By Constantinos Psillides
ON JANUARY 2, a dog named Hollie was found wandering near the Paramali village in the Limassol district in a terrible condition. She had been shot in the face and was missing an ear, the top half of her mouth was injured, her tongue was severed in half, she was half blind and 9kg underweight.
The news about Hollie shocked animal lovers, not because they hadn’t heard of such a thing before but because it came on the heels of a string of other animal abuse cases. A kennel owner who had let his dogs starve to death and a man who had tied his dog to his car and dragged it through downtown Limassol.
Hollie was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
On January 25 a meeting took place in Limassol, aiming at bringing animal activists together. In that meeting, a proposal was tabled: create an animal rights party to take part in the European Parliament elections in May.
Kyriakos Kyriakou, animal activist and head of Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC), is one of the leaders of this growing movement to create a party that deals exclusively with animal rights. The party, for the time being called Animal Party Cyprus, will gauge public opinion to see if there is enough support.
And it’s not like animal lovers couldn’t use a voice.
“These people, people who care for animals, are under constant threats and intimidation. They have been threatened by professional breeders, kennel owners, hunters, you name it. They were scared to take a stand publicly out of fear of retribution. No more. They want their voice to be heard, their issues addressed and this is what we are trying to achieve here,” said Kyriakou, adding that animal rights issues have been sidelined, in favour of other agendas, something he hopes to change.
Asked whether he was planning to be the party’s candidate for the EP elections, Kyriakou said it was possible but that who stood was not the main issue.
“We are a group of people trying to rally support for animal rights issues. That’s what’s important. Get people talking about these issues. Get the politicians talking. This is what we are after,” he said. “Who runs for office is not important. It might be me, it might be someone else.”
He said each party is allowed to have six candidates. “But first things first. We have to establish a party first,” he said.
Asked on the party’s agenda, Kyriakou said that number one on the list is appointing a commissioner for animal rights.
“We met with the president prior to his election and he was very positive on the idea. A commissioner can serve to coordinate all animal welfare related activities and services and also be the voice of animal lovers,” he said.
He described the present situation regarding animal welfare NGOs, kennels and other organisations as murky at best. “An animal rights commissioner would help clear things up,” he said.
Kyriacou is also worried about the image Cyprus projects as a tourist destination, thanks to the recent animal abuse stories.
“People here don’t realise it but Cyprus has a really bad name abroad when it comes to animal rights. And people take that into consideration when they are choosing a tourist destination. We want to improve that image by showing to the world that we care for animal rights and take abuse very seriously,” he added.
At this point, our interview was interrupted by someone calling Kyriakou on the phone. The woman had called to report a man who beat up his dog almost to death.
“This is what we are dealing with on a daily basis. It’s getting out of control. We need to take action,” he said after finishing his call.
Kyriakou noted that EP elections are just “warm-up act”. The Animal Party Cyprus is also setting its sights on the coming parliamentary and municipality elections in 2016, hoping to affect policy on a local level.
The animal activists met on Saturday in Paralimni and are meeting again today at 11.30am at the Crown Resort hotel in Paphos.
Meetings are also scheduled for Limassol and Nicosia within the next few days.
APC will also have a website running next week. People interested in getting more information on the activities of APC can contact Kyriakos Kyriakou at [email protected]