Cuba publishes first animal welfare law ‘It’s a first step’

Animal rights activist Gilda Arencibia feeds a stray dog in Havana, photo: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini
Animal rights activist Gilda Arencibia feeds a stray dog in Havana, photo: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

Cuba published its first animal welfare law on Saturday. Humans abusing animals can get a fine, but the country did not ban cockfights or animal sacrifices during religious rites.

Last year, around 500 people marched in Havana to demand a law that protects animals. In February, a few dozen animal rights activists assembled again in front of the Agriculture Ministry.

The new law, published by the Council of State, focuses on “animal welfare and raising awareness in our population on the care and respect of animals”. The objective, it adds, is to achieve “a harmonious relationship between human beings and other species”.

Cockfights remain legal
The law forbids anyone “to provoke a confrontation between animals of any species, unless an exception is approved by the relevant authority.”

Fights between dogs are banned, but cockfights remain legal as long as they are sponsored by specific state-supervised clubs.

Animal sacrifices performed during ceremonies of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santería are still allowed. The law does require that “animal sacrifices must be carried out rapidly and compassionately, to avoid pain and stress”.

Animals must be “cared for and protected by man,” the decree states. Violators will face fines of 500 to 4,000 pesos ($21 to $167).

First steps
Grettel Montes de Oca, founder of the Cubans in Defense of Animals rights group, called the new law a positive “first step”.

“The road will be very long,” Grettel told AFP. “But it is surely positive that now there is a law,” even if “there are many things (in the text) that are not good.”

She added that she heard about the news while she was searching for food for her 60 animals, which can be a challenge at times.

The legislation is considered a victory for Cuba’s civil society; it’s one of the first times demands from the public have become law in the communist country.

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