TOURIST INDUSTRY UNDER PRESSURE TO DO MORE FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

By Humphrey Carter
BEHIND every great man is a great woman, so the saying goes, and, perhaps rather more alongside MP Roger Gale than behind, is his wife Suzy, an adamant campaigner for animal welfare worldwide. Caring for animals is something both Roger and Suzy share: he is a former Chairman of the All Party Parliament Animal Welfare Group, Honorary Associate of the British Veterinary Association and also one of the founders of the Conservative Animal Welfare Group, CAWG, which Suzy now fronts and they are also heavy involved in the Animals Worldwide organisation which Suzy founded in 1999 and of which Roger is a patron. And, making the most of their trip to Majorca this week, Suzy will be judging the dog show at the SOS-Animal fundraising afternoon in Puerto Portals today and they will both be visiting the new Centro Canino on Monday. CAWG acts very much as a lobby group, with massive cross-party and agricultural industry support, to keep a check and influence the Animal Welfare Bill and other animal-related policy. And Animals Worldwide, which was born out of the Cross Cats neutering project involving teams of young vets from the Liverpool Veterinary School, which ran for three years in Cyprus from 1999, was officially launched in June of this year.

Suzy Gale explained that Animals Worldwide has been set up “to assist those working, particularly in tourist areas, to alleviate the suffering of strays and ill-treated animals, and to generate a much greater awareness of the problem.” They are currently helping a couple looking after stray cats in Minorca. “We want holidaymakers to be able to enjoy their holidays knowing that practical attention and compassion will be shown to the many unwanted animals that inhabit the area.” Suzy was also keen to underline that they do not intend to go into countries with a heavy hand: “we have to be very tactful and respect each country's culture and customs,” she said before adding that she is currently lobbying the main tour operators, “which pay a lot of lip service to animal welfare” to actively get involved and to even give head resort representatives basic instructions on what to do, who to turn and how to contact the local vet should a client complain about an animal considered to be mistreated or abandoned. Animals Worldwide also acts as a point of contact for returning travellers to voice their concerns regarding instances of possible cruelty and neglect overseas. Drawing on her Cross Cats experience, Suzy Gale has gained the support of many of the larger UK organisations and also created a network of almost 300 organisations and individuals worldwide where, in some countries, working animal welfare is an issue of life or death for millions of families. This is where Animals Worldwide are helping SPANA, the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad which was set up 1923 and is one of the oldest animal welfare charities. SPANA is highly active in some of world's poorest communities in North and West Africa and the Middle East, they even operate in Darfur.
Suzy hailed their work as, not only brilliant, but crucial for the livelihoods of millions of people and the sustainability of local economies, especially those driven by agriculture. Suzy explained that to many families, their mules or pack horses are absolutely vital, not only for agricultural work, but also as a means of transport. On a recent trip to Morocco, the Gales visited one of the free SPANA veterinary clinics and found a farmer who had walked for days with his mule which needed treatment for a deep cut to the face. “Without their mules, these farmers would neither able to care for their farms nor provide for their families and this applies to hundreds of thousands of families in the Third World,” she said. SPANA organises travelling veterinary clinics which head out deep in to rural parts of countries in North and West Africa and the Middle East in order to make sure working animals are fit and healthy. “This is an aspect of animal welfare people are neither aware of nor think about and we are also lobbying aid organisations to not only drop food as part of relief operations but also animal feed. “If the pack horses and mules have no food, how are families from the more isolated parts of the area going to reach the aid distribution points to collect and retrieve their food?” added Roger Gale. But all this costs money and Animals Worldwide has set itself the target of raising £100'000 as quickly as it can to help existing organisations, like SPANA. www.animalsworldwide.org

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