NOTE: Extremely graphic photo content at end of article.
“This is a strange place, an extraordinary place, and interesting. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is sort of low-grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the “noblest work of God.”
--Mark Twain: Letters From the Earth
Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Mark Twain’s comments on man, morality, and religion was published posthumously in 1938, but Satan’s comments to the Angels could be a case study of the moral fabric enveloping human-animal conflicts in Congo’s Virunga Park today.
Our first inclination was to shelve “animal rights” reports that surfaced from Virunga that did not have an immediate connection to the recent gorilla killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reports of inhumane dog, cow, and pig killings—and the dramatic photo of a lion eating a man-- while certainly eyebrow raising, seemed to pale beside the accounts of human rights abuses that have increased exponentially in the past year.
However, it is an accepted tenet of philosophy that the measure of a society can be taken by its compassionate response to animals, recognizing that animals share a sentient nature with humans, inhabit the same environment and know pain, suffering, and fear.
Because of their shared sentient natures, animals and humans have rights that are regularly denied in law and daily life, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Kivu Provinces of DRC.
The following are some animal and human rights reports from DR Congo. The events and situations offer a different perspective on a society that exists with no safety net for man or beast. Imagine a world with absolutely no infrastructure—no roads, no electricity, no markets for food or clothing, no medical care—and infested with rag-tag armies, mercenaries, proxy armies and government militias on the take. Kalashnikovs (AK-47s) are the preferred toys of twelve year olds. Paper currency is dirty, greasy, and the change for twenty dollars US will fill a shopping bag.
Imagine also that compassion still exists in the hearts of most people, and an exceptional few go the extra mile to report the inhumane treatment of domesticated animals.
Consider, also, who has the right to live when the lion will not lie down with the lamb.
The first report is from the organization which first revealed the trade in magic gorilla walking sticks-- "Innovation for Development and the Protection of the Environment (I.D.P.E.)
There are very few wild animals in Virunga Park, but it is literally infested with armed groups, which include Mai-mai militia, Interahamwe militia, and proxy armies. It its zeal to stabilize Virunga Park, the military hierarchy of the DRC sent in the regular army, but in the process the army ate the inhabitants of the park---meaning bush meat.
“If nothing is done soon, the Virunga Park will not exist anymore,” says I.D.P.E.
The Massacre of Dogs in North Kivu Province, DRCongo
In early June 2007, the Eastern Province of North Kivu especially in Goma and in the village of Kiwanja, dogs were targeted as carriers of rabies and hunted and killed wherever they were found and whether or not they were carriers. I.D.P.E. confirmed that six people died from dog bites-- 2 in Goma and 4 in Kiwanja. Family pets were abandoned as military elements invaded the villages, forcing the dogs to go to the bush to eat. It is assumed this is where they were infected with rabies. The order went out to kill all dogs if they were not vaccinated. Consider that the people also are poor, displaced and without medical care and can hardly be expected to be vaccinating their animals. The dogs are either shot or drowned in lake Kivu. 900 dogs remain to be either killed or vaccinated, with only 200 vaccines available.