People often do horrible things to other people in and out of war, but within a war zone, few people or agencies consider the harm done to animals and the environment. In ancient Egypt, cats were sacred and the whole household went into mourning when the cat died. All members of the family were forced to shave off their eyebrows as part of the mourning process.
Louise in the following story is clearly a hero. I am reprinting the following story as a tribute to Louise.
Another note: I really dislike calling the mercenaries in modern combat “contractors”. That sounds like they are going out and constructing buildings or something. Let’s call them what they are- MERCENARIES, soldiers for hire. They are often hired by corporations, corporations with their own armies. That alone should be pause for thought. No wonder they are killing pets as well.
To help wounded children in Iraq go to http://www.directaidiraq.org/ Obviously that is extremely important. But as humans we should never forget the harm we do to the non-human inhabitants of our planet.
On a mission: the Cat Lady of Baghdad
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
A former British soldier has been hailed as the “Cat Lady of Baghdad” after setting up a lifeline to evacuate pets from the war-torn city to Britain.
|Simba al-Tikriti, who made an improbable escape from Iraq|
It is cloak-and-danger work, which means the 35-year old woman only wants to be known by her first name, Louise.
But she has spent tens of thousands of pounds over the past four years adopting pets. To cope with the costs, she has set up a website, Baghdad Cat Rescue.
“Some people buy flash cars, others flash clothes,” she said. “But it’s my animals that float my boat.”
A Territorial Army call up in 2003 turned into a career as a security consultant, working in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.
On a posting near Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Louise adopted her first cat, Simba al-Tikriti, a name that made the white tabby an honorary clansman of the late dictator.
Simba was also the first cat to reach Britain and a total of eight pets have since been brought out, including two dogs.
While she is prepared to give pets away to the right home, Louise’s parents have to cope with the task of caring for the animals while she is in Iraq, earning money needed to pay the mounting upkeep bills.
Louise’s current worries centre around a dog that will be released to her two-bedroom home near Birmingham next month.
“He despises cats,” she said. “I am hoping it’s an instinct thing that I can train out of him before he eats my cats.”
Despite her worst fears, Louise is planning a quick return to Baghdad.
She acknowledges that in a city where violence is indiscriminate and deprivations extreme, it is easy for most to turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals.
Cats were first domesticated in the Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation. Ancient Babylonian culture raised the veneration of felines to an art form.
Even today Baghdad ranks with Cairo and Istanbul in a clutch of cities suffused with cats, stray and home-bound.
Most are well-fed and respected by the locals but Louise said there is no safety net for the abused.
Mortar attacks aside, the biggest danger for cats in the Baghdad diplomatic compound where Louise works, is the giant American corporation, KBR and other contractors signed up to the behavioral rules of the US military’s General Order No 1.
“If you live in diplomatic compounds or other villas protected by the big contractors, adopting or feeding cats and other pets is banned and they will set traps to kill pets,” she said.
“I’ve helped one man get his last cat back to the UK after the contractor killed all the animals he had been feeding.”
Leuitenant-Colonel Raymond Dunton, a US army medical officer in Baghdad, admitted that 7,100 animals were trapped across all its bases in Iraq last year and 5,300 were put down.
He said the order is designed to ensure personnel do not face the threat of rabies and other diseases.
Dennis Quine, a former British embassy worker, is one of those Louise helped to bring his cat, Missy, to the UK.The hurdles they faced were formidable, he said.
“Friends have said it is stupid, asked why I’m doing this,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Hold on, this is nothing less than what I’d do for a friend.’ I was prepared to risk my life to get my cat out.”
The Cat Lady of Baghdad believes she will be offering a safe haven to cats for as long as she is working there. “I don’t find them,” she said. “They find me.”