only killed 183 dogs and 971 cats in February, and 124 dogs and
935 cats in March.”
The killing is done with strychnine baits.
Also on May 4, 2006, the Daily Times, of Karachi,
Pakistan, reported that, “City Naib Nazim Nasreen Jalil [has] suggested to Korean consul general Suckchul Chang the possibility of
sending the stray dogs of the city to Korea. She said that if this
proposal materialized, it would help rid the city of the dog menace.”
“Coincidentally, I met Nasreen Jalil at a play last night,”
Pakistan Animal Welfare Society representative Mahera Omar e-mailed
to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Her statement from yesterday did not come up as it
was a fleeting meeting, but I did mention that I would like to
interview her for my animal show on Geo TV. I will ask her about the
stray dog issue then.”
Omar mentioned that Karachi officials “keep carrying on the
poisonings on and off” that ANIMAL PEOPLE exposed in a June 2005
cover feature entitled “‘Madness’ in Karachi rabies response.”
Meanwhile, Internet acti-vists, including Pakistan-born
computer industry professionals, are informing as many officials as
have e-mail that poisoning dogs is not acceptable to the
best-educated and most economically successful part of the officials’
Even in Turkey, the law against dog-killing is still widely
disregarded, and not yet actively enforced by the federal
government. The implementation rules were only introduced at the
beginning of June 2006, and reportedly leave the fate of the
thousands of dogs who are already in pounds unclear. Reports of dogs
being rounded up and starved or killed routinely reach ANIMAL PEOPLE
from Ankara, Bahcesehir, Erdek, Marmek, and elsewhere.
But the Friends of Fethiyea Animals sterilization campaign is
training ever more veterinarians and educating ever more mayors, in
more cities, while perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the
continuing dog massacres is that many of them are being reported and
Pre-Internet, they were little noted beyond where they
occurred, and no one was advancing an alternative on a viable scale.