“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” ~ Nelson Mandela
The mistreatment of animals is an all too common reality in every nation, including our own. The fact that our nation is ethical enough to insist dogs and cats be handled humanely, but still allow the modern day death camps of factory farming to exist, astonishes me.
Here in America, we are compassionate only when it suits us—but I do think, and fervently hope, the tide is beginning to turn.
Based on the exponential increase in vegetarianism and veganism, the elevated concern for where our food, particularly animal products, comes from, and the more strident support for animal rights, it is apparent that the times are changing.
So it was with a heavy heart that I watched this news clip about how stray dogs in Sochi, Russia, are being poisoned in an attempt to clean up the city for the Olympics:
This sound byte was actually the least graphic and horrific of all the videos I researched for this piece.
The words that initially caught my eye were “These dogs are biological trash.”, a quote from the Sochi pest control company which I happened to find on Animals Australia’s Facebook page. The story I then read was devastating.
In preparation for the Olympics, Vladimir Putin has made several questionable decisions, including building a wall to hide the low rent district of Sochi—the “picturesque” town where the games will be held—and spending in excess of $50 billion dollars in construction (to date still unfinished) and incidentals such as the ability to make snow, since Sochi is “a region more associated with warmer weather.”
Another inconvenient detail Putin is trying to manage is the massive stray dog population. Stray dogs in Sochi, as in many parts of the world (Puerto Rico for one, where years ago my family found and brought home a mangy little black and brown stray we named Charlie, the smartest dog I’ve ever met) are a fact of life, and they live on the streets like so many nameless beggars.
This, in itself, is a travesty—a travesty well within the government’s ability to control given enough time and the appropriate resources (maybe a few dollars from that $50 billion would help)—but to compound the cruelty of the situation by poisoning these animals, and letting them suffer and die so horrifically is beyond comprehension.
While some dogs are lucky enough to be temporarily housed in a shelter on the outskirts of Sochi, run by a group of dedicated volunteers, most are on their own, left to face the most gruesome death.
I’ve written articles in the past about the emotional lives of animals, the existence of which has been debated for centuries, but which by any measure I am certain is the equal to our own. If I am right, these are our fellow souls wrapped in fur with wagging tails, not “biological trash.”
As we watch the Olympics this year (or don’t, because even though it is a great show, I for one am refusing to buy into the machine), let’s not forget all the sacrifices that have been made for the show to go on. Olympic athletes have battled for years to get to this elite level—but they aren’t being asked to give their lives.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Mandy Dale via Flickr