05 September, 2009

It ain't pretty

Anyone who has spent any time in the Mediterranean knows that there are stray animals, street animals -- dogs and cats -- nearly everywhere, on every street, down every alley, and of course around every dumpster.

The scene below is not from the streets as such, but it illustrates the extent of the problem.  It was made in one of the Mediterranean's most remote corners:  far out on the Karpaz peninsula of Cyprus.  It is an idyllic scene, in which a dog and some cats inhabit the picturesque ruins of an old Byzantine church at the edge of the sea.  Amid the crumbling walls and faded floor mosaics, they all get along peacefully.  Nearby, there is even a tiny, isolated 'inn' of sorts where they could feed on garbage and handouts. 

A few months later they were all gone.  

The nearest village, even the nearest house, was way too far away for cats to find.  The dog might have followed the road and got there eventually, but it would have been unlikely to find a handout.  I lived in that village for nearly a year; the streets there were already full to capacity of other animals.

Professional photographers like Hans Silvester, whose coffeetable books include titles like  Sleeping in the Sun: Carefree Cats of the Greek Islands, give the impression, as does the photo above, that life is good for the animals in the Mediterranean, and that everything is beautiful.

Yet the beauty of the Mediterranean belies the harshness of life for the animals that live here -- not just in quiet, seaside locations the like the one above, but in nearly every street, in every town, every city, and every village across the entire region, from Beirut to Barcelona, from Izmir to Oran.

Addressing the problem will mean acting locally, but so far there is no sign that anyone has set out to think globally about a solution.


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