Friday, July 15, 2016

La Antigua's mendicants by - furry - proxy

I have a bookmarks folder on my Macbook entitled ANIMAL PARASITES. 

Within are the URLs of the - so far - 27 entities operating in and around LAG with a Facebook page promoting activities such as the rescue, adoption, curing, nourishing and neutering of animals, principally cats and dogs. 

27. I very much doubt there are a similar number of local projects with a more humanistic remit. I also doubt whether the majority are formally registered as charities or NGOs; but the urgent plea for donations is common to all. 

Residents of this city will be well aware of the deadbeats who dress up as bomberos (firemen-paramedics) and stand on street corners or even wander around the outer neighbourhoods with their collection boxes, but in some ways this burgeoning animal welfare scam is the bigger one. 

Now the parasites have acquired some barnacles of their own: scroungers that post pictures of supposedly needy creatures to the Facebook pages of the established organisations, usually accompanied by text written in ersatz uneducated Spanish (see example below). 

A little bit of legwork has revealed that many of these emanate from aliases belonging to a small group of individuals who,  in their non-pseudonym profiles, look anything but like the sort of person who would spell 'apoyo' as 'apollo' or 'concentrado' as 'consentrado'. etc. 

There are of course many street dogs and street cats in Guatemala that could benefit from a more conscientious culture. But 'charitable' activity on this scale and on this one issue is deeply suspicious. 

It used to be that the archetypal talentless foreigner washed up in LAG would open a bar or restaurant. Now bogus NGOs seem to be the preferred way of living off other people's generosity, with the animal welfare / social media combination in particular seen as the ideal way to manipulate an income here. 

In a number of cases they have co-opted an avaricious local vet into their scheme. Together they clean up with the medicines and minor operations involved in the adoption process in much the same way that restaurants do with their wine lists. 

One of the most visible of these organisations is run by a couple that had to flee the US and were then turfed out of Belize because its male component had been convicted for grooming a minor (exposed on US TV) and banned from using the Internet. 

As with many others, animals without apparent owners have become the substrate for a life in exile. 

Some of the second-tier mendicants by proxy appear to be keeping a substantial pack of malnourished animals in a state of utter squalor while they cynically appeal for outside assistance. In the UK these people would already have been investigated by the RSPCA. 

Yet consider this: 85% of the world's 1bn dogs are 'village dogs': canines that scavenge a life, often very successfully, from within human communities in the developing world. The notion that each and every one of these is in urgent need of adoption into a caring, affluent domestic environment is both spurious and vaguely hegemonic. 

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