Friday, May 29, 2015

1864. On Animal Rights in Cuba

By Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez, Havana Times, May 28, 2015

HAVANA TIMES – I recall how, back in primary school, we used to shower white herons with rocks while heading back home from school. Poor things, they’ve never been anything but “worthless” to common people in Cuba.

I also remember the death-squads made up of little boys and girls from my block. They took the whole thing very seriously.

They took to the street with a mental inventory of potential victims: reptiles, insects, mammals, plants and even someone’s younger brother. A child guerrilla at war with nature. What were the adults doing in the meantime?

Well, they were preparing snacks and telling the kids to do their homework, indifferent to the “bio-technology lab” the little ones had set up in front of their homes.
Then, there’s the question as to the media, schools, NGOs and other social institutions that deal with the issue. Very little of what these institutions do actually reach primary schoolers.

Speeches alone do not change people’s behavior. Rather, they tend to define positions and give what people have already defined in their imaginaries a name or a path to follow. Sensitivity towards animal life usually exists prior to receiving an educational message about this, and such empathy towards animals is painfully missing in Cuba.
The point of departure must be the individual’s life-world. Society must take part in this, but it must do so from the daily life of people, from the notions these people have of their surroundings.

Much is said about progress made by First World countries in the area of animal protection, but it all basically boils down to obeying the law.

The point is that fulfilling the law does not necessarily entail any sense of the dignity of animals, a central tenet of ecological thinking. It rather works as a preventive measure or expresses the fear of being punished by the authorities.

This isn’t to say that an animal protection law wouldn’t help make the situation of animal rights on the island less precarious, but it wouldn’t be a solution to the problem, particularly when we bear in mind that any implementation of such norms would leave a lot to be desired in terms of the efficiency of control mechanisms.

Something needs to be set in motion in our country; we must start somewhere – by supporting the work that animal protection organizations (such as ANIPLANT) have been doing for quite some time, for instance.

We shouldn’t continue to accept violence against animals by people of any age.
We must put an end to those terrible scenes of extreme violence, and we must also eliminate this other form of concealed violence, such as those armies of children who attack pigeons at parks and squares with the consent of adults.

If these are the boys and girls who represent the world’s hope, then we can only hope for a future world that is profoundly cruel towards animal life. Let us then pray for the white herons.

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