By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES – Just when you think you couldn’t see anything crazier, along comes something that takes our breath away. The spectacle a few days ago at the Rancho Boyeros Fairground, on the outskirts of the capital, frightened lots of people.
A video has gone viral online, where you can some cowboys “playing” at lassoing a cat. It’s shameful to see how they throw her, try to lasso her, the cat escaping and then being caught again, it’s upsetting to see her fighting desperately to run away and the cowboys to “win”.
The video is upsetting, outrageous. The racket from the audience who laugh, clap, and cry out, spurred on by euphoria, is saddening. There were exceptions, of course, people who didn’t see the act as entertainment, but the opposite.
The thing is though, this happened right in front of the eyes of the Ministry of Agriculture, the institution that should be looking out for animal protection and upholding the law that supposedly regulates this.
Rodeos have always been imbued with abuse, in my opinion. The fact they are considered a tradition doesn’t take away that bitter taste of the violence that bulls and steers suffer on the sand or behind the scenes.
But I understand that a cat is a much smaller animal, easier to manipulate once lassoed. Plus, it’s not normal to see cats form part of this “entertainment”, and people generally identify with their pain more than with cattle. That’s why people were so outraged.
I imagine that if it had been a bull, like normal, instead of that poor cat, things wouldn’t have blown up. However, bulls are stabbed so they run out wild into the arena, they are beaten, thrown to the ground by the tail (with everything this implies for a hefty beast), they are injured lots of times, they are stressed out; while steers are thrown against the sand to tie their legs, and it all seems to work for most people.
Getting back to the video, if the incident was awful, what it gave way to was a lot worse.
It happened just a few days before Dog Day is celebrated in Cuba. The animal protection community was getting ready to march to Jeannette Ryder and her dog Rinti’s grave, just like they do every year. There, they pay tribute to this great woman who founded the Bando de Piedad and who is well-known for her love of the helpless.
Official authorization for the march was denied, but it wasn’t called off. Several people organizing the march (or who announced their presence on social media) were threatened by State Security. Some activists lost Internet access on their mobile phones.
But once the day rolled around, and with the rodeo video already viral sparked outrage, the march was confined to the bounds of the cemetery. The Government couldn’t lose control of the situation, running the risk of many people gathering, and they tried to hush the appeal for justice for animals as much they could.
People who were able to reach the cemetery demanded that the Law be revised and for it to be upheld. They expressed their sadness that comes from knowing they were beaten, duped. They made it clear that the animal protection community is united, even though State Security insists on doing the opposite.
The animal protection community feels like their suggestions, proposals, concerns, and demands have all been thrown out the window; and they are right. The Law was published to calm complaints to legalize the prohibition of abuse against animals. But it is incomplete, leaving out many sensitive issues, and it isn’t being implemented.
Its enactment was the Government’s desperate way out of strong pressure from activists who dedicate their lives to rescuing, healing, sterilizing, protecting, and looking for adoption families. All of this without any support from institutions, dealing with shortages in this country and stigma from society that mock and reject them.
Now, the Ministry of Agriculture has written a note, under pressure yet again, apologizing for the cat in the rodeo situation, and then published the measures that had been taken with the “offenders”, the cowboys and comedians that were leading the show. That’s as far as their duties have gone.
On Dog Day, improvised fairs were held down some streets, where young people promoted animal protection, “spontaneously”. To give the idea that there is a lot more concern for the issue.
Ever since then, journalists aware of the issue have been able to publish comments – some more profound than others.
Lots of people wanted to know how the cat was doing, who they were told was still alive, when it was clear that there was no chance the cat could have suffered the hanging. There was an attempt to calm people’s fury by exchanging the cat for another, who is also healthy, and looks nothing like the cat we see in all of the videos. Yep, very clumsy.
Lies, abuse, illegality, a lack of awareness and dark interests have all come to light in the past few days. This show and its consequences exemplify how naturalized violence is in Cuban society. Violence in every aspect of our everyday lives, that comes from humans, the Government, institutions, the general population. The violence we exercise against one another, the strongest against the weakest, the powerful against the defenseless.