FIFA World Cup 2018: Festival of humans, death of humanity

Because of the event, hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats and even birds will be killed by terrible poisons and in some cases even more cruel ways.

Pinak Pani DattaPinak Pani Datta | Updated: 13-06-2018 01:47 IST | Created: 12-06-2018 21:34 IST
FIFA World Cup 2018: Festival of humans, death of humanity
There are approximately two million strays in Russia’s 11 World Cup host cities. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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On the eve of the 1966 FIFA World Cup, a dog named 'Pickles' was in news. On 20th March 1966, four months before the gala event was scheduled to kick off, the original trophy was stolen during a public exhibition at Westminster Central Hall. The Jules Rimet Trophy, which was named after a French lawyer who was a president of the FIFA and initiated the World Cup competition in 1929, was made up of £30,000 solid gold.

The incident was kept confidential and a replica was being considered when the police received a call from Dave Corbett, a resident of Norwood, South London, claiming that he had recovered the trophy. It turned out that his dog Pickles found it. Dave said that when Pickles started going around his neighbour's car constantly, then he saw a tightly bundled package wrapped in a newspaper. He tore a bit of the package and could see words like Brazil, West Germany, etc., engraved on it, along with a blank shield. His heart started pounding as he finally recognised the priceless piece of gold.

Pickles became an overnight sensation who won several awards, including Dog of the Year and has acted in a few films too. But, died in an accident in the following year. But, for FIFA World Cup, this dog remains a legendary figure out of the playing field. Since then 12 editions of FIFA World Cup have gone by. The trophy has been all over the world from Mexico to South Korea and the United States to South Africa.

This month the 21st edition of the greatest show on earth is going to kick off in Russia. But for the host country dogs have become a liability. A petition, started by animal rights activist Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, has accused the Russian state of killing homeless stray dogs. More than a million people are already in support of the petition, which is being addressed to Russian president Vladimir Putin, supposedly a dog lover. According to her, "tenders worth $1.95million have been awarded in host cities to deploy 'canine KGB' deaths squads. Hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, and even birds will be killed by terrible poisons and in some cases even more cruel ways."

The issue has started a social media campaign already.

According to the Guardian, there are approximately two million strays in Russia's 11 World Cup host cities and it has been estimated that local authorities will spend up to £119 million on catching, caging, sterilizing and euthanizing animals this year. But activists warn that image-conscious officials are trying to remove strays from the streets by fair means or foul play before the arrival of players and fans next month.

Russian officials deny euthanasia as state policy, and some NGOs say the same as well. The allegations of mass extermination are just "gossip", says Yekaterina Ublinskaya, deputy director of Right to Life, an animal rights NGO operating in the western exclave of Kaliningrad, which won a £21,400 contract to provide temporary accommodation for dogs picked up off the streets for the World Cup. "There are some instances of poisoning, but these are private incidents and there is no mass poisoning."

The Independent, however, reported that there is a crackdown not only on dogs but beggars, prostitutes, and students as well.

This isn't the first time that Russia has been slammed for its treatment of stray animals. Thousands of stray dogs were shot and poisoned before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Yulia Krasavo told CNN that she witnessed the long, agonizing death of a street dog when she walks out of a movie theatre in Sochi. "At first I thought someone beat the dog, she jumped up and started running around in circles. Then she fell down and started spitting up ... I called the veterinarian. He said there is a 100% guarantee the dog was poisoned."

The sport's international governing body, FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee said in a statement to The Washington Post that they "in no way condone cruel treatment of wild and stray animals" and would be monitoring "the appearance of stray animals in the stadiums" and "responding to any case in a humane manner." FIFA and the organizing committee also said they were in contact with the host cities and "expect them to ensure the welfare of the animal population."

This is also not the first instance when the prestigious international football tournament has been tainted for being inhumane. During the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, the authorities drove out tens of thousands of slum dwellers from the city. At least 19000 families were affected as reported by The Guardian.

However, from 15 June, the NIKA Foundation – a non-profit animal rescue group – will be launching a dog adoption campaign titled "Find a Friend in Russia" in all host cities. "The visitors of the [World Cup] host cities... including foreigners, will be able to pick their new friend from a local [dog] shelter via website," the organizers told Sputnik.

The World Cup kicks off on June 14 with host nation Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, with the final to be played at the same stadium on July 15. Ten other cities will also be hosting World Cup matches.

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