Euro-2012: They shoot horses, don’t they?

When we hear about all the grotesque things going on in Ukraine, most of us are thinking about politics on a human level, but unfortunately there is an element that is permeating Ukrainian society that may get some individuals even more appalled then they would about the country’s politics . While it is clear to everyone who has ever visited the host cities of Euro-2012 — Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv — they all have something else in common, a problem with stray dogs.

The issue of homeless animals exists everywhere on the face of this planet. However, anyone who has spent some time in Ukraine will tell you that the issue of homeless dogs has been one that animal rights advocates have been trying to deal with for many years. If human rights issues have taken a number of steps backward under the administration of President Yanukovych, then on the eve of Ukraine hosting the Euro-2012 Football Championships, the fate of man’s best four-footed friend has reached a very low level.

The issue of how stray dogs were being dealt with in the aforementioned cities was brought to my attention late last week by a reader of my commentary, and I have been aware of this issue throughout my years living in Ukraine. After a little bit more digging and reading I was appalled, though not surprised. It became clearer that Ukraine has some very sick and inhumane decision makers. It is high time that Europe and the rest of the world start seeing what Ukraine truly is, and I don’t mean the average Ukrainian, who for the most part are the most hospitable and kind individuals I have met anywhere in my travels. However, just how twisted some of its officials are in is shown in how they deal with their local problems, in this case the stray dogs that wander their streets.

For the most part their methods have been brought about by trying make Ukraine look like a European country for the Euro-2012. Damn it, they have had twenty years to do so, but all that seems to be happening is that those in power, keep playing Potemkin, with nothing seriously taking place in truly bringing Ukraine closer to the standards of Europe and the world of the civilized. Clearly the incumbent President is the farthest away from understanding what the Rule of Law is in the last twenty years.

How man’s homeless four-footed friends are being dealt with varies from region to region, with the worst of it all happening in the Donbas, and it’s been going on for some time now. By order of the municipal council on March 16, 2009 in Makiyivka, on the outskirts of Donetsk, between three-hundred and four-hundred homeless dogs were killed. They were not simply caught and put to sleep in a humane manner but hunted down and killed, by three private firms using 9mm firearms. In one case this was even done on the territory of a local children’s hospital in full view of children. Furthermore their carcasses were left to rot on a tailings pile of one of the local mines, and this was less than three-hundred meters from some family homes in the area.

After a bit more digging I finally found a recent publication which revealed just how low some will go. Even more shocking than the hunting of dogs mentioned above was something that really took the cake. According to Volodymyr Boreyko, a well known advocate of animal rights in Ukraine, there is even a crematorium in Luhansk oblast set up to deal with the dogs. Other ecologists have confirmed that even a crematorium on wheels has existed there for nearly two years. Word on the street is that in some cases dogs were even burnt alive, saving those in charge not only on timely and expensive euthanasia procedures but also on bullets.

In that same article Asia Vilgelmovna Serpinskaya, President of the Kyiv Society for the Protection of Animals, revealed how there were a few Internet forums on which youth in Kyiv would share information on where to purchase the latest dog killing “vitamins”, where to find stray dogs, the best time to poison them etc. The so called vitamins are the drug Isoniazid, a first-line anti-tuberculosis medication. The death of dogs poisoned in such a way is very inhumane, and from what I determined, in the way that hepatoxicity could affect humans if there is a bad reaction, imagine what such a drug does to the liver of dogs.

So while shooting these dogs may not be the most humane method, poisoning or burning stray dogs is clearly a more sadistic method, and the authorities seem to think that it is all fine and dandy. They are simply playing into the hands of those that want to pretend they have everything under control in terms of showing off Ukraine to the European football fans that will be arriving in Ukraine for Euro-2012. In the twenty years of Ukraine’s independence, not only have few major changes been made in order to bring Ukraine closer to Europe in the human sphere, none have taken place regarding the protection of animals.

This barbarism seems also to be mirrored in the way that Ukraine’s top official takes to the sport of hunting. Whether you agree or disagree with the fact that hunting is a sport, and whether it is necessary at all is not up for debate here. When practiced by true outdoors people this form of recreation requires some knowledge of animal behavior and the principle of fair chase as safe practices when out in the woods or field. Ukraine’s president through some type of scheme has taken over what was once a thirty-seven thousand hectare wild life preserve and turned it into his personal hunting ground. It is fenced, moated and protected from the prying eyes of regular citizens and journalists by Berkut, special reaction teams of the militia.

Though unlike the skilled hunter, the President of Ukraine and his hunting buddies, sit perched in towers and then have the wild animals herded towards the towers for them to take pot shots at these creatures, be they deer, boars, or anything else he desires to import for his rest and relaxation. This is almost akin to Internet hunting or computer-assisted remote hunting. In the United States, amendments were introduced to existing legislation which would call for a fine and or prison sentence of up to five years for such a method of hunting True, that President Yanukovych’s method of hunting does not include a computer, but what difference does it make if the animals are one, captive and two practically served up on a silver platter to him. Some hunt, eh?

If there are animal lovers out there in Europe who are also football fans, maybe it is time for you to start calling your local representatives, your football associations and anyone you know that deals with the humane treatment of animals to start putting pressure on the Ukrainian authorities, as well as UEFA regarding this barbarism. Such incidents are truly appalling and really do show just how sick some people are in Ukrainian society. Should they not be punished? Certainly! How to punish them is another question. Take away Euro-2012 and let the disgruntled population let their voices heard at the ballot box. Because neither the average individual nor dog will see dime one of the tourist dollars that some extremely misinformed individuals claim are reason not to boycott the football championships.

Vasyl Pawlowsky Independent Consultant

This commentary of was first published on the Ukraine Business Online site.

And it is thanks to them for providing me with more information on just how barbaric some are in Ukraine.

  • It’s awful!!! Such materials make me think aboyt moving out of here again…

  • Yet again this barbaric practice is being blamed on the EURO 2012 football tournament. Not the first time I have seen such an accustaion, but at least this time the article is more researched. Vasyl, you point out here then that the mobile crematorium has been in existence for about two years, and cite an example of a mass extermination in 2009. NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH FOOTBALL!!!! Barbaric, cruel, inhumane, agree with all of it, BUT, this is not about EURO 2012. Not for a minute. That association does not pass any test of logic either in this piece or anything else I have read where the football tournament has also been used as a convenient point of blame for this terrible practice. It is simply wronng to treat animals in this way, it is also just plain wrong to blame this on the football tournament.