Sunday, April 8, 2012



What inevitably captures our attention walking in Cairo’s streets is the complete absence of animal’s compassion,  it is as if they are totally “invisibles” in the great Umm aldunya.
Conceived mainly as tools to fulfil people’s needs or as annoyances to get rid off, animals are abused on daily basis. Donkeys with sore backs due to heavy loads, terrorized dogs, mutilated cats by mean kids and trembling ovines tied up under hanging corpses of dead animals waiting for their turn; these are the daily images that we face in Cairo’s streets.

For those who still can’t stand the view of these unjustified treatments, it’s spontaneous to wonder where this insensibility comes from. Attention and care for animals doesn’t exist in the culture or the education of the society, and the misconception in the religious beliefs towards animals play a crucial role in the deterioration of animal rights protection in Egypt.

Fawzi - S.P.A.R.E shelter
The major victims of religious misconception beliefs are dogs. There are different episodes related to Prophet Mohammad in which dogs are figured as evil entities and sometimes even as “jins” in animal form. However, it seems that this is a tradition coming from pre-Islamic mythology that had a strong impact on Islamic law. This attitude probably reflects a prior anxiety towards a threatening nature that nowadays there is no reason for it to exist.
While in fact, there are different quotes in Quran that state the necessity to love all living beings, since they were all created by God. Dr. Mohammad Spayed Tanta, Sheikh of Zahra, actually wrote a fatwa stressing on how Islam invites people to treat animals with kindness and compassion.

Beyond the religious aspect of how animals are considered, it is undisputed that they should benefit from tutelary legislative standards which consider them as living beings able to feel pain and not as objects to exploit. Although it is limited, an Egyptian legislation for animal rights protection does exist, yet does not cover issues like: foster of animals in zoos and pet shops, transportation of animals, slaughterhouses conditions and the protection of exotic animals.

In such depressing scenario, fortunately there are several non-profit associations that give hope and voice to the weakest. One of the most inspiring non-profit association is: S.P.A.R.E (Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt). Operating since 2011, located on the outskirts of Cairo, near Sakkara, where it offers a couzy shelter to about 43 dogs and 20 cats.

Koko - S.P.A.R.E shelter
Amira Abaza, the founder of the organization, explains how the wish to open a safe place for animals emerged after a personal traumatic experience of hers: a beloved dog was shot in the street. In fact, it’s very widespread in Egypt to face the stray animals problem by shooting and poisoning them in a barbaric way. However, Abaza also underlines how the public opinion in the last years has changed and interest towards animal rights has risen amongst Egyptians, especially after the opening of S.P.A.R.E: “not everybody agrees with us but much more Egyptians are aware that we are doing something good.”

Roumi - donkey sanctuary
Venturing ourselves a little bit further, through green cultivations and hard working farmers we reached a quite sandy farm that hosts 4 lovely donkeys, all with heartbreaking stories. Roumi for example, was forced to work despite he had a broken leg since a year. When he was brought to the Donkey Sanctuary the doctor gave him three days before euthanize him. Roumi surprised everyone by his speedy recovery and now is another lucky donkey escaped from an ominous destiny.

The innovative aspect of S.P.A.R.E is that besides taking action, they prevent the creation of a vicious circle of bad habits by encouraging a proper welfare towards animals. Only by educating the young generations, it’s possible to make a difference in a long term race and that’s exactly one of S.P.A.R.E’s main goals. Through lectures in schools, field trips at the shelter and distribution of informative booklets hopefully a renewed mentality based on animal and human respect will spread in the upcoming years.

foto e testo di:
Eleonora Gatto

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