Monday, February 14, 2011

Cairo's cats forgotten as its humans rebel.

From Time:
Trying to reach Cairo's Tahrir Square through clouds of tear gas and volleys of rubber bullets, Egyptian TV anchor Mona Khalil was forced by the tumult into a side street. There, she remembers, "I saw cats running, running, running, and trying to get into houses or staircases or buildings and some of them were really gasping." Two kittens had found shelter under a car. She managed to take them inside a building, away from the toxic fumes. Others were not so lucky. "Going back later I found two cats that were lying on their sides, dead," she adds. For Khalil, 43, who is also one of the leaders of Egypt's fledgling animal rights movement, the event had particular resonance. It was, she said, "the first slap in the face that, oh my God, those streets are filled with cats and dogs."

While the world has focused on the many troubles faced by humans during the 18-day uprising, the four-legged residents of Cairo have been left to fend for themselves. Many Egyptians, expats, and tourists have been forced by authorities to flee the country without their pets; zoos and pet shops were also abandoned. The chaos of the uprising put a tremendous strain on the nation's largest animal rights organization, the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), of which Khalil serves as treasurer. "It's very common to see stray cats and dogs on the street, but not for us to see [abandoned] Persians and Siamese," she says.

[...] So much of what Westerners know about Egypt is animal related, from riding camels around the Pyramids to studying about the worship of cats in Pharaonic times. The recent political turmoil has revealed many deep-rooted, previously overlooked problems in that country, the plight of their animals not the least among them. "A couple of people have asked me why they should care about animals all the way in Egypt," says Cooper. "My response has been to say that animals aren't citizens of countries. They're citizens of our hearts, and our hearts have no borders."
ESMA's web site can be found here.

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