© Reuters. Cuba has passed a long-requested decree on animal welfare
By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba has passed a long-requested animal welfare decree that some right-wing activists have described as an unusual civil society triumph in the communist-led country, where animal sacrifices and cock and dog fights are still the order of the day.
The move aims to prevent cruelty and raise awareness of the need for animal welfare. This marks a cultural advance in a nation where strays are abundant and the coast is littered with chicken carcasses that have been sacrificed in religious rituals.
Although few details are known, the new legislation will become clear within 90 days of its publication in the Official Gazette.
"Cuba was one of the few countries in Latin America that did not have an animal welfare law, so it is a great pleasure to have one now," said Fernando Gispert, president of the Havana branch of the Cuban Veterinary Association.
The Department of Agriculture said the decree, which regulates scientific experimentation, handling of stray dogs and veterinary practices, among other things, responded to concerns raised three years ago in a nationwide debate on the new constitution.
For decades, however, animal rights activists have been calling for laws on animal welfare, mainly through official channels in the one-party state where public disagreements are frowned upon.
In recent years, frustrated by the slow pace of change, a younger generation has chosen to put pressure on the authorities through marches, public protests and social media campaigns.
"It was an arduous road and battle and marked a before and after," said the group Cubans in Defense of Animals (CeDA) on their Facebook page (NASDAQ :).
The approval of the decree underscores the extent to which Cuban civil society has strengthened recently, thanks in particular to the advent of the Internet, which has increased the flow of information and enabled citizens to better mobilize, analysts say.
In a country where the demand for something from government outside of official channels is deprecated as a weakening of the common front against the old Cold War enemy, the United States, it is not surprising that an issue that is not considered special sensitive, should be the one that gets many Cubans on their toes. they say.
"While this legislative decree is important, it is a relatively low-hanging fruit that can be hailed as tense in a tense collaboration / stalemate by both the government and civil society activists," said Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in New York.
However, the animal rights community has shown other activists the way to forward their demands, wrote independent Cuban journalist Monica Baro in a widespread Facebook post.
The growing voice of activists has led to an increase in civic groups to rescue and sterilize strays and to clear the coasts and river beds of the remains of animal sacrifices.
"We are fighting to ensure that dead animals are not left in public spaces," said José Manuel Pérez, President of the officially recognized Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba.
Perez said the blood of the sacrificed animals has spiritual significance and the sacrifice has recently increased due to a growth in believers, but also due to wrongdoing.
The ministry said in a statement on its website that victims would not be banned, but the decree required them to be "done compassionately and quickly to avoid pain and stress," and laid down some general criteria.
Proponents of cockfighting, which often takes place in official arenas, say it is part of Cuban and Caribbean culture in general. Activists say it should at least be tightly regulated to avoid unnecessary cruelty.
For those concerned that the decree may not go far enough, Baro said, "It is better to have a minimal legal framework than nothing."