La Havana, Cuba
Cuban animal rights activist, Beatriz Batista lamented on Wednesday that the only way to get food and medicine for pets in Cuba is with dollars. Through a publication on her social networks, the animal rights advocate expressed her frustration with the acute economic crisis and the shortage of food that the island faces, from which neither humans nor animals escape.
Batista is an animal rights activist and the director of El Refugio. She uses her platforms to voice the critical condition of the Cuban economy and its impact on the shortage of food for both humans and animals. Most Cubans do not get paid in dollars, therefore the use of an AIS card is useless when it comes to buying food items online, she states.
The high prices of animal products are not affordable for everyday people. Batista asks, “Why are Cuban-made vaccines and animal food products only sold and available for purchase using the AIS card?”
The AIS card is a debit card in Cuba which can be recharged online. AIS cards make it possible for Cuban citizens to receive money from their relatives abroad. Some AIS cards can only be used for purchases at the new stores that accept MLC (USD) and card purchases only.
For Beatriz Batista, the economic system reveals social divisions and lack of access to products for humans and animals.
“I always say that if there is no food for the people, imagine for the animals,” Batista expressed on her Facebook page. The economic crisis in Cuba is alarming, not only because of the pandemic, but also because of the measures that the Cuban government has implemented with the exchange of currencies and the openings of stores in MLC (dollars), explained Batista.
The animal activist explained that even those who have relatives abroad, do not escape the difficulty of disposing of the money sent to them, nor the high taxes to collect it, nor the very high prices at the stores that accept dollars.
“We Cubans are not paid in dollars for our work; If we have dollars in cash, we cannot deposit them in an account and the average salary (in Cuban pesos) is insignificant for the skyrocketing prices in both the state and private sectors,” Batista wrote.
“I can categorically affirm, without conducting an investigation, that Cuba is going hungry, HUNGER with capital letters … I’ve been hungry, my animals have too,” she adds.
Batista states that animals die in shelters from perfectly treatable and preventable diseases, such as distemper. Dogs and cats have not been vaccinated because the vaccines have not been available for sale for more than a year. The economic crisis that the island has been going through for years has worsened in recent months, after the monetary regulation caused an increase in all products and services. As is the case with medicines for humans, medicines for animals are scarce, and rarely available at affordable prices for the population. There is also the concern with stray animals, which Batista states, are her favorite animals.
After much push from animal rights activists in Cuba, the Animal Welfare Law finally passed in February 2021, approved by MINAG, the Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba. However, the victory was not without its controversies. Animal rights activists sought to prohibit all animal abuse, including cockfighting as well as the trafficking of species.
While the passing of the law implies a victory for Cuban civil society, it remains incomplete as the new law allows cockfighting and animal sacrifices in religious practices. Directorio Cubano explains the details on the protected categories.
Animal fights and the trafficking of exotic species are lucrative activities. Especially in the last year, activists across Cuba united with the hopes to influence the government’s approval of the law. Batista expressed that the Law on Animal Welfare fell short. In condoning the protection of cockfighting, it “legalized atrocities.”
The defenders of cockfighting state it is deeply rooted tradition on the island, which has thousands of practitioners. Before the passing of the law, as Batista advocated to end all forms of animal abuse in Cuba, she received threats from cockfighting practitioners who warned her to stop interfering with their business. Batista documented the threats on social media.
The well-being of our pets is important, therefore having availability to resources is critical. Countries such as Cuba rely on the import of food and supplies such as medication. The change in currency for the AIS card makes life difficult for many people and this has an impact on animal life and care.
Tips for Animal Care during the Summer
- Maintain your pets hydrated: Keep cold fresh water available for them at all times.
- Protect them from the heat: Maintain your pet in a relaxing, cool, area protected from the sun; don’t leave pets in vehicles.
- Cut their hair or brush them: It’s important for dogs to have 2-3 centimeters of hair length for protection. In the case of cats, brushing off their old coat helps reduce heat.
- Avoid physical activities with your pets during high heat: avoid overheating.
My name is Nancy Ortega and I am a current undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Animal Science and Spanish, but began my studies at Rio Hondo College. I am the proud daughter of two immigrants and the sister of a Dreamer. My interest in Latin America emerged due to the passion from my high school Spanish teacher. I became interested in the variety of cultures, the unique people, and the history still to be uncovered from underrepresented countries. In Latina Republic, I want to expand the beauty and complexity of Latin America and enrich my mind, as well as that of the readers, throughout this new experience. I look forward to meeting interesting individuals, hearing new stories, and coming out with a fresh mind set.