Streets of Cairo
Sabrina Ghazal

MOQATTAM - After stray dogs violently attacked two children in Moqattam last month, their families pressured the local veterinary council to put an end to the problem by poisoning the animals with strychnine — a deadly pesticide.

As a lethal product, strychnine should not be deposited at random, as it can also threaten residents’ health. In addition, prominent welfare activists like Dina Zulfikar criticized the council for not analyzing the area to determine exactly which animals were roaming Moqattam’s streets, since wild protected species like foxes could perish as well.

The General Organization for Veterinary Services (GOVS), the body responsible for addressing the stray dog problem, is known for systematically poisoning and shooting street animals to deal with the issue. Within two weeks of the mass killing campaign, 156 strays from the area had died.

Just doing our job

Hassan Shafiq, one of the media coordinators at the veterinary organization, a body that falls under Agriculture Ministry, says the GOVS is simply doing its job.

The mission of the GOVS’s trained veterinarians is to curb the growing number of stray animals roaming the streets of Cairo and other big cities.

“We believe our priority is protecting human beings,” he tells Egypt Independent.

“We do not have any statistics on the numbers of strays,” he adds. “We brought specialists to start a count in greater Cairo and the final results were 35,000 dogs. However, these numbers cannot be verified.”

(photo: jay bergesen)

Shafiq says the organization sometimes works in collaboration with police to shoot dogs.

But animal rights activists voice frustration about the cruelty and inefficiency of these techniques to control the stray animal population.

“These veterinarians shamelessly go against the whole essence of their work,” Zulfikar says.

For Mona Khalil, chairperson of the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, strays actually provide a service for the residents of major cities.

“They are very useful in diminishing the ferret and rat population, and their ongoing extermination has already created an imbalance in the environment,” she says.

For animal activists, instead of trying to exterminate street animals, the GOVS should focus on keeping the population in check by launching spaying and neutering programs.

She says using expensive poisons like strychnine and sending teams of vets to get rid of stray animals is nothing more than a waste of public funding.

“If poisoning and shooting strays was a successful approach to the problem, then the issue would be sorted by now,” says Khalil.

But Shafiq says the GOVS does not have the money for alternative methods.

“We are looking into neutering and spaying, but we are not equipped to do so and we don’t have the funds for it,” Shafiq says.

And few Egyptians feel the same way about protecting the nation’s stray animals. In fact, some residents take matters into their own hands and kill strays themselves, using similar methods as the GOVS, or worse.

Ahmed al-Kabani is a veterinarian who works in a private clinic in Qattamiya that also treats stray dogs.

“People tend to call authorities to demand the killing of dogs in their area,” he says.

If they don’t get an answer, they resort to their own methods.

“We have had some cases of dogs being fed balls of meat filled with ground-up pieces of glass, which is extremely painful and fatal to animals,” he says.

To change people’s minds, activists say they want to work with government officials to create a nationwide awareness campaign calling on veterinarians to begin a neutering program for strays.

“Funding is not the issue. Money just needs to be shifted from expensive strychnine poisons to paying professional veterinarians,” says Zulfikar.

However, veterinary schools must also begin teaching students about compassion and how to think about the welfare of animals, Khalil says.

“Getting a degree here is just about memorizing for tests, and practical lab experiments that inflict tremendous pain on animals,” says Khalil.

She adds that such mistreatment often rids future veterinarians of their compassion for animals. “This puts shame on the medical profession and ultimately creates robots with no mercy,” Khalil says.

Zulfikar adds that Dar al-Ifta issued a fatwa in 2008 stating that police and others should not kill stray dogs because it violates Sharia. “It is the role of educators and civil society to instill compassion in future generations, as well as guidelines on how to understand and to treat animals properly,” she asserts.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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