Guest blog by PALS’ Italian representative, Francesca de Maria
When I first heard about PAL I was at the International Animal Rights Gathering in Luxembourg in 2013. Ahmad Safi took the stage without me having heard who he was. He started talking and from the very first sentence I recognised the typical and unmistakable Palestinian accent.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears: a Palestinian animal rights organisation amongst us European self-referential anti- speciesist activists. At last!
I was utterly dazed and astonished: after many years spent thinking about doing something more for Palestine and its incredible living beings, I finally had a possible answer to my quest.
Time passed by until operation Defensive Shield took place in Summer 2014 and I could only be a witness to what was happening in that slaughterhouse called the Gaza Strip. I would always tune into radios, TV-news bulletins and newspapers, and by night I would imagine what people and animals were suffering there while I was safe and sound in my bed.
One time I saw a brief framing within the daily report from Gaza: it showed a young horse trying to suckle milk from her or his mother. She was hurt but she didn’t refuse her baby while she was searching for something to graze amongst rubble and debris. Under those conditions there was no difference between human and animal suffering: they were all Palestinians being bombed and slaughtered without compassion of any sort.
Once again Israel was backed by the international community, except for some unheard voices.
But I also bore in mind that those animals were victims twice over.
Sure enough, for an animal living in Gaza they are, on one hand, targets of terrible weapons and relentless hate against Palestinians; and on the other, they are seen as pure objects from which to obtain meat, milk, leather, eggs. They also are tools used to carry burdens and to work the land.
Last time I was in Palestine I spent three months going everywhere as an international activist to meet people and support them in their daily struggle against the Israeli occupation of their land and souls.
As a vegan and animal rights activist I was likely to be mocked by other solidarity activists as if I was a foolish person who didn’t understand the plight of Palestinian human beings. It was very frustrating.
One day I paid a visit to a Palestinian wildlife group in Beit Sahour. The guy who ran the group, Imad, illustrated to me their activities and showed me pictures of Palestinian birds and other wild animals.
He then recounted a story about a team of veterinarians that come together and went to Gaza in order to treat and nurse animals who got seriously injured during Operation Cast Lead between 2008 and 2009. They took care of goats, sheep, horses, donkeys and cats.
He concluded by showing me the picture of a little girl: “You see, she’s smiling because now her baby goat is fine”. Kid is the English word for baby goat and it makes you think about the fate humans set aside for them. But this is another story…
And I’ll always be thankful to English activists, in particular Liz Tyson, for setting up Palestinian Animal League Solidarity. They displayed what we Italians call “English pragmatism”, something that I must admit I lack.
While in Palestine I always felt guilty because I could leave that situation at any time and go back to my life in Italy. I had the same sensation when I used to visit intensive farms where pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits and other beautiful animals are bred in cramped cages for human consumption. Being compared to animals could be offensive to some people but this parallelism is a very important point within the global struggle for liberation of human and non-human beings.
Palestine now has its animal rights organisation and I can now stop thinking about what to do and start doing it by bringing PAL to Italy.