The plight of animals

In February 2018, one of the last functioning zoos in Venezuela stopped taking visitors for the first time in 45 years. More than 300 species and 1000 animals at the facility are now underfed, and there are reports of some of the animals being used to feed others. This terrible choice has been forced upon a country barely able to feed its own citizens. As far back as July 2016, more than 50 animals in the Caricuao zoo in Caracas simply starved to death. These starving animals aren’t even safe from being snatched away and eaten. The same zoo that closed down in February suspects that animals are being taken and butchered by local gangs who then sell the meat on the black market.

An emaciated lion from the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in Maracaibo

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. This has further impacted Venezuela’s food supply as farmers are less willing to breed livestock to feed the population. 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. This is why people are turning to unconventional sources of meat to sustain themselves.

The mob attacked the cow in an open field with stones and machetes

In response to mass hunger, the government has encouraged its citizens to breed rabbits for food, instead of allowing foreign aid. Venezuela’s urban agriculture minister said on national television that a rabbit is not a pet, it’s two and a half kilos of meat that is high in protein. The minister has complained that his Rabbit Plan has faced setbacks due to a cultural problem where people have begun to treat the rabbits as pets rather than eating them.

A stray dog on the streets of Caracas.

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.

Rescued dogs at the Famproa dogs shelter in Los Teques