The shooting of animals in Belarus. “Statistics are not kept in such a small country, and in some cities there is not even a catch point - dogs are killed immediately!”
Anastasia Zhavrid, head of the animal protection center "Animaleks", toldWikiPet about the problem of shooting animals in Belarus, the citizenship of compatriots and the possibilities to reach the hearts of officials.
How long have you been protecting animals and what exactly are you doing? Are there any successes?
Animalex itself began with the initiative of the group - the Paws of the Law school, where since 2012 I trained animal rights advocates and animal protection lawyers, taught them how to conduct public campaigns competently, what norms are in the law.
We advised everyone on social networks who appealed about animal rights. These were mainly questions of ill-treatment because the administrative article did not work. When criminal liability was introduced, the situation improved, and we turned our attention to the problem of catching and shooting animals.
For example, in 2017, we sent out requests and collected all the information on the capture and shooting of animals in Belarus. It turned out that in such a small country there is no single approach, statistics are not kept, and in some cities there is not even a catch point - dogs are killed immediately. At the same time, budget money is allocated, but we don’t even know how it is distributed, and who is responsible for it. And why Minsk, which is considered to be a wealthy city, completely contains the “Fauna of the city” for budget funds, and in Salihorsk, which is also one of the richest cities in Belarus, we are told that there is no money. At the same time, nobody considered our proposals for joint activities with animal welfare advocates.
We have no big successes, while we are more likely at the stage of studying the situation - in the current mode we conduct consultations, send requests and collect information. The most important thing that we can do now is a large-scale education of the population.
What was the impetus for the creation of the Center and what does it do?
After several attempts at negotiations with the executive committees, I realized that it was necessary to register some kind of organization, because it’s extremely difficult to move something from the initiative group. And on July 13, 2016 we registered the Animal Protection Center for Animals “Animaleks”.
The center is engaged in legal support of animal owners and volunteers, as well as public campaigns in 2 areas:
- We monitor the capture of animals and ensure that the law is respected, and we seek to abolish the shooting of animals in Belarus.
- Trying to counteract animal cruelty.
We also begin to work in the direction of experiments on animals: we want dogs not to be used for experiments.
Who is working in it now?
We do not have employees, only I am framed there as a leader. Mostly volunteers work. Periodically, people come and help a lot, but the topic is very complicated and difficult, and there can be no concrete results, and the volunteers can not stand it and leave. Now out of 10 volunteers, only three people remain with whom I have been working with since the day I was founded.
I provide all legal assistance since I am a lawyer. In order to maintain the organization and provide assistance, I had to open up individual entrepreneurship and advise the business. Now the Center has free help and paid assistance, which also helps the organization to exist.
And your volunteers - who are they?
Now the team has a designer, website creator and two zoopsychologists. There is a lawyer, but, unfortunately, she left for Poland and can only help remotely. Basically, these are young girls of various professions who are partial to animal problems. In general, these are people who understand that targeted help will not work.
Is it possible to say that there are people who have problems and there are government agencies, and you are the link between them?
Yes, you could say that. One of our principles is that the applicant must act on his own. We do not lead his hand and do not go in his place. We can provide informational and consulting assistance. In extreme cases, we can go to court with the person, to the police, but we must understand that we cannot represent someone else's interests (there are certain restrictions in the law).
Our second principle is not to work directly with animals, no matter how much we like it. We cannot help overexposure or targeted help - this is not our tactic. And we do not place such information in the group. Although the temptation to slide into it is very great. But if we move into this sphere, our focus will shift, and it is impossible to deal with animals and strategy at the same time.
Do you want to make a film about catching animals: why the film and who is it for?
I have extensive experience in the non-profit sector. I worked with human rights organizations, traveled a lot to European countries and met with activists. And after analyzing all the information, I decided that the film is just what can affect people.
While the film is in the process of being created at the scenario level. We want to launch a promotional video to raise funds for the shooting.
The film itself will be up to 20 minutes long and talk about how everything happens in different cities.
This film is intended for two target audiences:
- All citizens of Belarus who want to find out what their money is spent on and what is going on.
- State bodies, mainly the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services, because people at the top sometimes do not imagine what is happening "at the bottom", what the money goes for and how these killings occur. And the organization that makes the decision (which can change the existing rules) is the Ministry of Housing and Public Utilities.
How do you plan to show it?
At first, I thought to upload the film to the Internet and make a tour of the cities of Belarus with open screenings - this is ideal. Perhaps there would be a team that could hold these shows and discussions on what to do next in their cities. And during the shows it would be good to collect signatures for the abolition of the shooting for the Ministry of Housing and Public Utilities. And then, when this tour is finished, go to the reception at the Ministry of Housing and Utilities with specific requirements.
To be honest, I don't really believe in signatures. The goal, rather, is a public discussion of this issue. After all, no one talks about shooting, but they say a lot about experiments, although they shoot much more dogs than they use for experiments. The goal is for people to be indignant at this and start discussing, including in the media.
Do you cooperate with any organizations?
We are on friendly terms with "Aegis", the organization "Cat and Dog", the Center for Ethical Relations to Nature, very often we are contacted by animal welfare advocates from other cities.
The most active cities are Minsk, Gomel, Brest, Rechitsa, Polotsk, Novopolotsk, Salihorsk and Vitebsk. In Vitebsk, the situation is unique to Belarus: zoodefenders have achieved their own shelter, housing and communal services have allocated them premises. True, the budget does not pay anything and the shelter survives on its own, so it is very difficult for them.
We also plan to open our online store to sell stickers, badges, stickers.
What help do you need now?
You can help financially, as well as repost and disseminate information.
We also need at least 3 employees: a lawyer, an SMM manager and a person who will write texts, but these people need to pay a salary, and now we do not have such an opportunity.
It is believed that in Belarus the theme of animals is hard to “rock”. How true is that?
In fact, I see a lot of sympathy for animals. In the human rights sector, I did not see such sympathy for people as I see for animals. But here another inflection happens - everyone hits on emotions, and on emotions there are two reactions: either give money (it’s easier), or completely close.
But as soon as we reach the level of self-awareness and responsibility, everything is bad here. In principle, everything is bad with our civilian position. There is no such thing that a person goes out into the street and realizes that he is responsible for everything here, this is his place and his house. Therefore, comments on the Internet about how terrible everything is annoying. And what did you do to make it not terrible? Something needs to be done, then something will change.
And our legal culture is very low. People do not know basic things and cannot stand up for themselves, not like animals. And they experience some kind of wild fear of power. Any ZhES employee is some kind of king and god. Sometimes I advise, and they ask me: will they turn off water or gas for me? What kind of water and gas? You pay for these services!
Therefore, it is important to gather some critical mass of caring people.
You are trying to move an unbearable block. What keeps you in this area? What gives hope?
The people I meet. Nevertheless, there are a lot of caring people in various fields who are “burning” their business. And if everyone burns with something, it will help a lot. They also support the feedback of ordinary people who say that we are doing a good thing and are ready to help.