Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Expat Focus: Animals and Activism in Egypt...Part 1

Well, since this is supposed to (soon) be an expat blog and I am plugging it as such, I guess it's time to give another personal rave/rant on something about Egypt. In light of Kenya's recent death, I decided to discuss the "animal situation" there.

First of all let me say that the treatment of animals in Egypt takes some getting used to. Maybe if I had been raised on a farm I might have a different perspective. But being a city girl who never quite associated a NY strip steak with a cow, I was woefully naive on this subject. Now I'm not really going to talk about the conditions of cows and chickens, etc--those animals that are raised for food or milk, Because I think they are probably the best treated of all Egypt's animals, but I do wish to discuss "pets" and working animals.

There are now probably more animals being kept as pets there than ever before, especially among the richer folks. If food prices keep going up though we may find a lot of abandoned dogs--just what Egypt needs--but I surely hope not! But currently a lot more people are keeping dogs, which is strange because dogs are basically considered nijas (unclean) in some schools of thought in Islam. I don't happen to believe that, and in this subject I follow the rulings of an ancient scholar called Imam Malik, but the majority of Egyptians don't want to be around a dog, don't want to be touched by one--most are even scared of them. Of course the fact that their are packs of wild dogs running lose doesn't help to ease their minds. Those dogs are basically wild, tired and hungry. And as such could be dangerous, although I've been around some myself and they were quite calm actually. Maybe it depends on the vibe you give off. But I think the so-called "higher class" tendency to keep dogs is just an attempt to appear more modern, liberal and western. It's a silly status kind of thing.

Sadly, many wild dogs are murdered by the government. I say "murdered" because their intentional killing via poison or gunfire (1 bullet + 1 animal = a slow and agonizing end) seems to me an outright act of unnecessary death.

Cats are a different story. Definitely more people keeps cats over dogs, but even so, people owning pets period is just not a common occurrence. When you struggle to feed your kids--and many people do--pets are the last thing on your mind. They are entirely permissible in the religion, and in fact of revered companion of the Prophet Muhammad was nicknamed Abu Hurayrah, which means "father of the cats" because of his love for them. Mixed breed cats are basically street cats, and purebreds like Siamese and Himalayan are bred and fetch a pretty price from those who can afford them. The feral cat population is out of control over there--at least to my western eyes. Cats are everywhere. Though wild, they usually don't harm anybody if you leave them alone, and there's no doubt they do their part in keeping the vermin population under control. And like feral cats everywhere unfortunately, many of them are sickly and most die too young from either disease or a violent accident. Some even, I am sorry to say, are beaten or stoned to death. Yes, you find those sickos everywhere, which again is such a shame as Islam enjoins upon us love for all of God's creatures. Pork is haram (forbidden) to eat and also considered nijas but that doesn't mean we are allowed to abuse a pig. Our religion is one of mercy. I am happy to say though that on my last trip in 2006 I found so many cats being fed in the souks (open air markets) and alleys. Apparently people were feeding them, laying out falafal ;-) or fish heads or bones with actual meat on them--that was a surprise. And the cats were looking a tad healthier than I'd ever seen them before. Maybe with the upsurge in the study of the religion, the Egyptians are also better understanding their obligations to our furry friends! And other than parakeets and love birds which some people keep on their balconies, or pigeons kept for sport, pets just aren't a big deal in Egypt.

I think the expat community tends to take care of these strays as much as they can. I've seen foreigners allowing animals to eat out of their hands. Many are saddened by the conditions of domesticated animals over there and do their best to defend and protect them, while at the same time trying to educate their Egyptian neighbors in regards to animal care and compassion. I am thrilled that there are now shelters and rescues such as SPARE in Giza, Animal Haven in Maadi, and the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends in Maadi to name just a few. They were founded by caring Egyptian and expat animal lovers who are striving against high odds to save lives. May Allah bless them.

Insha Allah, one day soon, Kenya's Haven will join them in Port Said!!! Stay tuned for Part 2 on working animals in Egypt.


Safa said...

Let me tell you something scary about the wild dogs in Egypt....because I lived there for 7 years, I saw a lot of them. But one year, there was this group of 8 dogs that I always saw running around together. This group had one lame dog who hopped, rather than run with them. The group "tolerated" him. I watched them nip him, exclude him from eating....and he always hopped along behind the pack. I felt bad for that one.

But then something changed with this group....I watched them twice "play" with a cat that they were intending to eat. Rather than kill it and eat it.....they threw it back and forth to each other.....I've never seen dogs do that. And then the last I was walking to the store, my then 3 yr old daughter was running ahead of me....I saw the pack of dogs approaching and one of them made a jump for her. Quick as anything, I ran at my daughter and scooped her up.

Then I went right home and called the "Dog Police". Its the number that you call for them to send around a pick up truck with two officers in it with their guns.

Yes, ur right. They shoot the bullet each. (But their aim sucks, so they terrorize the dogs first) Then they scoop those dogs into the back of the truck and drive off.

For years I felt appalled watching the Dog Police do this.......but this one time that I made the call.....I was happy to see those violent dogs taken care of.

So my question is.....Are there ever times when having a dog put down is humane? How do we decide?

Queen O'Danile said...

Salam Safa! Oh, I absolutely believe there are times a dog must be humanely euthanized. The key word is "humane". In the USA here, they capture dogs who appear to be dangerous, take them to a shelter, and some try to rehabilitate them and make them people friendly and adoptable. I understand Egypt does not have these resources. But, they could use a catch pole to take them to the numerous animal shelters that are springing up. Or they could use a dart gun to inject them with lethal drugs were they wont die a violent death. Or even a normal dart gun to sedate them until they can put a "humane" bullet in their heads.

I can understand your need to call. I would have done the same thing myself I think. But what I am sure about is day the powers that be--let me spell it out--the Mubarak regime--will have to answer for this horrific "sport" of terrorizing and then shooting or poisoning the animals. With a regime as corrupt as his is, and him and so many of his cronies making millions in bribery and corruption, surely Allah will hold him accountable for this evil treatment towards Allah's creatures that he didnt deem worthy enough of spending some money on. These animals are "amana" on us, and all I am saying is, there are better ways to do it.

And by the way, I'd venture to say that almost anyone in any kind of law enforcement over there is just plain mean and nasty and enjoys terrorizing people. It would follow they'd get a big kick out of terrorizing and torturing animals. May Allah change things--and soon!

Cairogal said...

It's these layers upon layers of problems. The dog population goes unchecked. The dogs natually form packs and revert to feral-like behaviour. Attacking small "creatures" be they cats or children becomes a natural behaviour. So the problem goes unchecked (without humane prevention), and then the Egyptian government does what they do best..ok "second best": they react by shooting them. What they do best is ignore, and that's the problem! Animals are running wild w/o a proper food source. What do they expect but an overgrown animal population that often has the potential to turn hostile (I recall Safa's cat story from last year...makes me sick to my stomach).

If it were me, I would devise a plan to catch and release as many males as possible. It would have to be very aggressive. The idea would be to erradicate the wild dog population (and cats) within x years. Fixing males is cheaper, easier, and less likely to require follow-up vet care.

E, you've got a big task ahead of you, but it's not impossible. Today: Port Said. Tomorrow: Cairo! When you're done w/ the animal population I can think of a few male humans that need fixin'.

Queen O'Danile said...

CG--how very inhumane of you. I was going to practice on the men first! Dont want the dogs to suffer. ;-)))