Is Ukraine Still Killing Stray Dogs Ahead Of Euro 2012?
With just a little more than two weeks to go until the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer championships (a very big deal over there) kick off in Poland and Ukraine, the latter is in the spotlight again as a flurry of protests against a host of injustices has swept the nation.
The most headline-grabbing of these is a campaign against the incarceration of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence on a nebulous “abuse of office” conviction that is widely viewed in the West and Russia as politically-motivated. Tymoshenko, who is suffering from a severe spinal condition and has reportedly been abused in prison, launched a 20-day hunger strike earlier last month to protest her treatment. Her high-profile case has attracted worldwide sympathy and some European leaders say they might boycott Euro 2012.
The most eye-catching of the anti-Euro 2012 demonstrations came over the weekend when the topless feminists of the Ukrainian group FEMEN briefly seized the Euro 2012 trophy while it was on display in the city of Dnipropetrovsk to protest sexism, prostitution and sex trafficking. With a million football fans, the majority of them men, expected to descend upon Ukraine next month, the Ukrainian government will have its hands full dealing with the scourge of sex trafficking, already a huge problem in that corner of the world.
But there is another big problem in Ukraine that attracted an explosion of attention late last year before fading from the headlines and the world’s consciousness. As part of a campaign to “clean up” host cities ahead of the tournament, Ukraine began killing stray dogs. Lots of them. Each month, thousands of hapless animals were fed poison food, injected with poison needles, shot or even hanged.
International outcry, stoked by the tireless work of groups like Aktion Fair Play and Stop Killing Dogs who YouTubed disturbingly graphic videos of the killing campaign, forced the Ukrainian government to call for an end to the canine carnage. The environmental ministry urged the country’s mayors to build animal shelters in lieu of killing the dogs. By early 2012, the story had disappeared from the headlines.
So does that mean all is well for Ukraine’s stray dogs?
It appears the answer is no. On April 29, People.co.uk posted sickening photos proving that the garbage bins of and the streets of the host city of Donetsk were still piled high with the bodies of murdered dogs, some of them dumped alive to die in agonizing pain in the trash. Activists claimed that 7,000 dogs were still being killed each month, and a visit by members of People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) confirmed the carnage. Then these sad images from Donetsk appeared on a Ukrainian paper’s website less than two weeks ago, further confirmation that dogs are still being killed by poisoning.
“In the morning dogs were alive and well,… and then we noticed something wrong going on,” said one witness. “They began to walk unsteadily… After a time, one fell near the store and began convulsing and his mouth started frothing… Surely, she had been poisoned. Those who did this can not be called human beings,” she added.
For a country with NATO and EU ambitions, Ukraine sure has a long way to go. Releasing political prisoners, cracking down on human trafficking and treating animals humanely would be a very good start.
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