March 2004 - Last updated October 2008
Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon.
How Greece created the Olympic dream
at the cost of thousands of homeless animals.
Animal rescue groups in Greece are falsely accused of
trafficking stray dogs and cats out of the country to make
profit from fur and vivisection. An incident at a Greek airport
in March 2004 escalated into a nationwide scandal, based on
a complete mistruth. Greek rescue organisations said the misleading
TV and newspaper reports jeopardized the lives of thousands
of stray dogs and cats in the run-up to and after the Olympics.
Garagouni was at it again - In February 2005 Ioanna Garagouni
(also spelt Karagkouni) interfered once more with the transportation
of stray dogs on route to new adopters in Germany - See
media spread more myths - West Europeans apparently eat dogs.
Full story below.
examines the continual conflict surrounding animal welfare mismanagement
inside Greece, and reports on false accusations at a Greek airport
that triggered an outbreak of slanderous journalism across the country.
How did such stories affect the mindset of a proud Greek public
during the run-up to the Olympic Games in August 2004? This
three part feature also looks at global media coverage of countries
cited as being cruel to animals, from both domestic and international
heard the one about the German, Scottish, Belgian and Greek woman
at an Athens Airport?
This is no politically incorrect Euro-joke but the scene-setter
for a bizarre chain of events, involving stray animals and an overdose
of Greek jingoism.
The story begins
at Athens airport on March 11th 2004 .
An elderly woman called Ioanna Garagouni (also spelt Karagkouni)
of The Coalition of Animal Welfare Groups Greece, accompanied by
her lawyer and Alpha Greek TV news cameras, appeared at Athens airport
and approached a Greek girl and two foreign helpers flying out rescued
animals. On camera, Garagouni allegedly accused the innocent rescue
worker and her colleagues of trafficking animals for fur and vivisection.
Commotion ensued, and the police were called in to try and restore
Subsequently, the rescued puppies and cats where stopped from being
flown to adopting families in north-west Europe.
By that evening
Alpha TV were broadcasting the incident on the main news. The news
report was titled "Cruelty Prevented" and turned out to be entirely
biased towards Garagouni's allegations, claiming that the animals
were being flown out to be killed for fur or experimentation (rather
than the truth, which was to loving homes in Holland, Belgium, Germany
and the UK). The report also failed to point out that Garagouni's
grotesque accusations could not be substantiated by any evidence
In fact, the truth, which the public never got to find out, was
that the innocent girl and the other rescuers left the airport with
no charge. But the damage was now done and the knock-on affect was
to become detrimental to the future of thousands of stray animals
still on the streets - and for years to come.
Within days, the false story had been picked up by the national
newspapers and padded out with more sensationalism and rumour as
it spread. A duped Greek public were so incensed by this apparent
"truth" that the incident continued to escalate into a hyperbole
of nationalistic finger-pointing. This was "proof" that apparently
gave some Greeks credence to believe that foreigners, and not themselves,
were the motivators of animal cruelty linked to their country.
incident had been so badly reported and so biased towards Garagouni's
claims that the country now seemed to be revelling in a completely
In fact, on that day at the airport Garagouni also tried to convince
airport customs that the rescuers didn't have the right animal travel
documents. It turns out they did, since the documents in dispute
weren't even due to come into effect until July of that year, and
are part of the EU's new animal passport rules. This was backed
up by a fax from the Greek Ministry of Agriculture sent to the airport
during the incident. It was a copy of the European regulation which
proved that Garagouni's claims of new rules weren't yet applicable
and confirmed that the animals' travel documents were sufficient.
The new rules would indeed make it next to impossible for Greek
strays to be flown to new homes abroad without great expense through
a complicated validation procedure.
It turned out that the patriotic Garagouni is well known for her
attacks against the kinds of groups her "coalition" is apparently
designed to support, but at the same time has gained some influence
over Greek authorities on animal matters. Those groups she has accused
had researched the apparent "coalition" status of her organisation
and it seemed that such a title appeared to be misleading - "Coalition"
implies that she represents a large number of groups around the
country, but the truth seemed to be that this self-appointed attorney
on animal welfare represented only a simple group. The prime targets
for her assaults appeared to be freestyle animal rescue-and-adopt
groups and Good Samaritan type helpers who fly out dogs and cats
to new homes in foreign countries. And with this in mind, Garagouni
continued her attack on the innocent rescue groups with a press
release issued by her "coalition".
Seemingly determined to impress both public and the media of her
authority in matters of animal rescue and their eventual destination,
Garagouni questioned why these rescue groups don't "accept the strict
rules foreseen by the law
" She went on to state, "These countries
(Holland, Belgium, UK etc.) are very far away, in order to watch
the survival of animals, when this is difficult even in Greece.
They (the rescue organisations) show some photo albums with some
families with dogs, and they claim they are fine. But where are
the thousands that travel abroad ending up?"
In other words, Mrs Garagouni was questioning the authenticity of
photo documentation provided by the accused rescue groups.
With an air of cynicism, Garagouni preceded her questioning with
"And I wonder
" And what she also appeared to be wondering was
that since dogs are plentiful in northwest Europe why do these foreigners
need Greek dogs if not to turn them into fur products or for experimentation?
In a press interview, she was asked whether she believed that Greek
strays are being sent abroad for vivisection. She retorted, "What
other explanation is there
?" Garagouni was not able to cite
any source to prove her "beliefs".
But it seems some Greeks took patriotic refuge amongst her words,
and besides the country's media there were now even Greek websites
proudly supportive of the ludicrous claims that pictures of northwest
Europeans posing with their rescued dogs on German and Dutch couches
were simply fakes. They claimed that the photos were staged by the
"rescuers" to try and prove their innocence. Fake Iraqi prisoner
picture publishers or the staged moon landings brigade had new competition,
because believe it or not, these conspiracy theorists appeared to
be analysing the doggy pictures to try and prove that the furniture
and people in the photos were Greek and not Dutch or British etc
The mind boggles at the thought of dastardly Greek animal traffickers
hiding boxes of props in their sheds - blonde wigs, bowler hats,
clogs, lederhosen and an assortment of Ikea furnishings.
Andreas, now called Theo. He was hit by a car in Keratsini
Greece, The rescuers had to have him operated on twice. He
was also treated for venereal disease and infected ears. He
stayed in fostering for 6 months (picture on left). This dog
cost the rescuers around 1.300 euros to restore to health
and the picture on the right is Theo with his new owner in
Bizarrely, it's pictures like these that Garagouni's followers
think are fakes, apparently to cover-up the dogs "true"
destiny as a fur coat or for vivisection.
here for more pictures - caution very upsetting images
TV and news spread more myths - West Europeans apparently eat dogs.
The Greek media
really seemed to have it in for the West Europeans and continued
to distort truths in the most extraordinary ways. In June 2004,
directors of a meat wholesaler in Belgium were arrested after it
was discovered that meat meant for tinned dog food was ending up
in sausages for human consumption (hot dogs in fact).
The Greek media and Greek extremist websites picked up on this proclaiming
that the meat actually from dogs was being put into sausages.
Greek myth appeared to have started when Orange mobile phones website
Ananova, published the potentially misleading story. Their headline
originally said "Dog meat used in hot dogs" instead
of "Dog food used in hot dogs" That one little
word made all the difference to the Greek media who hadn't bothered
to read the rest of the news item, a report which made facts clearer
towards the end.
LGVN (this site) contacted Orange pointing out their misleading
wording and the news item was corrected. But corrections are all
too late and irrelevant as far as the Greek media is concerned;
TV and newspapers continue to spread stories across the country
suggesting, in effect, that the "foreigners" of West Europe
For a deceived Greek public, that latest yarn only added fuel to
their belief that strays are sent abroad for fur and experiments
... because now apparently, the Brits, Belgians, and Dutch etc,
eat them as well.
But this isn't
just a story about discrimination and a country's animal control
methods. It also unfolds through the eyes of the more compassionate
side of Greece and the people themselves, many who are strongly
opposed to the injustices that stem from its own authorities - and
some of its people - regarding unwanted animals.
As in any country, there's no doubt that Greece may harbour a tiny
minority of cruel animal traffickers but the passion for rescuing
Greek dogs and cats for homing with caring owners has never been
This is where the extraordinary logic of Ms Garagouni's press release
requires a further look. She points out that it's illegal to perform
euthanasia in Greece, so why should animals need to be sent out
of the country to be saved, she argues. Right she may be - technically
- but the law didn't stop someone from poisoning thousands of strays
around Athens in the run-up to the Olympics. And those few who may
have survived still suffer neglect and starvation on the streets,
so rescue and homing in other countries is clearly a welcome option
for these dejected animals. Greek authorities deny having anything
to do with the systematic slaughtering of street animals, and Garagouni
somehow seems dismissive or else in denial of these atrocities in
her own country.
However, the cat was out of the bag so to speak, and both caring
Greeks and foreigners worked round the clock to save the remaining
animals. But as several animal welfare workers in Athens tried to
get the required papers for travel, along with veterinarian confirmation,
they were being refused on all fronts. This seemed to tie in with
Garagouni's move to get authorities to act and stop any further
transportation of rescued stray animals to other countries.
A thoroughly confused Greek Ministry of Agriculture now seemed to
believe all they had read in the press. Regardless of the fax they
sent to Athens airport on that day in March, they seemed to change
their tune and subsequently sent out a circular to all Greek airports
telling them to stop anyone attempting to fly out strays to new
homes abroad. In effect, the ministry were now exercising the new
EU rules in advance of the July start date, but it seems, adding
rules of their own. This was no doubt to appease Garagouni's protests
and calm down a restless Greek public. Animal rescuers found that
the situation had become impossible, since they were unable to fly
out any of their animals. They said that the airline authorities
were in total confusion about the validity of clearance papers and
subsequently refused passage to any rescued animal.
Meanwhile, those who continued to follow Garagouni's bandwagon firmly
believed - and still do believe - that hundreds of fur traffickers
disguised as animal rescuers are shipping thousands of animals out
of Greece for evil doings in foreign places.
Innocent animal rescuers are also being accused of making untold
fortunes from selling strays to foreign countries for around 35
Euros. The accused groups point out that besides the fact that they
don't make any money from their charity work, it actually costs
hundreds of Euros to provide the animal's veterinary treatment along
with their flight arrangements.
You would think this detail, along with a mountain of evidence,
would help put an end to any further myths claiming that these innocent
girls are selling strays for fur and experiments to nasty foreign
black-market criminals. But on the contrary; pre-Olympic Greece
seemed to have become a country immersed in a firm patriotic belief
of false press reports. There seemed no end to its media basking
in self-appeasing propaganda.
Arguments from the Garagouni school of thought even claim that Britain
has just as bad a stray animal problem as Greece. If Britain says
this is untrue because most pets in the UK are spayed and neutered
to avoid overpopulation, the Greeks respond by saying that stray
animals are hardly seen on the UK streets because the British destroy
fact that those people whom Garagouni accused at Athens Airport
that day could completely prove their innocence, it looks like she
is going to stand firm by her beliefs ad infinitum. Since a profound
apology from the lady is never likely to happen, the accused were
preparing to take Garagouni, plus the TV and newspapers to court.
are still numbed with disbelief since the airport incident that
day in March 2004. They also wished to remain as anonymous as possible
but had already received threatening phonecalls from people clearly
brainwashed by the false reports. But the accused are not alone
in their fight to prove their innocence to the Greek public. Many
welfare groups and colleagues inside and outside Greece are still
determined to set the record straight.
Across Europe thousands of owners of Greek strays continue to rally
support. They are clearly very real people with very real photos,
providing whatever evidence they can to prove that Garagouni and
much of the Greek media have got it completely wrong. However, by
late Feburary 2005 Garagouni accompanied by Alpha TV were at it
again. For more see the The
you flip to
2 of this article, here is a press release from the
the recent publications in the Greek press and TV, concerning the
massive exports abroad of companion animals for illegal reasons
and contrary to the law for animal protection, we express anger
against the ungrounded accusations from a group calling themselves
"The Coalition of Animal Welfare Groups of Greece". Their unsubstantiated
accusations intentionally generates to the public opinion a false
belief, that other Greek animal welfare groups send animals to Europe
and elsewhere to be used for fur, collagen or experimentation.
accusations contained even grains of truth, then the accusers have
the obligation to present specific data in order to prove their
claims, and so set the record straight.
their general and vague accusations, decorated with nationalistic
and scornful crescendos against the countries of Europe, directly
offend the generous animal loving work of all the animal welfare
groups and persons working with European organizations. Not to mention
the main "victims" being the animals themselves, which roam unwanted
in the Greek streets, simply because some refuse to accept that
animal care has no borders and that animal protection is not the
monopoly of self-called "district attorneys" of the animal loving
resist these attacks and refuse to limit our role to being "dog-catchers"
in order to be included in the list of "healthy" animal welfare
groups. We will continue to care for the animals that are hungry,
that get poisoned and that are abandoned.
We will no
longer tolerate anymore "sensationalism" through the press which
wrongly accuses us and therefore abuses the fundamental constitutional
rights of our members. Our members make tireless efforts to educate
our society about animal welfare. We take care of animals for years
and spend substantial amounts of our own money to home them - rushing
to airports - putting up with all manner of obstacles in efforts
to home them with loving families.
in order to avoid any misunderstanding, it is our duty to clarify
that we have no relation whatsoever with the "Coalition of Animal
Welfare Groups of Greece". We were never members of that Coalition;
consequently we are not represented by it through its spokespeople
in any manner."
This press release
is endorsed by:
Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF).
for Animals Global (WAG)
Group for the Protection of Animals "Noah's Ark".
Animal Rescue (GAR)
Protection of stray animals of Pylaea, Thessaloniki.
Small Noa's Arck.
Friends of Animals of Rethymnon.
Achaian Group for the Care of animals.
Animal welfare group of St. Nicholas, Crete.
Friends of Animals, St. Theodores, Korinth.
Together We Can.
Animal Peace, Chalkidiki.
Animal welfare Mountaineering Ecological Association of Chalkidiki
THE ARK of Corfu.
Care Corfu Animal
Animal concerning Team.
Lefkas Animal Welfare Society" (LAWS).
Animal Trust (KATs).
Association of Animal Lovers of Kifissia, for Animal Rights and
Animal Care of Samos.
Stray Animal Shelter of Markopoulo.
Animal welfare Association of Helioupolis.
... Click here for Part 2 - Analysis - Pre-Olympic Jitters >
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1 - Main Story
2 - Analysis - Pre-Olympic Jitters
3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as cruel to
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