“Animal traders, Pakistanis, Albanians”/ “Europe of bestiality”/”Foreigh wolves” – this is the main rhetoric that pops up in extreme racist facebook pages, dedicated to spreading lies about how Europeans buy Greek strays to use them in brothels and laboratories. And no, it’s not a joke.
For decades, a conspiracy theory of Greek origin, born in a woman’s head, and deeply rooted in the state apparatus, renamed the adoption “trade“, the volunteer “smuggler” and the journey of adopted dogs to their families abroad “mass export of strays”.
Greece is the only country in the world where volunteers were forced to write an open letter to the government, explaining the obvious. What’s adoption, what’s an adoption fee, what’s a trade and what’s not.
Ioanna Garagouni, the inspirer and advocate of the myths she created herself for “strays sent for experiments abroad“, the woman who stopped adoptions, and even neutering, just because they were performed voluntarily done by “foreign” veterinarians, and the woman who influenced the state mechanism with the title of president of the “Confederation of Animal Charities” that she created, and which was not a confederation, often said (according to her obituary in one of Greece’s biggest newspapers) that Greece failed to solve the issue of strays , “but we don’t shoot them in the street and euthanize them every now and then in the shelters, to fit the next ones“
This concept of “WE Greeks” as opposed to “THEM foreigners“, a concept which is deeply nationalistic and xenophobic, divided the animal welfare volunteers into Greeks and foreigners, and put borders in animal welfare, a concept that never had and never will have any borders, let alone in the 21st century.
The dawn of animal welfare in Greece depended on the hard work of Greek and foreign volunteers. It was based on people who saw no borders, and who for decades have been mercilessly slandered, threatened in public, and become victims of racism.
The volunteers from abroad are called “foreign wolves” on one of the extreme pages – a page that publicly threatens Greek and foreign citizens, on behalf of the Greek Ministry of Agriculture itself.
“EUROPE OF BESTIALITY” screams another one of those slanderous facebook pages – a page in which the ex deputy minister of Agriculture (EX DEPUTY MINISTER) posted publicly, insinuating that the volunteers are smugglers, only one week after the page was created. ONE WEEK. A page which is one of Greece’s biggest newspapers is called “an animal welfare facebook group”
“Animal traders, Pakistanis, Albanians” shouts in cap lock another page, a page which in another post ostensibly publishes on behalf of the Greek Police HQ a text in which adoption is renamed trafficking, and is equated with the smuggling of arms and drugs.
Yes, it’s racism. Yes, it’s xenophobia. Yes, it is ill-conceived patriotism that inspired and continues to inspire the myth that strays are being sold abroad fro profit. The nationalism of an extreme minority finds refuge there, in animals. It hides behind conspiracy theories that have nothing to do with what the global animal welfare community has established, and unable to find a way to lay off steam anywhere else, it lashes out into animal welfare.
The reason why this hidden nationalism grew roots in Greece should not be a surprise. The values that were born here, and that inspired the Western civilization, are a very heavy legacy, and many times we are so proud of them, that we exploit them the wrong way, and we fall into the trap in which the inspirer of the myth “adoption= trade” fell into as well, the trap of US vs THE FOREIGNERS.
This nationalism makes some people see strays as the marbles of the Parthenon – they were born in Greece, they should die in Greece. But living creatures are not marbles, and animal welfare has no borders.
Against the racism, the lies, the slander and the terrorism we will continue to fight. Animal welfare is not united by national values and it is not separated by borders. We represent animals, not our countries. And for animals, home is where they are loved.
*The slander, the threats and the obstruction of adoptions of strays have forced more than 180 charities from Greece and abroad to write an open letter to the government.
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