Sewing seeds of compassion in Kurdistan - Iraq

The 2016 World Animal Day grant was awarded to the Kurdistan Organisation for Animal Rights Protection (KOARP) to help address the poor welfare standards of the region’s animals. The World Animal Day grant is proudly sponsored by Naturewatch Foundation 

The education programme funded by the grant and led by Dr Sulaiman Saeed has reached thousands of people who make their living from working with animals. In Kurdistan, the concept of animal welfare is in its infancy, there are no laws in place to protect livestock, pets or wild animals from harm, and knowledge of how to treat animals humanely is almost non-existent. To the best of KOARP’s knowledge, this is the first time that an education programme has been implemented in the Kurdistan region for the benefit of people working with and trading in animals. 

Find out more about why the project was needed 

Duhok is the third largest province, after Erbil and Sulaimania, located in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. It has a population of around 1,500,000 plus 800, 000 internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees from southern Iraq and Syria. Duhok province is made up of 8 districts (Duhok Center, Shekhan, Aqra, Bardarash, Amedia, Sumail, Zakho and Sinjar) which have more than 22 sub-districts. 

The first phase of the grant project began in early January and focused upon addressing the barbaric treatment of animals in the six abattoirs within Duhok province. We are very pleased to report that with the co-operation of the regional government and local authorities, a series of seminars and practical workshops have been held in each location. 

As the majority of the workers are illiterate, Dr Saeed and his team have improved the knowledge and raised the skills of the workers through talks, presentations, videos, slideshows, illustrated printed materials and practical workshops. The topics covered included: goals of the workshop, animal sentience, five freedoms, transport of animals, treatment and handling at the abattoir, slaughter process, zoonotic diseases, etc.   

The training sessions were attended by the workers, owner and veterinarians at each location who all now understand that animals are sentient beings that feel pain and fear the same as humans. They have been taught how to handle and treat the animals as humanely as possible throughout the process to ensure they are caused as little stress as possible. 

At the end of each training session, the participants were given an oral and practical test to ensure they had gained the knowledge and skills required to demonstrate a good level of competence. Each person who completed the course successfully was presented with a ‘Certificate of Competence’ by KOARP. 

Requests are already being received for further training to be conducted with workers who were unable to attend, and follow-up visits will be carried out on a regular basis with refresher courses conducted when necessary. With the support of the workers, abattoir owners and vets, Dr Saeed and his team have also improved the conditions for the animals at abattoirs throughout the region. 

The second phase of the grant project aimed to improve the treatment of animals in markets and pet shops. 

Many people in Kurdistan make a living by trading in domestic and wild animals, and birds.  Many are bred in captivity and some are captured from the wild, but the traders do not have the knowledge to care for them properly and have no idea of species-specific needs. For them, trading animals is simply the way they make a living! 

Wild animals such as young wolves, bears, foxes, squirrels, turtles, vultures, falcons and partridges are hunted and then either directly traded in markets and pet shops or bred from in captivity with their young being sold. Sulaiman and his team are committed to ending the hunting and trading of wild animals, while also raising public awareness on the importance of the role of wild animals in protecting the country’s ecological balance. 

The seminars, workshops and informal training sessions held so far have concentrated upon Duhok, Zakho and Akra where huge bazaars/markets are held on a Friday and there are 37 pet shops. Sulaiman’s team have reached more than 1,000 people who trade in animals and taught them how to care for them properly, to take into consideration their welfare requirements, to avoid unnecessary suffering or injury, and to take their physiological and behavioural needs into account. The issue of risks surrounding zoonotic diseases is of particular concern and this matter was covered comprehensively with all the pet shop owners and the people responsible for running the markets. A further 1,000 people who trade in animals were reached via the distribution of leaflets, books and banners at the three markets. 

Again, as the majority of the people who attended the training are illiterate, Dr Saeed and his team conducted the programme through talks, presentations, videos, slideshows, illustrated printed materials and practical workshops.  The topics covered included: goals of the workshop, five freedoms, animal sentience, care of animals, signs of healthy/sick animals, transport of animals, handling of animals while at market, the reasons why wild animals should not be hunted, import/export of animals, the need for government to take action to protect animals, the steps that must be taken if an animal dies in captivity, etc.   

In order to evaluate the success of the training, oral and practical assessments of each participant were conducted and the results were very positive with competence certificates awarded to all who attended. The names and contact details of all participants were recorded to facilitate future follow up interventions. 

An additional seminar was held to target decision makers which was attended by an Iraqi MP (Head of the Environment Committee), four representatives of Duhok provincial council (Environment Committee), professors and teachers of Duhok University, representatives of relevant Directorates (Environment, Forestry, Police, Veterinary, Fire, Dams & Reservoirs, Culture) and two environmental protection NGOs. On the same day, Duhok Universtiy Radio invited some of the decision makers to participate in a talk show to discuss the development of animal protection and the introduction of appropriate legislation.   

This seminar has begun the lobby process to see the implementation of animal protection legislation and to outlaw the hunting and trading of wild animals.  It was also used to highlight the unsuitability of current market facilities for the buying and selling of animals and to emphasise the dangers of zoonotic diseases and the necessary precautionary measures that need to be implemented. 

In February, Dr Sulaiman Saeed was invited to appear on the Evara Badinan Show, a live prime time TV programme from 6.00 to 7.00pm. Dr Sulaiman was able to speak about World Animal Day, the grant, the educational projects, and the individual activities conducted within the programme. In March, Avro Newspaper published an extensive article about all the work conducted under both projects funded by the World Animal Day grant made available by Naturewatch Foundation. KOARP also took part in a 55-minute radio programme about the hunting of wild animals, the importance of respecting animals, treating them humanely and caring for them properly. 

Everyone who participated in the education programmes was extremely grateful for the knowledge they have gained and the new skills they have learned. 

World Animal Day is proud to have helped KOARP sew these first seeds of compassion.  Dr Sulaiman Saeed and his team will now build upon the great work that’s been done with the grant by conducting regular interventions at abattoirs, markets and pet shops.  They will also continue visiting colleges and the private zoos, lobby decision makers, enlist the help of mosques and churches, and pursue media opportunities to relay further information about respecting animals and caring for them humanely. 

We are confident that KOARP will continue to make significant and sustained progress in improving the lives of Kurdistan’s animals. 

We cannot change the past but we can help influence the future! 

View a selection of images taken during the education programme [pdf]

 

 

- March 27, 2017