Egypt, a land once full of animals, life and greenery.
Today it is a land where animals are forgotten and greenery taken away to build houses and buildings.
Although you have beautiful areas, like the dessert and the oasis, the areas/towns around the Nile and big cities are chaos. And animal rights?
We met people who love animals, and sadly we met more that don’t open their mouths or really do not care.
When people keep their mouths shut, while noticing unacceptable behavior to animals, it will not change.
Will it change when you say or do something? YES!
People may not change, but their behavior does.
We visited a few shelters and organisations that work hard for the rights of animals and their health. Although we found some on the internet, we must say it is something you have to look for. When you walk around the (especially tourist) areas it is hard to believe that there are animal welfare organisations working so hard for so many animals.
There are two things you can conclude from this: There are this many animals who are mistreated and only a few of them all are treated properly, or that the people at the organisations do not work hard enough to get to all the animals. Well, the last one we have to laugh very hard over because we saw the most hardworking and efficient people we met in Egypt. And that is not because they work for such a good cause, that is because it is the truth. The people working at the organisations are hard-working, loving, open, friendly and especially very efficient and intelligent. Some work as vets, some do the cleaning and others do both. These people are tired, but they are not tired of their job. They are tired of how people keep treating the animals.
So back to the conclusions, we can say that there are this many animals mistreated in Egypt and that is a very hard and sad conclusion. We learned that it is, for example, cheaper to buy a new horse than to buy some food for it. So people let them starve and buy a new one if they need to. That is horrible, nobody can object to that. We do know people are trying to make some money, and some will say this is just business, but is it? Is a living being business? Is your child just business? Is your dog or cat at home just business? Because business can mean a lot of things and we believe that an animal can be a partner in business, they should not be a victim.
And what about the government? The good thing is that some of the organisations work well together and fight for better treatment and animal rights. Although you have some influential people, like Amina Abaza who also created SPARE, the government on itself does not give the animals any rights to any extent and the battle for it is real.
We do know that tourism is very important for Egypt, because of its economy. This means that if more and more tourists would stand up for what they see and find during their trip, and send an email or message to the government that this is utterly disturbing, the government needs to crack at some point. This effects the tourism industry tremendously, people do not want to come back because of all the horror and people do not have a good time because of it.
One of the shelters we visited was a shelter of ESMA, Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, which contained 800 dogs and at least 500 cats. That is shocking, right?
What is even more shocking, is how clean and organized it was. When we entered the dog shelter, we had no appointment and did not speak the language. With a warm smile we were welcomed inside to see what this shelter looks like and how the animals are living in their habitat. To us, that is a very good sign if we can just knock on the door and (ofcourse when there is no emergency situation) we can look inside to see what the organisation/shelter does.
Although they had some other animals like donkeys in the back, the main focus was on dogs. And there were a lot of them: big and small, streetdogs and pets, wounded and healthy. Is there a limit to take dogs in? Yes, but sadly it is unrealistic because there are so many animals that are damaged and wounded that need a safe place. Dogs and cats on the streets are sold to countries like China or they are shot by the government. A lot of dogs are tortured or hit by cars when they live on the street, so the limit in this shelter is not an amount. The limit is love, and luckily for these adorable little creatures they have a lot of it. They know each of the dogs by name, by character and by health status. You can not ask for more.
The cat shelter of ESMA is a special place as well. Coming inside they have quite a few dogs as well but they walk around freely and follow the caregivers everywhere they go. This shelter was inside of a building with around four floors. Some cats were in cages because they were wounded but most of them walked around on the floor amongst each other. Once in a while you hear a hiss from one to another but in general they live very peacefully together, if you consider the amount of cats on one floor. The most incredible thing we noticed immediately walking in was the lack of catsmell in the room. Mentioning this to the caregivers, they even told us that they do need to clean that floor still. So it can be even more squeeky clean?
For cats who just came in and have skin diseases or other health problems, there is a separate room so they have enough space to enjoy themselves. Also, in every general area for the animals there are windows (with protection ofcourse), so there is enough clean air for the small furballs.
Cats have the same problems as dogs on the streets. You see beautiful cats that are mistreated, run over or wounded by people. But here, you see them flourish in the cat they once used to be. Next to cats, you see randomly a newborn puppy in a cage, that is found on the street on its own without a mother. It is a true joy to be there, to see those living beings getting another chance, surrounded by people who are doing the best they can and even more than that.
The shelters give medicine as well, and after finding out that there are just around three people working per shelter it is astonishing how they can keep it so clean, give all the animals their medicine and make the dogs and cats feel at home. I want to applaud for that, people who are truly doing what they believe in and making a change with that.
Next to the cat shelter of ESMA, ESAF is located. ESAF, or Egyptian Society of Animal Friends, is a free clinic where people can go to when an animal is hurt. Not just dogs or cats but sheep and other animals as well. Their free clinic contains an operating room where there are qualified vets working, a rehabilitation area, and a shelter for animals that do not have a home to return to. There is also a monkey that has its own space, that is rescued and adopted by ESAF. We spoke with some of the workers and vets here and you see that they really appreciate this working environment and the effort that is put into it. And speaking with doctor Ahmed El Sherbiny it is clear that this feeling is reciprocated.
ESAF does not only have the clinic and shelter, they also give education about this subject to children in the area and at schools, do research about the slaughterhouses in Egypt and show this to the world and try to raise awareness for animal rights in politics. They also go to the horses, donkeys and dromedaries at the pyramids three times a week to feed them and take care of them when needed. They also hand out information for owners to educate them about what is best for their animals and how to recognize some injuries. This situation is that bad that you hardly see the effect of this hard work as a tourist, because of the amount of malnourished and mistreated animals around the pyramids. Although they try to create more sustainable measures for problems like horses or donkeys standing in the heat of the sun all day without any water available at any time (two times a day they get some water to drink), it is rejected by the local government.
Another interesting paperback I got from them is about the Islamic view on animal mistreatment. It is something a lot of people think of when they see this in a country or area where people are strict believers, in this case Islamic. How is this acceptable to God? How can people do this while believing in God and praying everyday? Aren’t animals, like we, created by God as well?
ESAF hands out a book and speaks about this, how indeed Islamic people should know better and treat every living being with respect and care.
Even though you may not like it or see it the way others see it, keep your respect because it will only reflect on you.
We also went to a horse, mule and donkey shelter, called Egypt Equine Aid. This was not just a shelter, it was a ranch with proper stables and medical equipment.
The horses and donkeys all have different stories. Some got infected because of using a needle twice by ‘cheaper vets’. Others are very malnourished or got ugly wounds due to mistreatment. Some got left behind because the owners do not care or do not want the animal anymore. Others were brought in by owners and picked up again when they are ready to leave.
The stables are funded by people all over the world and donations keep the place running. When we arrived, we arrived with three lovely ladies who brought in a suitcase full of useful equipment for the horses and donkeys. These good deeds are not just an extra for this shelter, it is needed equipment that they can use for medical or everyday treatment.
The people working there come from vet school, which is not the best learning place you can have. Apparently most of the people who finished university never even touched a horse, and have no practical medical experience whatsoever. One of the things that does happen, is teachers recommending students to take animals from the street, injure them and practice on them. This all without any anesthesia or maybe even other medication, leaving the animal to die after experimenting on them. There have been different news articles in Egypt about this gruesome situation because of all the stories that appear from vet students. While some vet students think it is crazy to even think of doing these kinds of things, a lot of students are not in it for the animals but just failed at human medical school.
So having new vets around, means that they need a proper training and takes some time as well. The founders, Jill and Warren Barton, “sold their family home plus almost everything they had, moved to Abu Sir in Cairo, and established EEA.” Meeting Jill was very comforting, seeing how caring and solid she is and the work she puts into it. The people working with her have the same energy and you notice how contagious the work of Jill and Warren is to those around them.
So a lot of abuse. Hearing from people, who work in this industry for more than ten to twenty years, that Egypt is one of the worst countries if we talk about animal mistreatment is a big pill to swallow. Egypt, the land once mighty and the roots of many. Now, a country where people cringe over the situation animals live in and where people need to fight to keep the heads of animals above water. Let us live together, if you are a believer or not. We are in an ecosystem, we are not thé ecosystem. We are part of an animal kingdom, let there be a kingdom.
Always spread the word and give your voice to the ones that can not do it for themselves.
Want to donate to the organisations we mentioned in this article? Check the links below and know that every penny is used for the good.
ESAF: A few words about their work and the link to their Facebook
Video about the camel market (mistreatment is shown)