Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Pet Shop Cruelty Knows No Borders
We were given two days off from the Conference (a proper weekend, but because of the Muslim schedule it fell on Friday and Saturday) but this did not mean a holiday from cruel treatment of animals.
Some of my colleagues and I spent an afternoon in “the Souq”, a cascading labyrinth of shops selling Middle Eastern spices, rugs, coffee urns, traditional daggers, and souvenirs.
But amidst the shops was a long row of pet stores: stalls selling dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, chipmunks, hamsters, and birds. I’m still not quite sure who is purchasing these sad specimens from their constricting cages. Is it foreigners who live in Doha because their business has taken them to the city? Foreigners who have come here from India, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh looking for work? Locals?
No matter, someone must be buying because the vendors sure were selling. It was truly heart-wrenching to see: bunnies on a pedestal, dyed pink to attract children’s gaze; more bunnies dressed in skirts and other outfits, surely insufferable in the 90+ degree heat of the afternoon; birds crammed row after row in cages, the lifeless bodies of those who could not survive strewn across the wire mesh on the floor below; a furry white kitten appearing to slowly die before my very eyes, flies swirling around her gaping leg wounds; exotic birds missing huge swathes of feathers, plucked away in stereotypic madness.
CITES conferences are grueling indeed — two solid weeks of lobbying, media interviews, and debates about the world’s most imperiled species of animals and plants. So often the discussion is about numbers and rates of decline and maximum sustainable yields and stock assessments ...
And in the midst of it all, when we get a break, we’re painfully yet importantly reminded that animal cruelty is not a numbers game, and is not just about endangered species. We’re reminded that individual lives are at stake — whether an African elephant, a kitten, a macaw, a bunny, or a shark.
No animal should suffer because of our indifference or our greed. Not on the African savannah; not in the North Atlantic Ocean; not in the street stalls of a market in Doha (or Durban or Daytona or Delhi). They all deserve better.