The cruel cage created by the kind hand
If you’ve visited or seen photos of Bali, you know just how beautiful the country is.
Rice paddies, jungles and beautiful beaches are scattered around the island and it feels just like I imagine paradise would feel like. But beneath the beautiful surface, there lies an undercurrent shaped by the countries poverty and religious beliefs.
In 2010, 83% of Bali practiced Balinese Hinduism. If you’re not familiar with Hinduism (or the Balinese form), it is beautiful, intricate and has many layers and levels within it. One of those layers is reincarnation.
Balinese people believe that thieves and criminals are reincarnated as dogs and combined with the outbreak of rabies in 2015 which the government is still struggling to overcome, the general sentiment towards dogs is low. In my personal experience, this feeling extends to most animals here.
In the west, we are accustomed to animals being respected and part of the family. When foreigners travel to Indonesia, the culture shock relating to this can be heartbreaking. Indonesia is very different.
It’s common to see puppies and kittens dumped on a street, far away from their mum. This is the local’s method of controlling stray animal numbers and is more affordable than neutering the animals as we would in the West.
It’s equally as common to see foreigners rescuing these animals and giving them food, shelter and love in a country that would otherwise ignore their plight. But the problem with foreigners adopting animals is they don’t tend to stay in Bali and what’s left behind by their kindness is far crueler than an animal dying on the streets.
When you take an animal into your home, you domesticate it, strip it of it’s natural inclination to hunt and act independently of humans. In the west, this isn’t a problem because we keep animals for life. But in Bali, it’s a very big problem and that’s why I’m writing this post today.
Since moving to Bali almost four months ago, I have volunteered daily at organisations that take on animals adopted and abandoned by foreign tourists. The sheer number of animals showing up every day is depressing and while I try to remain optimistic about tourist’s intentions, it’s difficult when you’re dealing with hundreds of animals rejected by their western owners. Combine this with the cramped and unhygienic conditions they now have to live in and the last slither of hope I have vanishes.
The act of adopting itself is wonderful and I don’t doubt their intentions. What really infuriates me is a selective ignorance about what happens after they leave. It’s what I find most difficult to stomach.
Today, I want to share two stories with you of animals who have been left behind by their owners so you can fully appreciate the situation in Bali. Let’s start with Hoky.
I woke up one morning and checked Facebook to be greeted by this and many more photos in a community group I’m a part of. His name is Hoky and he is supposed to be a beautiful Siberian husky.
Instead, he is hairless and emaciated. His owner left him and his five other dogs locked in their villa without food or water when he abandoned his property four weeks ago. Five animals left to die within the confines of their own home by a person who adopted them and ultimately, took on the responsibility for their welfare.
Hoky died a few days after he was found.
It could be wise to assume that something had happened to Hoky’s owner and perhaps they fully intended to return to Bali within reasonable time. But I doubt it because this happens more often than you can believe.
I don’t want tourists to stop caring for stray animals in Indonesia.
I think the kindness and empathy we bring from the west is hugely valuable in setting an example of how animals should be treated. However, feeding a stray animal to overcome sickness or injury is one thing. Taking them away from their home, into your home, is another.
That’s what happened to a group of cats.
These cats used to live in a market, somewhere in Bali. Markets are the best place for a stray animal to be, especially when they have meat or fish stalls because the animals can scavenge scrap food.
For these cats, a kind foreign women adopted them one-by-one and took them from their home of infrequent food and unreliable shelter, into her villa. Over a period of 6 months, she adopted 16 cats in total.
She flew back home last week and dumped all of them at BAWA’s door.
When questioned about vaccinations and sterilisation, the owner admitted that she had not bothered with either. What this means for these cats is they cannot be sent to the sanctuary owned by BAWA and they cannot be transferred to another organisation until those procedures happen. But they won’t (any time soon), because the organisations have no money.
There are 3 adult cats living in a tiny bird cage for extended periods of time right this second. They have no privacy, they have no personal space and because of this woman’s selfishness, they have no hope of leaving this cage any time soon.
While I try to remain unbiased and without opinion, I am blown away daily by the lack of foresight and complete disregard for animals once the owner has had their fill. It’s led me to ask the same question over and over -
Is being alive really better than being free?
If you had of asked me this while I lived in Australia, I would have said yes. But now that I have experienced first-hand what happens when we prioritise short-term pleasure over long-term consequences, I’m not so sure.
The people and associations left to clean up the mess created by tourists are overwhelmed with cases just like this. I have tried to convince myself that my donations and time are making a real difference but the overwhelming truth is it doesn’t even scratch the surface. I’ve donated my own time and money, but this needs to be larger than me.
Donations of just a few dollars can make the world of difference to organisations who work tirelessly to help the animals that are left behind. And while it may not seem like a lot to you, the money is often used to buy much needed supplies and veterinary procedures that allow animals to be shifted to a more comfortable, long-term home.
It’s only when we work together that we can pool our collective resources and make amazing things happen. You can help make these animals by donating on BAWA’s website and clicking the large orange button to make a single donation.
Thank you for your kindness.
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