It should come as no surprise, after seeing the video of the Ethiopian maid Alem Dechasa being beaten by her employer, that Lebanon also has a deplorable animal rights record. We recently featured the devastating massacre of thousands of endangered fruit bats in a cave, and frequently learn about other animal abuses in a country that is not a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Formerly an architect, Helena Hesayne left her career to care for Lebanon’s abused animals nearly a decade ago, CNN reports, but now fancy villa owners are trying to shut down the shelter that she help to found.
Ladies who love animals
“It started with passionate women who were feeding cats and dogs on the streets, and they met around a garbage bin and they decided to join forces and to help,” Hesayne told CNN.
They then opened Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) in 2004 and have since cared for more than 1,500 mostly domestic animals.
Of the 250 animals living in the shelter at present are a dog named Bernie, who had been covered in gasoline and set on fire when BETA rescued him, and a labrador named Carra, who was shot in the face. These are just two of the upsetting cases that the women face on a daily basis.
Another BETA pioneer and public relations expert, Sevine Zahran told CNN that the cruelty she witnesses is very difficult to share, but she tries to educate and raise awareness among the people.
A new home for BETA
Now BETA risks losing their entire operation because nearby villa owners overlooking Beirut have sued them to evacuate their premises, so they are looking for new land to house the rescued animals that have virtually nowhere else to go. But Hesayne claims that nobody wants dogs around.
Like Egypt, Lebanon has never been celebrated for its protection of either domestic or wild animals. In 2010 we featured a distressing story of circus animals that were horribly abused. A lion cub was so badly neglected its paws were infected, while tigers and other cats were kept in paralyzing cages.
But lack of protective legislation makes it virtually impossible to take the country to task. BETA has been lobbying government to improve their laws, but their voices have been drowned out by other “priorities.”
Animals Lebanon has closed down three zoos in the past and are campaigning hard to get the country to join CITES. They are currently cooperating with World Animal Health Organization and the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture to draft and enact national animal welfare legislation.
A recent photo campaign launched by Fashion Beirut is another sign that the country is becoming better attuned to animal rights. The group’s mantra is: “best friends are not meant to be abused.”
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