- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Pets are being slaughtered for meat in shortage-stricken Zimbabwe, and record numbers of animals have been surrendered to shelters or abandoned by owners no longer able to feed them, animal-welfare activists say.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it could not feed surrendered animals or find them new homes and was being forced to kill them and destroy the corpses.

Animals, like people, are being hard hit by Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, with official inflation of more than 7,600 percent, the highest in the world.

Independent estimates put real inflation closer to 25,000 percent, and the International Monetary Fund has forecast it will reach 100,000 percent by the end of the year.

Veterinarians have run out of the drug used to put down the animals and are relying on intermittent donations from neighboring South Africa. One veterinary practice was waiting for supplies to euthanize about 20 animals, and yesterday could neither feed them adequately nor fatally inject them.

In its latest bulletin to donors and supporters, the SPCA said it began an awareness campaign on “the ethical and moral issues regarding the killing and consumption of trusted companion animals.”

“But in the face of starvation and the burgeoning number of stray and abandoned animals, the moral issues become far more complex, and we should not be too hasty in our condemnations when animals and people are suffering equally,” it said.

One animal rights activist, who asked not to be named out of fear of arrest, called the situation “too ghastly for words.”

“We are accused of giving the country a bad name,” the activist said.

Animal activists say they have been threatened with arrest for speaking out, and SPCA offices were raided by secret-police agents of the Central Intelligence Organization on Thursday. SPCA inspectors said they were ordered not to release details of surrendered, abandoned, slain or eaten pets.

No comment was immediately available from the government.

Meat, cornmeal, bread and other staples vanished from shops and stores since the government mandated cuts in the prices of all goods and services in June.

Illegally slaughtered meat sells for more than 10 times the government’s fixed price on the thriving black market. It comes in plastic bags of 22 pounds and more, containing bone, fat and offal and no indication of types or cuts of meat.

“You’re getting brisket, shin, flank, rump and anything else that’s available, all lumped together. It’s meat, take it or leave it,” the animal-protection activist said.

“It is not illegal to eat dog meat in this country, but we have laws on how animals must be humanely slaughtered,” he said.

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