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Published March 2004 - Last updated October 2008
Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon.

How Greece created the Olympic dream at the cost of thousands of homeless animals.

Part 2 - Analysis

(See Part 1 of this complete report)

In the run-up to the Olympics it seemed that the Greek media along with a handful of nationalistic elders were twisting truths to inflate a proud country's political and social moral prior to an important international occasion.
Greece might have hoped that animal injustice stories, which "appeared" to put them in a compassionate light, could turn international focus away from its own infamous stray problem.
As host to the Olympic Games in 2004, the country had attempted to achieve an elegant, animal friendly image. But ironically, this was at the cost of its stray dog and cat population as stories of barbaric street poisoning found their way into newspapers around the world.

Greece has long been a powerful and prosperous nation. It proudly boasts to have given civilisation to the world and offers itself as a cultural gem of cinematic proportions. In 2004 the Greek government and its public were more nervous than ever about international focus on one simple, infamous subject - the country's stray animal population; a highly contentious issue that continues to make this founding seat of academia look the least "civilised" of all European countries.

Greece represents one of the greatest paradoxes of all countries black-listed for cruelty to animals. It enjoys international relations as the largest industrial shipping trade in the world - along with huge profits through its tourist industry. In fact, around eleven million visitors holiday in the country each year - a number higher than its own population of 10.25 million.
But being so popular as a world tourist destination inadvertently reveals one level of its culture that's clearly unacceptable to many of its visitors; The streets and beaches are teaming with stray dogs and cats in various stages of abandon and starvation.
Across Greece there is a high proportion of ingrained patriotism attached to animals. It's brought about through a blend of old cultures, customs and authority, which is seemingly in denial that a cruelty problem exists. Based on attitudes shrouded by national pride and even traditional superstition towards animals, Greek tourism propaganda is now in full swing; By hook or by crook, the country was determined to present itself to the rest of the world as a whiter than white showcase for animal compassion, and all this before the start of the August 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The paradox here is that modern day Greece doesn't like to be seen from an international viewpoint as the social cause of a problem, which commonly leads to thousands of neglected domestic animals being flown out to caring homes in other countries - all to save them from deliberate poisoning and appalling living conditions year after year. And this is where an anomaly bleeds though Greek culture and its authority, creating a bizarre double standard in animal welfare. While a small but effective portion of caring native Greeks battle to save the thousands of pets abandoned each year from neglect and death, the rest of its population believe they are treating their cats and dogs with true reverence.
In fact, Greece is one of five European countries that has outlawed the import and export of cat and dog fur. But at the same time the country has one of the highest populations of abandoned / stray animals on the European continent. As many international press reports will reveal, each year thousands of dogs and cats are thrown into the streets by negligent owners prior to travelling on holiday or simply through boredom of owning a pet. To a proportion of Greek society, dogs are considered more of a barking deterrent than a loving companion and are often found chained to fence posts in all weather conditions simply to guard properties. The animal may spend its entire life tied up in this way.

Click here for more pictures - caution very upsetting images Left: Many Greeks do care about the state of animal welfare in their country. This banner presented at a huge anti-poison protest in Athens, June 2004 is a quote from Ghandi saying ''You can see the grandeur and the moral progress of a nation by the way it treats its animals''.
Click here for more pictures - caution very upsetting images

But the double standards don't end there: Although a new law has been passed, requiring pet owners to register and identify their animals, many Greeks are opposed to neutering on the grounds that their animals should enjoy a sex life. This extraordinary logic means that thousands of abandoned puppies and kittens end up on the streets of Athens and the country's beaches, dying of starvation, disease or through deliberate poisoning. And because they are un-neutered, the animals breed rapidly, creating an ever-spiralling problem. Many animals born in these conditions don't survive, but those which do, fall pregnant very quickly.
Animal poisoning appears to be frequent in the city streets of Greece, and thousands regularly suffer horrendous deaths by this method, either on new building sites, in the streets or any area being "cleansed" before major events.

Although Greek authorities deny any connection with mass poisonings, Greece on the whole seems un-willing to deal with its domestic animal care in a practical and humane manner. Because of this, the government's recent ban on the import and export of cat and dog fur is beginning to appear more of a calculated gesture to show the international community that they are "in control" of the trafficking of domestic animals. Although a compassionate gesture in principle, there may be ulterior motives - and knock-on effects. In this case, Greek authorities, both official and unofficial seem unwilling to differentiate between a potential trafficker of animal fur and genuine animal rescuers trying to fly out neglected animals to loving new owners. This seems to indicate that there is an element of Greek pride that is dictating an eccentric and damaging method of animal traffic control.
Whilst being in denial that there is a massive stray problem, they are simultaneously relishing in false stories, which claim that thousands of foreign traffickers are flying strays out of the country for fur and vivisection. This contradiction suits part of the patriotic, old school Greek mindset, rather than believe the truth; that other young, compassionate Greeks are attempting to save animals from abandonment and poisoning by their own people by flying them out to better homes abroad. It's these innocent girls who are then being accused of selling the animals for fur and vivisection - and the authorities make no moves to address this injustice by providing legitimate means for the rescue groups to operate effectively and without undue hindrance.

Has Greece masqueraded a ban on cat and dog fur (which costs nothing to introduce) to divert focus on the continuing atrocities towards domestic animals taking place in its own country? In August 2004 when a visitor to the Olympic Games walked along clean streets near the stadiums - empty of the usual population of sick and dying animals - but also aware that Greece had banned the sale of cat and dog fur, then the country may morally have seemed a very impressive place. But little may he or she have realised how this tidy scenario was arrived at because in a few months those same streets would be filling once more with pets abandoned by their owners. Continued >

Next ... Click here for Part 3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as cruel to animals >


Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon MENU

Part 1 - Main Story
you are here> Part 2 - Analysis - Pre-Olympic Jitters
Part 3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as cruel to animals
Photo Page - caution contains upsetting images

If you would like to find out more about Greek Animal Rescue Groups and donate to their causes, here is a list of some with direct web-site links:

The Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF).
Greek Animal Rescue (GAR)
Pan-Cretan Group for the Protection of Animals "Noah's Ark".
Cretan Animal Welfare Group.

Care Corfu Animal Rescue Enterprise.
Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs).
Animal Respect of Aegina.
SOS Strays Association Belgium
Animal Care Samos
Kefalonia Animal Trust

You'll also find more animal rescue groups in our Global Charities and Groups Directories:

*Registered Animal, Environmental and Humanitarian Aid Charities Directory
*Vegetarian, Animal, Environmental and Conservation Groups Directory

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