Could Storm of Protest Stop European Games City From Burning Dogs in Furnaces?
Days ago, animal rights campaigner Yelena Simakina released undercover footage of street dogs being burned in furnaces in an effort to cleanse the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan, in advance of the upcoming regional Olympic events known as the European Games. With this multi-billion dollar event set to begin in mid-June, the city is becoming a shiny apple, but there appears to be poison beneath its skin. A very personal form of protest is beginning to swell on social media with participants pointing the finger of blame directly at event organizers who turn a blind eye to the suffering of the dogs.
The video footage shows the bodies of several dogs, burning in a smoldering furnace. Yelena takes her camera through the surrounding concrete courtyard and blood is on the ground. A puppy cowers as Yelena strokes him, trying to reassure him. A second small dog is nearby. Yelena gently carries both dogs away with her as she leaves the pound.
“Almost every day there are street dogs that get killed,” Yelena said in an interview with Azadliq Radios on Radio Free Europe. “I filmed this about a week ago. Because you cannot kill stray animals in front of people, they bring them here. They shoot bigger dogs and beat the puppies to death with shovels.”
In an interview with Meydan TV, the Head of the Baku City Housing Department’s Center for Stray Animals, Ahmad Mammadov said, “These are all lies. We are simply trying to hunt for stray animals and bring them here, and put them in these cages. As you can see, these cages are built for keeping stray animals. And people help us, with food. Those are just rumors that are being spread, because this year Azerbaijan is hosting the European Games. These are just rumors intended to stir things up and prevent the Olympic Games from taking place.”
Ironically, as Mammadov speaks, a steady stream of dark smoke still rises from behind the wall to the courtyard in a restricted area. Mammadov said that Yelena’s footage was probably very old, shot during Soviet times at some other location. But according to the news team, the video shows Baku City Executive Power vehicles parked out front.
“Not a lot of people want to get involved,” she continues. “Expats are afraid that they will lose their jobs, locals of possible jail time. Still there is a group of compassionate people that are willing to do what ever it takes to get this story out there. Government has ordered all media and press to remove images and stories about the cull.”
But perhaps the most mysterious part of these events is the silence of the European Games organizers. During Olympic events in Beijing and Sochi, similar evidence emerged of massive dog culls. Yet, in each instance, the blame falls squarely on the host city. Could it be that organizers are getting a free pass? President of European Olympic Committee Patrick Joseph Hickey has made no official comment.
“Don’t think for a minute that there aren’t discussions about rounding up the dogs when the Olympic and European Games organizers sit down at the table with a potential host city,” said Daria Justyn, Vice President for the Harmony Fund international animal rescue charity. “The responsibility for these killings sits squarely on the shoulders of the event leadership who steer this massive business deal with what clearly amounts to a turn-cheek view of the dogs’ suffering. We all know that there’s a conversation that begins, ‘What about the stray dogs?’ Why is it that event organizers are never held accountable?”
What You Can Do to Help:
1. Sign the petition asking for an end to the killings in the city of Baku and future transparency in rolling out humane stray dog management policies in advance of Olympic events.
2. Join the social media campaign in support to this reform measure as individual animal advocates share photos of themselves holding the sign, “Shame on the Games: Save the Dogs.” Find it here on Facebook.
Photo Credit: The Great Animal Rescue Chase & Harmony Fund