Why prevention of animal abuse and neglect is gaining urgency in Saudi Arabia

Special Why prevention of animal abuse and neglect is gaining urgency in Saudi Arabia
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Neglect and cruelty to animals is believed to be common in Saudi Arabia, according to local animal-welfare NGOs. (Supplied)
Special Why prevention of animal abuse and neglect is gaining urgency in Saudi Arabia
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​ Animal caregivers are required to feed their wards in sufficient quantities and to keep them in good health. (Supplied) ​
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Updated 01 August 2022

Why prevention of animal abuse and neglect is gaining urgency in Saudi Arabia

Why prevention of animal abuse and neglect is gaining urgency in Saudi Arabia
  • Abuse and ill-treatment of animals can invite SR50,000 fine for a first offense, which doubles for a second offense
  • As the law is only occasionally enforced, even documented cases of cruelty go unpunished, say NGOs

DUBAI: Animal-welfare issues in Saudi Arabia have once again been brought to the fore after a video of a group of young men appearing to torture a dog by igniting a firecracker inside its rectum went viral on social media, prompting calls to punish the offenders.

A hashtag, which translates from the original Arabic as “punish the animal burner,” trended for several days on social media platforms, with users calling for rules prohibiting animal cruelty to be enforced more rigorously.

Saudi Arabia has robust animal protection laws, having signed the Gulf Cooperation Council-wide Law on the Humane Treatment of Animals in 2013.




This photo published in Arab News five years ago shows a couple of chained baboons for sale at Jeddah's Pigeon Souk. Animal abuse is dealt with very seriously under Saudi law. (AN file photo)

However, according to animal-welfare advocates who spoke to Arab News, implementation of the laws has yet to catch up with the intention.

The Kingdom takes the abuse and ill-treatment of animals very seriously. Under Saudi law, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture can impose a SR50,000 ($13,300) fine for a first offense, which doubles for a second offense.

Third and fourth instances of abuse incur fines of SR200,000 and SR400,000 respectively. In more serious instances, offenders can lose business licenses or even face prison time.

The ministry “has provided, through its website, a way to report any abuse or torture, and these reports are dealt with seriously,” lawyer Waleed bin Nayef told Arab News in October 2021, adding that a robust animal welfare system was enshrined in the aims of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.




Under Saudi law, pets and livestock owners are required to give suitable facilities and provide adequate care to their animals. (Shutterstock image)

The law provides extensive protections to animals, including articles requiring pets and livestock to be given suitable facilities where they are handled by an adequate number of qualified staff who have the necessary capacity, knowledge and professional competence in matters of animal welfare.

It also obligates animal caregivers to feed them in sufficient quantities commensurate with their species and age, to keep them in good health.

Governments worldwide have recognized the importance of protecting animals, in part because animal abuse often occurs alongside other forms of interpersonal violence toward humans and property.

In the US, data collected by the FBI supports the view that tackling animal cruelty can help reduce other crimes such as aggravated assault and vandalism.

INNUMBERS

SR50,000 Penalty for first animal-welfare law violation.

SR100,000 Penalty for second offense within a year.

SR200,000 If there is a third incident.

Source: Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture

“Some studies say that cruelty to animals is a precursor to larger crime,” Nelson Ferry, who works in the FBI’s Criminal Statistics Management Unit, said in a statement highlighting the bureau’s work in the area.

But neglect of, and cruelty toward, animals is believed to be common in the Kingdom, and while the law is occasionally enforced, most abuses — even documented ones — remain unpunished, according to Saudi animal-welfare advocates.

The 2021 Animal Rights Index, created by San Francisco-based data company The Swiftest, ranked Saudi Arabia 50th out of 67 nations. That year, just 29 violators of the Animal Welfare Act were fined.

“This is what you get when you have one government agency that acts as the legislative branch that writes the animal-welfare laws and, at the same time, acts as police and executes the law. Plus acts as the judge who determines the punishment and is the same agency that is the beneficiary from the payment of those violations,” Princess Moudhy bint Fahd Al-Saud, head of the Saudi Animal Welfare Society, told Arab News in the context of the reports of mistreatment of animals.




Princess Moudhy bint Fahd Al-Saud, head of the Saudi Animal Welfare Society, is hoping for full implementation of the law on animal welfare, in accordance with the Kingdom's Vision 2030. (Supplied)

“Vision 2030 will include full implementation of animal rights if we get the direct attention of our blessed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, just as he did to reform other government agencies and make them geared towards delivery of social services in order to blend with the Vision. We have the needed laws. We just need to implement them.”

Animal abuse and neglect are alleged to be especially common in Souq Al-Hammam, south of Riyadh.

Animal lovers regularly share horrific videos purportedly showing kittens, puppies and rabbits sold in the souq crammed inside small metal cages in the blistering heat without food and water.

The market has been operating for more than 20 years despite repeated calls to shut it down. The animal lovers say some shops even sell wild animals such as desert foxes, monkeys and other exotic species, in defiance of Saudi laws banning the practice.




The Riyadh-based Rahmah Animal Welfare Association has rescued more than 2,300 animals and overseen hundreds of pet adoptions. (Supplied) 

“Despite not abiding by the law adopted by the Kingdom and breaking plenty of others in terms of general animal welfare, Souq Al-Hammam is still running and operating,” Abdullah Al-Senani, a member of the Saudi animal-welfare NGO Rahmah, told Arab News.

He said Saudi authorities usually spring into action when videos of alleged abuse at the souq trend on social media, yet “no steps have been taken to close the pet stores there.”

Fellow animal-welfare advocate Faisal Chalabi describes the situation in the market as “horrific for the animals and for any animal lover.” He told Arab News: “I dread going to this area but have had to on several occasions.”

Chalabi said he has sent several reports to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture concerning allegations of abuse, but claims he has never received a response.

“I recently sent the footage to a friend who has been gathering enough evidence to raise a case against all these inhumane violators and hopefully penalize and ban the sale of animals under such conditions and in the souq altogether,” he added.

Animal Paws, another Saudi NGO that has also been gathering footage and photographic evidence of alleged abuses taking place in the souq, recently published disturbing images of dying animals discarded by shop owners.

Despite signs of growing public consciousness, animal shelters are still rare in Saudi Arabia, compelling those who want to help to host large numbers of rescued animals in their own homes.

Chalabi said he currently keeps more than 50 cats and dogs in his house. “I believe a step was taken in the right direction, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done in terms of animal rights,” he added.

“After all, in Islam and through the teachings of the prophet, we’ve been commanded to show compassion, empathy and mercy.”




Most animal abuses in the Kingdom remain unpunished despite the existence of a robust animal rights law, says animal-welfare NGOs. (Shutterstock photo)

Social media has been both a blessing and a curse as far as animal welfare in Saudi Arabia is concerned.

Although these platforms have allowed Saudis to readily expose maltreatment, they have also been used by some individuals to share videos of animal exploitation for the purposes of entertainment.

“On TikTok especially, some Saudi users have been exploiting animals to use and abuse them to get likes,” one animal caregiver, who did not want to be named, told Arab News. “There’s a lack of education.”

Social media can also play a role in abetting illicit wildlife and exotic pet trafficking. “Some breeds are brought from abroad and we end up seeing them on the streets or eventually sold in the souq,” the Saudi animal caregiver said.




Animal lovers are encouraged to adopt stray animals to help make their community a place worth living. (Shutterstock image)

In the main, however, social media has become a useful weapon to help raise awareness about animal cruelty.

“Many people in the community are starting to become active for animal welfare,” the Saudi said. “I see more people adopting. Even my uncle, who wasn’t pet friendly, has been feeding stray animals around his neighborhood. The community has been chipping in to treat and house animals.”

For the sake of achieving its vision of a humane society, Saudi NGOs say, protection of animals ought to be higher on the government’s agenda.

“Saudi Arabia is heading toward being a modern, cultured society, and animal welfare should be top of the list,” the animal caregiver told Arab News, summing up his thoughts on the issue.

“If you’re not kind to the weakest creature, you’re just not kind.”

 

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KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan
Updated 27 September 2022

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan
  • KSRelief’s Project Masam has so far dismantled 359,626 mines since its inception
  • As many as 1,520 food baskets were distributed in Pakistan, benefiting 10,640 people

DUBAI: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) launched on Saturday a campaign to combat malaria in Yemen.
KSRelief’s aid efforts were carried out by its implementing partner, the World Health Organization, according to a report by state agency SPA.
The relief organization also dismantled 763 mines across Yemen in one week. These included 93 anti-personnel mines, 335 anti-tank mines, 333 unexploded ordnance and 2 explosive devices.
KSRelief’s Project Masam has so far dismantled 359,626 mines since its inception.
The humanitarian center also extended its relief efforts to Lebanon by distributing 300 food baskets to refugees and host communities in the country.
This came within KSRelief’s project to provide food security for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the relief center’s teams have worked tirelessly to support people affected by the floods in Pakistan.
On Saturday, as many as 1,520 food baskets were distributed in the Sindh and Punjab provinces, benefiting 10,640 people, reported SPA.


Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
Updated 27 September 2022

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
  • Singer says Saudi Arabia becoming world’s most attractive destination

ALULA: In the historical epicenter for cross-cultural exchange, between the majestic mountains of AlUla, popstar Jason Derulo took the stage to deliver a performance unlike any other at the second edition of the Azimuth music festival on Saudi National Day last weekend.

The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including “Swalla” and “Jelebi Baby,” as well as some of his older fan favorites such as “Solo” and “In My Head.”

The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took place from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Any time you can come to a place and have an experience … it makes the show so much better because it’s something that’s completely different that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Historically known as a strategic crossroads for trade and pilgrimage routes, the settlement conceals hidden gems such as the narrow valley oasis and the unique Elephant Rock. As part of the Madinah province, AlUla is a symbol of the cultural richness found throughout the eastern region of Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities.

Jason Derulo

“Coming through the rock and all the sand, it’s almost like it’s a hideaway from everything, and to bring all of this luxury to the middle of the desert is unlike any other experience,” he said.

“Here you get to really see all the stars, you get to see all the rock, the mountains, you get a piece of that world. Then you bring the highest level of luxury to it and it’s just a blend of worlds that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo added.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took place from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Derulo has performed throughout the region, headlining in Saudi for the first time in 2018 at the Saudia Diriyah E-Prix alongside Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, and Egypt’s Amr Diab.

“I’ve been performing for a very long time and I can say that this experience was unique, unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I’ve performed all over the world and even coming here today, I pulled out my phone — I was like, ‘this is amazing,’” he said.

The three-day Azimuth festival is one of several initiatives, forming part of Vision 2030, to position the Kingdom as a tourism hub.

FASTFACTS

• The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including ‘Swalla’ and ‘Jelebi Baby,’ as well as some of his older fan favorites such as ‘Solo’ and ‘In My Head.’

• The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

• Jason Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“I was actually one of the first performers, if not the first performer, that performed with an integrated crowd between men and women here, and I feel honored and blessed to be a small piece of history.”

“Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities,” Derulo said.

“I love that people from across the world have come here and made this home because it really is a special place. They have a sense of pride, a small piece of ownership even, you would think that they were from here and they know so much about the history,” he added.

The artist believes that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of becoming one of the “biggest” attractions in the world.

“This is something that’s just starting, though people are just now starting to see it, I’m sure this has been in the works for such a long time. There’s still so much room for growth, but it’s already incredible,” he said.

Bringing in a diverse lineup of both local and international artists was a key goal for the event, collaborated by entertainment festival MDLBEAST and the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Ahmed Alammary, the Saudi DJ and chief creative at MDLBEAST, told Arab News that this celebration was a chance to create cultural exchange opportunities with international artists while also catering to a local audience.

Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“This is becoming a melting pot, and it’s beautiful to see … I think Saudi is really pushing the envelope in terms of tourism and technology. When you think of arts when you think of entertainment, Saudi has become really high up on the list because they really took a stand and really took a giant leap in that world,” Derulo said.

 


Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry
Mishaal Ashemimry
Updated 26 September 2022

Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry

Saudi engineer Mishaal Ashemimry is the newly elected vice president of the International Astronautical Federation, becoming the first Saudi woman to hold the position after receiving 14 majority votes from international representatives.

Her role as one of the federation’s 12 vice presidents enables her to further the development of the space sector globally and consolidate the direction of the IAF.

As a Saudi woman and the first aerospace engineer in the Gulf Cooperation Council, her position strategically places the Kingdom at the forefront of the industry and highlights the country as a global leader in the field.

Since September 2021, Ashemimry has served as special advisor to the CEO of the Saudi Space Commission Mohammed Al-Tamimi, a position in which she consults on developing a national space strategy, creates and leads space programs, and advises leadership on direction and execution.

Ashemimry was previously a space nuclear technology consultant at the aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. She also conducted research funded by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during her time as a research assistant at the Florida Institute of Technology

At 26 years old, the engineer was also president and CEO of her own aerospace company, MISHAAL Aerospace, established in 2010. The company developed space rockets, designed and launched its own line of cost-effective rockets titled the “M-rocket” series, completed static tests for hybrid rocket propulsion systems and provided global consultation.

In 2015, Ashemimry won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award at the Arab Women Awards and in 2018 was awarded for her scientific achievements by King Salman.

She received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering in 2006 and her master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007, both from the Florida Institute of technology.

She is a certified Nitrox, rescue and open water diver, a commercial pilot and is trained in real space flight conditions of zero-gravity.

Ashemimry is an expert in aerodynamics, missile and rocket stage separation analysis, vehicle design, wind tunnel testing, simulations and analysis, and computational tool development.

 


Volunteers clear litter from hiking routes near Jeddah

Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2022

Volunteers clear litter from hiking routes near Jeddah

Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
  • Over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, glass shards collected
  • Earth Trails focuses on environmentally friendly life, says GM

JEDDAH: Volunteers from a local tourism group recently cleared heaps of garbage from hiking trails in Asfan as part of their social responsibility commitments, and to ensure a pristine environment for outdoor enthusiasts.

Asfan is a small city surrounded by hiking trails running through its unique terrain and striking rock formations, making it a favorite destination for people living in Jeddah.

The cleanup was undertaken by Earth Trails, a company licensed by the Saudi Tourism Ministry, that specializes in hiking tours and trips around the Kingdom.

Dr. Shadi Badawood, the general manager of Earth Trails, said: “Natural trails in Saudi Arabia need more attention by all nature enthusiasts and the public.” This initiative would hopefully inspire people to keep the country’s natural spaces clean, he said.

FASTFACT

Dr. Shadi Badawood, the general manager of Earth Trails, said plastic takes 450 years to decompose, aluminum 80 years, and glass one million years.

Earth Trails’ members collected more than 4,000 plastic bottles, over 1,000 aluminum cans, and a significant number of glass shards. Badawood said plastic takes 450 years to decompose, aluminum 80 years, and glass one million years.

“It is part of our responsibility to take the initiative to clean up these trails, and encourage other individuals to follow in our steps,” Badawood said. Many people do not realize how much they are harming the environment by littering, he said.

Around 25 volunteers participated in the initiative. Badawood said he was pleased with the turnout and hopes the next event will attract more participants.

“We do have a number of volunteering members who really love nature and we admire their actions (to) take care of the environment, and we encourage them to learn new ways to sustain the ecosystem around us,” said Sarah Fida, volunteer coordinator at Earth Trails.

Muath Al-Ahmadi, a volunteer, said: “I’m a nature enthusiast and I believe that one of the most significant points about the cleanup initiatives is awareness. The participation in such programs with hiking groups is a big step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life.” Seeing the amount of waste on the trails should make people “rethink” their consumption, Al-Ahmadi added.

Another volunteer, Yousef Albouq, said: “When I joined … I felt excited and happy. I think events like this will contribute to reducing waste, and I hope such initiatives of Earth Trails will … raise people’s awareness of putting trash in the right place.”

He said those who willingly contributed their time showed how committed they are to protecting the environment.

 


Saudi Arabia takes part in World Tourism Day 2022

There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi Arabia takes part in World Tourism Day 2022

There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
  • The ministry aims to raise awareness of the importance of tourism in Saudi Arabia as an axis and a fundamental pillar of development within the objectives of Vision 2030

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Tourism is taking part in celebrations for World Tourism Day 2022 in Bali, Indonesia, on Sept. 27, to promote tourism as a key pillar of development.

The ministry aims to raise awareness of the importance of tourism in Saudi Arabia as an axis and a fundamental pillar of development within the objectives of Vision 2030.

Recognizing the importance of human capital development, the ministry launched the largest national strategy for capacity development and tourism competencies in the Kingdom, which aims to prepare qualified national cadres with the highest international standards.

The strategy also aims to empower entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium tourism establishments through a package of distinctive programs to bring about a qualitative leap that reflects the ambition of the tourism sector to enrich the experiences of tourists.

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization, said: “This year, especially, we also recognize that we cannot go back to the old ways of working. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development remains our end goal.

“We must rethink tourism. As the world opens up again, we must learn the lessons of the past; through crisis, we have seen where we can build more resilience and deliver more fairness,” he added.

Furthermore, the Saudi ministry is paying attention to the tourism industry in the Kingdom in terms of its organization, development and promotion in a way that enhances the role of the sector and overcomes obstacles to its growth.

It is allowing registrations for the Tourism Pioneers Program, which provides training opportunities in 10 prestigious global universities and educational institutions specialized in the sector.