Interview with Charlotte Kohler, member of PETA

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by Cristiano Checchi

What is happening in Ukraine?

In many Southern and Eastern European countries, thousands of homeless dogs and cats endure miserable lives on the streets. Killing these animals in order to get rid of them happens in not only Ukraine but also a lot of other countries as well. However, this practice has increased dramatically in Ukraine, one of the host countries for EURO 2012, since preparations for the event began because the government wants to present tourists with “clean” streets.

How many animals have been killed when miss only 15 days at the beginning of the  european cup?

According to estimates, about half a million dogs are forced to live on the streets of the former Soviet republic. Within one year, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 animals were killed in Kiev alone. The situation in the nation’s capital has improved now, but a PETA investigation in Eastern Ukraine in March showed the same picture as in November 2011 when PETA investigators also travelled to the country: homeless dogs were systematically caught and killed. About 7,000 homeless dogs are violently killed every month in the Donetsk region alone. The animals are not euthanized but instead are killed in violent and cruel ways – they are systematically shot, bludgeoned or poisoned.

What has PETA been doing to arrest this unbelievable and crazy massacre?

We first got in touch with the Ukrainian government in 2009 to urge authorities to stop the mass killings immediately and to implement neuter-and-release programmes. We told Ukrainian officials that it has been proved that killing homeless animals doesn’t help reduce the overpopulation. Only consistent neuter-and-release programmes can reduce the population of homeless dogs and cats sustainably. In such programmes, animals are neutered and treated by a veterinarian and then returned to their familiar territories. This method is supported by the World Health Organisation in its “Guidelines for Dog Population Management”.

After our investigators travelled to Ukraine in November 2011, they were able to provide us with shocking photo and video footage. We used this to start an extensive educational campaign that garnered wide interest in this shocking issue. As a result of protests and immense public outcry, Ukrainian politicians in November 2011 said they would stop the killings. Unfortunately, this past spring, our investigators found that the killings had ended in only a few parts of the country. We also turned to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) as well as sponsors of EURO 2012 and asked them to speak out publicly against the killings and to support local animal welfare groups and neuter-and-release programmes. The UEFA donated money to a Ukrainian animal welfare group – we are pleased with this gesture, but it’s merely a drop in the bucket. The animals in Ukraine need more support.

Are there some country or others associations that have supperted your cause? 

Thousands of people have been supporting our campaign. During our investigations in Ukraine, we worked with local groups that we’re still in contact with and get information from. We also donated to these groups to support their work. Other non-Ukrainian animal welfare groups, too, support the protests and the charitable work on behalf of animals in Ukraine.  A lot of people in Ukraine are trying to help the homeless animals. However, in order to reduce the population of homeless animals and their suffering in the long run, Ukraine needs extensive neuter-and-release programmes supported by the government. Additionally, the sale of animals in pet shops and markets has to end, and breeding must be strongly restricted. Regulations also need to ensure that private individuals neuter their animal companions.

 Are you going to do some protest during the euro cup in order to become aware the turist about what happened in Ukraine?

PETA Germany mainly focuses on investigations and education. Our investigators were able to show the public what is really going on in Ukraine by bringing us very graphic photo and video footage as well as eyewitness reports.

However, too many people still don’t know about the suffering of these animals. We are, therefore, very happy to have received so much support from celebrities who are speaking out for a EURO 2012 without animal suffering. High-profile people in football, such as the coach of the current German champion Borussia Dortmund, support our protest as do musicians Bill and Tom Kaulitz of Tokio Hotel and Udo Lindenberg.

 We urge all caring people to support our online petition to the Ukrainian government, the UEFA and EURO 2012 sponsors to help end the killings, at PETA.de/AAUkraine. More than 302,000 people have already taken part!

We’re also spreading information via our PETA Germany Facebook page during EURO 2012. People can also find information there about a badge that we produced so that caring people can show their position against the mass killings during EURO 2012.  We’re trying to work with the Ukrainian media to spread a message of empathy and respect for animals. What needs to be made clear is that the homeless animals roaming Ukrainian streets didn’t choose to live that way. They are the victims of human intervention and failure. They were abandoned or are the offspring of abandoned animals. These animals suffer from hunger, diseases, the elements and cruel people their entire lives. The Ukrainian media present homeless dogs in a negative way, which is why PETA wants to change how they’r perceived and why we advocate reducing the population of homeless animals through humane neuter-and-release efforts. We are looking forward to EURO 2012 because we hope to be able to convince the Ukrainian government to see it as a starting point to a more humane and cruelty-free future.

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