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A ‘SOCIAL JUSTICE’ PARADISE: Animal rights in Marxist Communist Cuba. Is there hope?

It's impossible to ban animal sacrifice in Cuba, said animal welfare president Maria Gloria Vidal. 'We don't want to have to punish anyone for cruel or denigrating acts towards animals'.

KATEL ABIVEN: Havana’s streets teem with abandoned animals and are littered with carcasses of chickens sacrificed in religious rituals, while, behind closed doors, dogs are thrown into illegal deadly fights… Cuba’s streets are full of dogs and cats in a poor state, often abandoned for economic reasons. The lucky ones are picked up by individuals or animal welfare groups who sometimes go hungry to feed them…

In Havana’s San Miguel del Padron neighborhood, 49-year-old housewife Noris Perez organizes her life around 23 cats and 38 rugged dogs, the first of which was rescued eight years ago from a pavement where it was suffering from epileptic fits… “All this I do alone” with a little help from her husband, daughter and sometimes some neighbors, she says.The hardest part is feeding them, given that the average Cuban wage is $40 a month and shortages are frequent…

In the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, Grettel Montes de Oca, 48, lives with 55 cats and four dogs that roam freely all over her house, except the living room… She’s set up a foundation to protect animals that is tolerated by authorities, although not legal. An animal rights law “is the dream of all animal defenders, especially in Cuba where we’ve been fighting for 33 years for that.” “We are amongst the most backward countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she added. “It’s as if animals don’t exist in Cuba”…

The change can in part be attributed to the arrival in 2018 of 3G internet on mobile telephones that has allowed people to mobilize via social media… The emergence of a middle class due to the development of the private sector since 2010 following Cuba’s opening up to tourism has also contributed… Like several other Latin American governments in recent years faced with a more demanding middle class, the Cuban state has been forced to consider their wishes.

The new law is on the home straight in the hands of the agriculture ministry. “The Decree Law will be approved in November … by the State Council and will be ratified by the National Assembly,” said Yisell Socorro, a ministry lawyer. The aim of the new law is to “guarantee the physical and mental integrity of animals.””Respect for animals, the need to avoid mistreatment, abuse, acts of cruelty and above all the realization that animals are sensitive beings that feel pain and pleasure,” added Socorro.

The national animal welfare committee, meanwhile, is focusing on “an educational process”. “We don’t want to have to punish anyone for cruel or denigrating acts towards animals,” said the committee’s president Maria Gloria Vidal. While offenders could be hit with fines and even prison sentences, the main aim is to change attitudes because “the science of animal welfare is something new.”

There’s also the issue of confronting a religious tradition of animal sacrifice amongst the Santeria cult — a religion created in Cuba that mixes Catholicism with the Nigerian Yoruba faith brought to the island nation by slaves… It’s not unusual to come across decapitated chickens or pigeons in the streets of Havana as Santeria is the most popular religion on the island.

Depending on which divinity is invoked and the favor sought — such as good health or a child — rams, goats, roosters, pigeons, hutias (a rodent), dogs and cats can all be sacrificed in secret rituals… Even more controversial is the question of cock and dog fights. Often organized in secret at out of town locations, these combats to the death between two specially trained animals are often so savage that the victor also succumbs to its injuries. “Dog combats are totally banned,” said Vidal. That’s not the case for cock fighting, though. It’s an activity that is so anchored in Cuban culture that the family of late revolutionary hero Fidel Castro owned a fighting ring.

It will remain legal “in very specific cases of associations or organizations, for a competition or an event”… “It would be practically impossible to ban animal sacrifice in Cuba as it’s part of this religion’s rituals,” said Vidal… “But we can work to guarantee the wellbeing of the animals that are reared and used in these rituals” so that those are “carried out in the quickest, less stressful way possible for the animals.” SOURCE…

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