Animal Rights Abuse Mars Iran Zoos, Circuses and Streets

Torture, Apparent and Hidden Abuse a Blot on Iran's Treatment of Animals
Abuse of lions in the circus on Qeshm Island. (Supplied)

The Turkish Hürriyet Daily News reported some time ago that a court issued a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of 15,000 liras to three defendants who were involved in the murder of 16 stray dogs by feeding them poisoned chicken.

This happened in Turkey, the western neighbor of Iran, which brings together many religious and cultural participants. In Iran, municipalities in many major cities have been brutally killing stray dogs for years.

The killing of a large number of rare animals, such as leopards, bears, deer and migratory birds by hunters, the stone-throwing at dogs and cats by some individuals and even hanging them in the middle of the street in some cases, creates an intractable dilemma that needs to be resolved through approaches to safeguarding and protecting the rights of animals, preserving the environment and raising awareness of social responsibility around animals.

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The Iranian regime and the relevant institutions do not adopt a rational and acceptable policy on animal rights. Dogs and cats do not have vaccination and promotional campaigns. The number of cases of animal abuse that have received appropriate punishment through the intervention of civil and governmental organizations do not exceed the fingers of one hand.

The Iranian legislature has not passed a law to prevent animal abuse and is opposed to raising pets at the home, placing severe obstacles and restrictions on those who own pets.  People face penalties for simply taking their pets with them in their personal cars.

In recent years, many of the Friday sermons and representatives of the Guardian of Jurisprudence in Iranian provinces have criticized the fact that individuals take their pets on the streets for a walk, considering that "pet breeding is a cultural and social problem and a blind dependency on Western culture that is vulgar and harmful to public health."

According to several accounts from Iran, the police took it upon themselves to "deal firmly" with what they considered a "dog picnic/walk," and police officers confront citizens about "non-compliance with veils, headscarves, harassment of women on the street and vocal contamination" throughout the country. Impounding a car, imposing a fine and taking the dog to an unknown place is part of the Iranian authorities' methods of punishing pet owners. According to published reports, domestic dogs confiscated by the police may face killing, but even with this strict and violent government policy against owners of domestic animals, the number of these “violators” has not decreased.

Under the government of Hassan Rouhani, the bill on animal welfare did not see light even after multiple incidents of animal abuse and torture. Thus, the killing of stray dogs has continued since November 2008, and we can report some of these brutal practices, such as strangling a number of stray dogs with rope by contractors in the municipality of Tabriz, killing loose dogs with acid in the city of Shiraz, and killing sterilized and vaccinated dogs in the Mehrshahr area in the city of Karaj. There are dozens of other examples of animal abuse in the country.

A bear in the zoo located in the city of Babolsar. (Supplied)

Torture and ill-treatment

In Iran for many years, crimes against animals, especially dogs, were not limited to killing only, but also to torture and mistreatment with the perpetrators publishing pictures and videos of their heinous practices on social media which went viral.  These include videos and photos of the mistreatment of dogs in the Kalala region, in the province of Golestan, and the tragic killing of a female bear in front of the eyes of her young in Vank, Semiram, in the province of Isfahan.  There was also the killing of a donkey by several people with a hammer in the same city and the incident of the torture and killing of a leopard in the west of the country. Other incidents include the killing of stray dogs and cats with liquid tar or mutilation of their bodies and cutting off the genitals of hyenas, skinning or burning wolves, painting dogs, culling lizards, setting donkeys on fire or throwing them from heights are just a few examples of cruel treatment and inhumane crimes against animals.

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Dismal Conditions for Animals in Zoos

The dismal conditions of animals in zoos have led to widespread criticism by animal rights activists due to the absence of modern international standards, the absence of adherence to sanitary requirements and the use of small cages that do not comply with international standards.

Animals in zoos in Iran suffer from malnutrition, and the absence of therapeutic tools and equipment as well as veterinarians in parks around the country cause grief and regret. Zoo officials claim to supervise the animals by monitoring their physical and health status, but these parks have become a place to earn money at the expense of physical and psychological torture of animals.

Iran imported 3 African zebras (1 male and 2 female) from the Netherlands in May 2021 and these animals long remained in poor conditions in Iranian customs warehouses resulting in the death of the male a week after it was transferred to the Safa Dasht Zoo in Tehran. A video went viral showing the main cause of his death-- the male Zebra was beaten which led to fractures in his leg and his inability to walk.

The Eram Zoo, affiliated with Khamenei's Foundation for the Oppressed in Tehran, has caused widespread controversy many times among animal-friendly associations and animal advocates in recent years because of its fall from minimum standards. These poor conditions in Eram Zoo led to the death of a female white tiger after she was attacked by a male tiger.

Continuing the series of suffering is “Herman,” a 9-year-old Iranian male lion who suffers from tragic conditions. This lion, who moved to Eram Zoo from British Bristol zoo in 2019, has serious health conditions.  Baran, a 3-year-old orphan chimpanzee, lives in a cage that does not fulfill the health standards of the animals in this zoo.

Photos of a handcuffed brown bear at the Babolsar City Zoo in 2014 outraged and infuriated activists. Animals in the Babolsar City Zoo live in dismal conditions, where a camel has lost its hair and suffers from malnutrition and secures its strength from waste there. Skinny and hungry lions are forced to eat grass instead of meat, and the conditions of the geese in this garden are no different from the rest of the animals where they all eat from the muddy water.

Lions look miserable in the circus on Qeshm Island. (Supplied)

Abuse of Circus Animals

These cruel methods and ill-treatment of animals extend through zoos to circuses in cities and do not have the minimum necessary health conditions and specifications. There have been numerous stories and news spread about the methods of cruelty and mistreatment of animals in these places and one result was, for example, that a circus was banned in the city of Tabriz due to the bad conditions of the animals in it, following the demands of environmental activists and animal welfare societies in the city to close the circus.

The disastrous situation in the circus of “Persian” in the province of East Azerbaijan led to the death of 5 lions in September 2014. A bear lives in Elle Clay's circus in Tabriz in dismal conditions where it lost all its teeth. Another lion lives in this circus below global standards and specifications, also without teeth as its fangs and teeth were removed with a chainsaw.

The flow of news, stories and videos about animal abuse, torture and ongoing killings across the country is sounding the alarm about the disregard for the rights of animals and the massive violations of their rights and their tragic circumstances. This may set the stage for bringing international claims against the Iranian regime and holding it accountable for all violations of the rights of animals before international organizations.

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