Sometimes we need to regroup and reassess and since I’ve been quite silent since New Year’s Day, this is what you might have thought I was up to during this time. If, you did think this, you weren’t entirely wrong, but you weren’t entirely right either.
You see, to my mind there is nothing much to regroup and reassess because when it comes to animal rights and the animal welfare situation in Malta, things still suck big time. Small wins were celebrated during 2019 but we’re far far away from celebrating some big victory.
The month of January saw a change in the country’s leadership, and whilst I tried to keep my hopes low and my expectations lower, the change in leadership did bring in a new prospect of optimism. First of all, Animal Welfare was ‘upgraded’ to Ministry level and secondly and perhaps more significantly, we heard magic words coming out of Dr. Lydia Abela’s mouth.
Besides being her own successful and accomplished self, Dr. Lydia Abela, is also the new Prime Minister’s spouse and on the 17th of January she went on record, live on Xarabank, saying that she wants to help make a difference in the lives of animals in Malta.
She said that she loves animals, feels a big void when she doesn’t have a pet at home, and that she’d like to raise more awareness about the subject and to contribute to making the situation better.
Of course, at the time, Dr. Abela might not have known what she had just talked herself into; she might not have known how hard so many activists have already been working to break down red taped walls that should never have been put up in the first place. But soon enough, she was made aware, because many animal activists including myself set up a meeting with Dr. Abela and filled her in with the situation.
When I met Dr. Lydia Abela on the 31st of January, she seemed receptive and understanding. She was clearly shocked with some of the truths that were bestowed upon her, and she promised that she would do her best to find a way to improve the situation.
Among other things we discussed these five hot items:
- Animal Welfare (Ghammieri) not being adequate or big enough to accommodate strays. Dr. Abela was referred to the Animal Commissioner’s report (dated April 2019) for a full low down on the terrible state of this place.
- Enforcement of the law – the possibility of issuing administrative fines (instead of court orders) for violations such as unchipped and non-tagged dogs, chained dogs and other violations that are deemed ‘minor’ if committed by first time offenders.
- A nationwide neutering campaign and why this is of utmost importance.
- Raising public awareness and education even amongst the judiciary.
- And finally – what I wholeheartedly believe is the crux of the whole problem – the political apathy that has always weighed any real improvements in this area. The fact that the Animal Welfare has always been relegated to the political back burners after, health, education, justice and even the environment.
Dr. Lydia Abela is the umpteenth person I’ve met up with to try to change the situation and whilst I want to believe that she will make a difference, if she doesn’t (and even if she does), I will not go away.