7 days is plenty of time for many things to happen and last week was the perfect example. Of course it doesn’t help that it just happened to be the only time I booked a week off precisely to get away from the maddening and emotionally draining shenanigans we are constantly bombarded with as an animal charity. So here I am, back from a failed holiday and my first entry is going to be a blog about animal suffering so buckle up for a long bumpy ride.
The start off I attended the protest against horse drawn carriages on Saturday 11th. That was planned way ahead but it only helps validate the cause when horses just so happen to collapse in the days prior. Knowing how many people avoid reading anything at all costs, my first task was to familiarize myself with the 28 pages that is SL 499.66. It is literally an eye opener (that needs a blog all of its own so keep your eyes peeled). After reading all that and speaking to several people with an opinion on the issue, my mind is made up that a blanket ban of karrozzini is not necessary nor sufficient to curb the cruelty. The truth is that karozzini are but one way horses are used on our roads, one of 5 different license categories for the use of horses on our roads. Banning karrozzini does not improve things at all for the other 5, and seeing as those same horses will optimistically be rechannelled to the other 4, then it’s only logical that an initiative with a broader scope to protect all horses’ welfare is more appropriate. Pessimistically, horses that will lose their job through a blanket ban may end up living a sad life of confinement in their stables or worse. Nobody wants that either, we hope. A ban would also further validate a sadly growing movement that fails to acknowledge an animal’s need to do stuff other than sit around all day waiting for food and water. The MSPCA strictly speaking is not in favor of making a whole bunch of cabbies redundant. We believe a ban that precludes all horses on the road when the heat index compromises their ability to cool down is necessary and sufficient. Since empathy with animals seems to be amiss, we can’t expect operators to say “Hmm! I would collapse today if I tried to exercise (assuming they know what that is) then I can’t imagine my horse coping either.” So spoon-feeding it must be. No horses on the road when the heat index is above 26oC (or 80oF) whether they be pulling loads, racing or under saddle. Although, this may not have saved the horse since the veterinarian concluded that the horse collapsed and died because he was forced to carry a very heavy load up a very steep hill. Expect a more detailed blog about horses very very soon.
Then on Sunday, Facebook exploded with shares and comments on a particular incident at a restaurant at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. We still cannot fathom why someone would so viciously attack and kill a defenseless animal such as a kitten, and to do it in broad view of several patrons beggars belief. We are just as livid about this happening as the next person. It happened and we condemn it without reservation. Given the huge uproar and the unhealthy amount of speculation, misinformation and aggressive threats we chose to wait before we broke our silence on the matter. We have waited for the dust to settle and a clearer picture to emerge. Rather than direct our rage towards the closest moving target we prefer to channel it towards more constructive activities. Sadly the truth is that we may never be able to say with any certainty who viciously attacked and killed that kitten but we refuse to be part of the trial by Facebook that took place last week. One thing we are sure of is this. A defendant could (legally speaking) claim mistrial due to social media. Since Facebook users do not need evidence to prove their claims but are no strangers to acting as judge, jury and executioner what is happening is that all this vitriol often gets in the way of the truth and even when the truth emerges, we’ve messed with it so much it becomes impossible to build a case that won’t be thrown out of court. What should have happened that Sunday is that the patrons who witnessed the incident should have whipped out their phone, taken photos and called the police to come on site. That’s what we all used to do before we became masters of our own Facebook universe so what’s the problem with that now? We can’t say the restaurant owners had anything to do with it nor that they hadn’t because there is simply not enough information available to make either claim. So the best we can do at this point is to condemn the act whoever the perpetrator may be and hope it is not too late for the police to identify the man, while we carry on working to reduce stray animals so there are fewer vulnerable kittens for such acts of cruelty. I hope this incident will drive more people to help with Trap-Neuter-Release but I am not holding my breath.
That brings me to the next incident, in what I am calling, Santa Maria Twilight Week, i.e. the lifeless leatherback turtle landed in Cirkewwa.
As unrelated as it is to stray cats, blogging about a turtle reminds me of the much anticipated hatching of the loggerhead turtle nest in Gnejna Bay. Speaking to Angelique Lofaro who is coordinating volunteers watching over the nest, I couldn’t help asking her why was it necessary for the nest to be guarded 24/7. I am not kidding there is at least one volunteer there and one security person at all times, even when the beach is seemingly deserted. This is not your regular trip to the beach for them. They spend their whole shift fending off dangers to the nest and answering questions from interested onlookers. Besides minimizing the environmental impact of beach-goers (and by the way, loud music and generators in Gnejna at the moment, NOT COOL!) volunteers also have to fend of the sneaky critters that would feed on the hatchlings or eggs given half a chance. Besides the large rats that inhabit the beach (compliments of humans littering the place) there are enough cats to decimate the whole nest. Yes, nature needs to be protected from cats too. Not only do cats pose a threat to turtle hatchlings but they impact biodiversity much more than most would care to acknowledge. Cats do not discriminate against protected species. Oh no, they will hunt and kill anything that moves even if they are well fed. That includes lizards, frogs, shrews, skinks, weasels, and ground nesting birds most of which are protected by law but not from the most prolific predator on our isles. So let’s all collectively say loudly “We need to do more and run better TNR programs”. Maybe that will finally hammer the nail home and get more of you on board to help. Hopefully, if the recent rain didn’t drown the eggs we will soon hear about how the eggs hatched and volunteers fended the cats and rats off with ease. Of course the leatherback turtle didn’t die because a cat killed it but because humans inconsiderately thinking they own the planet thought it was a good idea to litter the seas with plastic. I feel truly sorry for the children, today’s and future ones. When the next generation sits in a cinema watching the return of extinct species on the silver screen with the same sense of novelty we watched Jurassic Park, realizing we’ve messed up will be a tad too late.
The week wouldn’t have been complete without some Storks being shot and Flamingos getting stuck in power cables and meeting an untimely death. It still astonishes me how Malta can be such a deadbeat when it comes to protecting animals, both domestic and wild, when there are so many of us animal lovers constantly sticking our necks out for them. We are sadly living in a society that has become so alienated by its artificial environment and so far removed from our natural roots that most readers will think of the Flamingo’s incident an unfortunate accident but I beg to differ. If there is anything we have proved to be horrendously bad at as humans, it is minimising our impact on the environment and while it is too late to undo most of the damage, the worst part is that we aren’t even done with that because the world population is still growing. The more humans exist the faster we are killing planet Earth and its beautiful creatures.
So to sum up this blog ban all horses on the road when the heat index is above 80oF or 26oC, do more TNR, stop abusing social media privileges, more humans leads to faster destruction, so let’s learn from these unfortunate circumstances and maybe we can turn a new leaf.
 The Heat Index, sometimes referred to as the apparent temperature, is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored with the actual air temperature. Humidity hinders evaporation thus reducing the cooling effect of sweat. When humidity is at