In less than a year, the city of Dubai will host the long-awaited Expo 2020. The organizers of the international exhibition, moved to October 2021 because of the pandemic, argue that the reduction of biodiversity and the environmental crisis that threatens the humanity are among his top priorities.
It is therefore more scandalous and outrageous for animal lovers and defenders, both in the Emirate and around the world, the decision of the local authorities to sweep entire colonies of cats from the streets of Dubai, many of which had already been sterilized at the expense of private citizens. In addition, this elimination program – by the way, carried out by pest control companies – has also caused the disappearance of family animals that used to have a home.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic (which some believe – without scientific evidence – that it can be transmitted by cats), thousands of animals have disappeared from the streets, parks and gardens of Dubai, as a result of an intense and inhumane campaign of capture and sacrifice by the municipal authorities.
In this country, one of the richest in the world, heartbreaking images and videos of animal abuse have been posted on social media: kittens dying of starvation, skeletal cats abandoned on the streets, packs of hungry dogs roaming the outskirts of cities in search of water, food and care.
This relentless intensive campaign of elimination mainly affects the Arabian Mau, the native feline breed, which on the other hand the United Arab Emirates has endeavored to make internationally recognized as an official breed related to the Pharaoh’s cats. But there are also hundreds of Persian cats and Saluki dogs, the desert hunting dogs that traditionally accompanied the Bedouins.
Volunteers on the ground – asking to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation – report that some healthy animals have been euthanized, others poisoned, and many more relocated and abandoned in desert areas, condemned there to slow death from starvation and thirst. .
Another example of this campaign against the rights of animals (of the stray in particular) is that recently veterinary clinics have been required not to help animals that are in a situation of abandonment and rescue groups. With the sole exception of some organization that is owned and managed by Emirati citizens. The rest of the rescue groups, which were legal until September, have been shut down and required to re-register – a very long, opaque and often failed period.
Also since last September 2020, citizens can not even perform such basic acts of compassion as feeding an animal without running the risk of receiving a fine of up to 1000 AED (more than 220 euros). Groups that continued to ask for funds to pay outstanding food and veterinary bills have been fined AED 50,000 (more than € 11,000).
Meanwhile, the same groups have been left with hundreds of animals in their care, unable to pay for food and veterinary bills, and not even allowed to seek foster homes or adoptions.
Several animal welfare organizations (such as the Humane Society International, Brigitte Bardot Foundation, OIPA International, Save the Dogs and Other Animals, Icatcare and World Animal Protection) have raised their concerns with the authorities and have called on Dubai and the United Arab Emirates to stop slaughter and instead fund more humane population control methods proven around the world, such as CER (Capture – Spay – Return), to reduce the population of stray animals.
French actress Brigitte Bardot has taken the step of writing a personal letter to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, begging him to be compassionate and order to stop the slaughter. So far there has been no response.
This cat capture and slaughter campaign is just the latest evidence to show – once again – that the country still has a long way to go when it comes to animal welfare.
Trafficking of exotic and endangered animals
Despite being a signatory to the CITES treaty (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the United Arab Emirates has also been the subject of international outrage for its role in trafficking in protected species, which is also one of the main sources of income for various international terrorist organizations. This wildlife trade includes primates, reptiles, and big cats. The charismatic lions, cheetahs, chimpanzees and orangutans are usually the most in demand. The desire of the Gulf countries to have exotic pets drives a huge demand that puts some species in danger. For example, the cheetah is on the verge of extinction: only 1 in 6 cheetahs survive the journey and few make it past the first year in captivity, as the owners do not provide all the care that these animals need.
In January 2017, following mounting pressure from animal welfare groups, the government banned owning, buying, selling or abusing all types of dangerous, wild and exotic animals. On paper. Little work remains to be done to enforce these standards for the most part: online illegal sales of wildlife and private zoos remain common.
According to a recent report, the major international airports in the Arab region are among the world’s leading wildlife trafficking transit centers. Organizations and volunteers are frustrated with the lack of effort and commitment from the international community to demand that the UAE “deliver what they promise.”
On the other hand, “Expo organizers categorically deny that stray animals in Dubai are being eliminated in relation to the future event.” But it is difficult to understand that all those animal tragedies at the gates of the Expo could augur well for the outcome of the event.
Animal welfare organizations believe that Dubai 2020 is a great opportunity to rekindle the public’s interest in the current difficult situation regarding both chronic abuse of domestic animals and trafficking of endangered species in the UAE. And therefore they appeal to the support of the international community to get the UAE to finally put into practice its commitment to protect all animals, to actually enforce the laws that they themselves signed.