Animals in Venezuela are suffering from acute malnutrition in a country where even most people find it difficult to feed themselves. They are often simply allowed to starve to death, despite efforts to transport them abroad to better conditions.
As early as 2016, more than 50 animals in the Caricuao zoo in Caracas died of starvation. After an inspection in February 2018, the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park was declared ‘unsuitable to receive visitors’ and was closed until further notice. Some of Zulia’s weaker animals were being fed to bigger ones. Several of their specimens were eating each other out of sheer desperation. Of its 1000 animals, 80% are still in critical condition.
‘What is being seen in Zulia can only be understood in countries with armed conflict’, said the zoo’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Carlos Silva. Dr Silva was later arrested without a warrant for “obstruction of justice” when he published a damning report on the park’s management.
It is not only Venezuela’s zoo animals that have suffered. Footage emerged in January 2018 of a crowd of people stoning a cow to death in an open field, hacking at it with machetes when it fell. There have been dozens of incidents in the state of Merida of cows being slaughtered in a similar way. In 2015, a kilogram of meat cost more than 40% of the average person’s monthly wage. Venezuela’s price control regime has meant that the costs of basic items is spiralling out of control, which is why people are turning to unconventional sources of meat to sustain themselves.
Yet another sign of the suffering in Venezuela is the situation faced by domestic pets. El Nacional reports that the cost of basic pet food as well as vaccines has forced owners to abandon their animals. Families who leave the country have to leave their pets behind. The high cost of dog food due to price controls and difficulty importing goods from abroad have pushed families to abandon their pets, which in some cases have become meat for a desperate population.
Marlene Sifontes who is responsible for workers at Venezuela’s zoos, has said: "The story of these animals is a metaphor for Venezuelan suffering." It remains to be seen, however, if any action will be taken to alleviate the suffering of the humans and the animals, as the country slides deeper into crisis.
More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website.