“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”, said once Mahatma Gandhi. Said so, as an Albanian I admit, I do not feel that great. Because the rights of animals in Albania have always been a huge problematic issue. There has been a lack of culture toward treating these creatures and beings in a country where life has been hard and difficult for humans themselves. But last years a miracle happened and the society is reacting and is more organized to protect animals rights. Different organizations are working toward offering food and medical assistance to abandoned animals, such as Animal Rescue Albania. Hundred of volunteers support this organizations and also work personally with the street animals. These organizations and individuals are also working to raise awareness about this new, for years considered “a luxury” cause. In the meantime, the government response to this problematic is still weak and inconsiderable.
Many cases of cruelty toward street dogs and cats have been reported and made public, especially in the social networks, the biggest ally of animal lovers community. The mistreatment of abandoned animals in the streets of Tirana are, sad to say, perfect for horror movies.
But on January 7th, it was the first time that Albanian animal lovers had to deal with an abandoned donkey in the downtown of the capital city. He was unable to walk and very sick, lying in the middle of the street, hopeless and mistreated. For the first time in the history, citizens did not ignore this cruel scene and they did their best to help this animal, making us believe that Albanian nation entered now a different stage of humanity. Maria Cristina Medina, a foreigner living in Albania who owns an abandoned animals shelter, offered herself to help, but the poor animal lost its life, unable to reach alive the shelter.
Beside the solidarity this story taught us also that there is still a lot to do toward the awareness of animal rights in Albania. There were many people, thinking that it was an overreaction about a donkey’s life (what?!?!?!?!) and many of them started making fun of all this mobilization, considering it as ridiculous. As a journalist, but also as a person not so close to animals, but still respectful toward EVERY being in the planet, I am very very happy that a new era started for my nation, toward a long and difficult journey to become a great one. As we all dream to.
The person who reported the dramatic episode and made this news viral on social media, is a well-known Albanian animals rights activist, Arber Cepani, who also was one of the firsts to assist the sick donkey. He was very active on social media, asking for help and support, till it finally came (though it was already late!!). Meantime, in the many Facebook posts denouncing the episode, the comment that drew my attention particularly was that of Edlira Saliaj, an early animal rights activist. “Donkey is the animal that served more to Albanian people in the history and we show no gratitude toward this creature”, she said, for the donkey has historically served to villagers to make the biggest part of their work, as the main mean of transport, “and this wonderful creature is used to portray stupid people in everyday life”, added Saliaj, referring to the fact that in the Albanian jargon language “donkey” is used to call a person “stupid”. But after this episode when many people showed such a great insensibility, I, and I am sure many others like me, would like, from now on, to use the word “human” to portray “idiots”!
Does this situation concern you as well? If not, well… you are such a “human” then!!