Croatia - Land of Cruelty
This text was written at the beginning of Animal Friends' campaign for the change of Animal Welfare Act in May 2002.
A small country for great cruelty! - this familiar tourism slogan could soon appear like this. If we take some facts into consideration, Croatia really does stand out amongst other countries by its treatment of animals, and also by the worsening of the situation.
Until recently we were proud of our population of griffon vultures, about one hundred of them, only to have fifty vultures, or half the population, poisoned in one day during a bear hunt. No attempt was even made to even look for, let alone punish, the culprit. Barely was this reported on or written about anywhere. Just as an example, we mention that Romania has a population of two griffon vultures and spends millions of euros on them. In this country, they annually kill off 50 or so...
Likewise, we could have been proud of one of the larger bear populations; but, instead of that, we decided to give up the bear - which we have even placed on the five-kuna coin - for hunting. So, for a couple of thousand euros, foreign hunters can come to this country, kill a bear, eat lunch and go home with a new bear's fur. Local hunters have even unconvincingly suspected, accused and immediately attempted to "punish" bears for the mysterious deaths of sheep on the island Krk. Local authorities did not even respond to solutions offered by respected foreign experts but continued to insist on extermination. Not even were offers by foreign countries of interest either to local or national authorities, since it is obvious that the hunting lobby is strong enough to oppose any offer. The President of the Republic, Stjepan Mesic himself, states at a sitting of the hunting alliance that "various stories circulate amongst those who do not know a lot about hunting" thereby giving support to the bloody sport or to the killing for pleasure. It is good that we have placed the bear on the coin because the way things stand - that is the only bear that will remain for us.
Croatia is probably the only country in the world where a hunter can openly say on national television that he killed somebody's dog, cat, donkey or some other animal and that he will also kill others. Hunting-grounds start as close as three hundred metres from private land and hunters intentionally kill everything "that moves," knowing that the law allows them to do that. It is simply repulsive to watch hunters, macho he-men, wearing military dress, armed with guns, lead by dogs, set out onto their heroic visits for the killing of "dangerous wild beasts" such as rabbits, pheasants and foxes.
However, hunters are not the only ones that use loopholes in our catastrophic Animal Protection Act. Some of Croatia's entertainment stars use animals as stage props for their appearances, be it that they hurl them around on stage, batter them or sacrifice them in the course of their artistic expression. Partially, things such as this get publicly condemned and there is talk of bringing charges, but everything stops there and very soon each of these occurrences is overshadowed by a new incident.
Although we are a small Central European country, we are the largest world producer of chinchilla fur, with up to 50% of the total world production. These small South American animals are kept in cramped cages, and when their time comes, by the breaking of their necks and the skinning of their pelts, they give their contribution to a proud branch of the Croatian economy. In just 6 months, Chinchilla Co.ltd. produced 10.5 tonnes of carcasses of these small rodents. Although more and more people in the world support ecological (synthetic) fur and are against the production of natural (animal) fur, we are not interested in bans on the farming of animals for fur like, for example, in Great Britain. We are not interested in the fact that the anti-fur movement is stronger all the time and that a large number of public and famous people around the world condemn this kind of cruelty and production, because in our country a lady is still not a "real lady" without a fur coat. We ask ourselves in which century and time are we living: the stone age or the third millenium?
With regards to animal species from other continents, it is necessary to mention ostriches - presently one of the growing problems in Croatia. There are more and more breeders of these African birds, even though there is no legislation in our country on the keeping and slaughter of these animals. The bringing of such legislation is sought from authorities, even though neighbouring Austria has banned the slaughter of ostriches. This is why it most probably has a chance here, because everything that is repulsive to the West is allowed in our country: from the hunting of protected species, the farming of fur and the slaughter of ostriches.
Unfortunately, the problem does not just lie in the farming and slaughter of animals from other continents. Animals such as chickens, pigs, cows, horses and sheep are reduced to things, to articles which serve to fulfil people. They are slaughtered without anaesthetic, inconsiderately. Their teeth, wings, tails and testes are cut with no thought being given to reducing pain. Passing through any Croatian rural settlement, everybody can convince themselves that the above-mentioned "techniques" are used to put animals to death, like the slow release of blood by the slitting of neck veins.
Also located in Croatia are some of the largest chicken farms, as well as some of the larger European farms of milker cows and pigs. Similarly, we can "boast" about huge farms of turkeys, calves and cattle for slaughter. Favourite specialties and popular meals are young pigs and little lambs. A particularly ugly sight are numerous restaurants along the busiest Croatian roads which proudly "turn" some little lambs and pigs over the fire in front of their entrance. There is no celebration, wedding or holiday without a roast or an excess of meat fare.
However, probably one of the greatest problems occurs in the Adriatic Sea, which is almost totally depleted. Fishing trawlers have ruined the seabed, dy dragging their nets, and fished out most of the fish. Add to this that, along with our local fishermen, Japanese fishermen are now assaulting the Adriatic Sea with new methods which some local fishermen are also beginning to accept.
We take this opportunity to consider some folk traditions, such as the beheading of bulls on the island Korcula. Even though that is not an original folk tradition, that supposedly civilised attraction was introduced in order to entertain foreign tourists, but it was then given up after just two seasons. Although it was conceived as a tourist attraction, it gave rise to repugnance and bitterness amongst tourists and the public, so it was prudently given up. What else can we expect and which other ideas lie in the heads of our people or tourist associations; waiting to horrify and shock again under the motto of new "tourist hits?"
As people who are more concerned about nature and animals than about profit and also as people who are full citizens of this country, we cannot help asking ourselves if Croatia is becoming a country of cruelty. Is Croatia becoming the slaughterhouse of Europe? While in other countries the law prohibits various animal abuses, in our country abuse is "introduced" as a tourist attraction. In the whole world the number of vegetarians is increasing and health organisations around the world support vegetarianism, but in our country authorities still do not have an understanding for the introduction of vegetarian meals into public institutions.
In Croatia nobody has yet been punished because of cruelty to animals. Almost anything is tolerated from owners of pets. Therefore, it is no surprise when it occurs that dogs and cats are abandoned and thrown out onto the street in the season of annual holidays. They finally end up at the pound where they are killed within a shorter time limit than that ordered by law.
"A small country for a great holiday" is the advertising slogan of the Croatian Tourist Association, inspired by seldom seen natural beauties of our land, its large potential for eco-tourism as well as the production of ecological (organic) and health food. The purpose of this article is not to dispute that, but to seek an answer to the question: why is Croatia turning to the bloody tourism of killing donkeys and bears, the killing and selling of rare song-birds, the farming of animal species endemic to other climes and the opening of new hunting-grounds? At the same time, our rural tourism, pictorialized by the beauty of castles from the Middle-Ages, deteriorates, overgrown with nettle and acacia. Some of the cleanest drinkable waters in this part of the world lose their clearness as a result of the bad planning of industrial zones; and cruelty and negligence towards almost all animal species which share these expanses with us takes on proportions with a worrying outcome.
Even though it is a "small" country, Croatia is unfortunately also a land of great cruelty.