One of the really sad things about going to Haiti is to see so many animals that are suffering and unhealthy. I suppose this should not surprise us. Even in wealthy western nations, it takes a lot of knowledge, work, food, and medical care to adquately provide for animals. In Haiti the domestic animals (dogs) are often gaunt and mean. Any American who has a dog for a pet would be heart broken to see the state and condition of most dogs living in Haiti. While sad, it is pretty understandable. If people are reduced to eating mud cookies (another post!) and must learn to be “street wise” to survive, then should we expect an easy life for the animals? Before we become judgemental about this, we need to ask ourselves: just where do we expect the money to come from to feed and care for them? I am told the dogs are often “trained” to be mean to serve as guard dogs, as “protectors” of the limited possessions a family might have. By the way, deliberate training of dogs to develop a mean spirit happens in the USA as well, particularly with the pit bull breed. They are taught to be vicious for the same reasons, and also even for the sport of it. Perhaps training dogs to be aggressive, is a twisted way for some to achieve control and domination.
Horses and donkeys are beasts of burden in Haiti, and it is often reflected in their worn down physical and dare I say “spiritual” condition. Cows and goats are grazers and pigs sort of fend for themselves. Chickens seem to spend most of their time running around trying to avoid scooters and digging into the dirt for stuff to eat. All in all, it is a hard life for the animals of Haiti, reflective of the hard life of Haiti’s people. I must also say with emphasis that not all Haitians treat their animals with disdain, many are treated well and seen as the important resource that they are.
In September a wonderful group of dedicated doctors, connected with the NGO “World Vets” are coming to Haiti to check out our animal farms to see how the animals are doing. They will help the local farmers and vets learn more about vaccinations, nutrition, etc. What a blessing this will be to our families doing the farming. I look forward to joining them on this mission.
As I think about this trip, I thought about how animals can sense almost immediately if you care about them or do not. They have a special sense about the relationship between man and beast. I would contend that you can tell a great deal about a person by how they care about the animals and critters that make up God’s creation. All life is sacred, and treating animals with respect is a sign of a person who cares about life. Children love their pets so much. It is part of the DNA of who we are. But as we grow up, for many it is all too easy to become abusive towards those creatures we can more easily vent our frustrations on. The USA is filled with cats and dogs that run wild, because many people simply abandon them. It makes you wonder how they treat their own children and others. So if you can’t handle the work and sacrifice that caring for animals brings, my advice would be to never get a dog or cat. it is not fair to the harmony of the creation. If you abuse your pets, you will end up also abusing people.
Finally, I hope I will see the day when the cock fights will come to an end in Haiti. Sadly, other than football (soccer to only Americans in all the world) cock fighting is the big draw in the local sports scene. Even the poor bet their limited monies on the outcome of the fight. Breeding and training to deliberately injure is not a good sign for any culture. May we all work towards making this a more humane and gentle world.
The Rev. Canon James E. Byrum