Concerned about cruelty to animals

| 05/09/2017

Who decides what is animal cruelty and what is humane? Why is it inhumane and illegal to kill a blue iguana but it is OK to hack a green iguana to death with a machete? Why is it humane to keep a small cage packed full of land crabs in the hot sun for days to sell on the side of the road? Why is it humane to shoot and kill any bird that lands at the water holes at the end of the airport runway?

Auntie’s answer: You ask some very thought-provoking questions, ones that can easily lend themselves to philosophical arguments. While I could have weighed in with lengthy opinions on the points you raise, I decided to check in with people who deal daily with animal issues.

I posed your questions to the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and an official there addressed as many of them as he could.

Looking at what is considered cruelty and what is humane, this was the response: “Standards of what is considered animal neglect or cruelty versus what is considered acceptable are often determined by societal norms of the country in question. What may be acceptable behaviour in one country may be deemed neglect or cruelty in another.”

He explained that in the Cayman Islands, judgements of neglect or cruelty are generally assessed against the international accepted Five Freedoms, which are described here.

“In addition, Standards of Care and Maintenance for various classes of livestock have been drafted and approved by the Animal Welfare Committee. Eventually, it is the goal of the Department of Agriculture to have these incorporated into the revised regulations that will underpin the revised Animals Law.”

On the blue iguana vs green iguana debate, the official first pointed out that it is illegal to kill blue iguanas as they have been identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List as an endangered native species, adding that they were very close to extinction before the implementation of Cayman’s successful captive breeding programme. Blue iguanas, however, still remain on the ICUN Endangered Species Red List and are also a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix 1 species, he explained.

“On the other hand, the green iguana is an invasive species that poses a significant threat to Cayman’s native flora and fauna (the latter through possible interbreeding and hybridisation with native iguana species), an economic threat to Cayman’s agricultural sector and ornamental plants and a nuisance pest to the tourist industry and residents alike. Both the Department of Environment and Department of Agriculture support active culling of green iguanas; however, this should be done as humanely as possible using approved methods,” the official said.

As for dealing with birds on the runway, I contacted the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA). I think most people understand that bird strikes for an airplane can be very serious. Globally this is responsible for more than $1 billion in damages a year, according to the CIAA, with an official adding, “In the worst-case scenario a bird strike can cause an aircraft accident and loss of life.”

Due to the potential deadly consequences, “The CIAA has special dispensation orders from the governor to use lethal force on hazardous wildlife only as necessary to preserve the safety of aircraft operations at our airports,” he said.

But the CIAA employs several levels of protection from bird strikes, not all of them lethal. “Our wildlife hazard management programme consists of layers of response when a hazard is detected, starting with bird scaring using vehicles and air cannons, and ending in the unfortunate depredation of the hazardous species if they will not leave the airport. We use our best efforts to ensure the animals do not suffer unnecessarily and no injured animal should ever leave the airport property,” the official explained.

If you want more details on this programme, every November the CIAA holds a public session to report on the previous year’s results, and explain plans for the following year. Senior airport personnel attend this meeting and the public is invited to ask questions, voice concerns and offer suggestions on how to proceed. This year’s tentative date is 27 November, but that will be confirmed closer to the time.

Tags: , ,

Category: Animal Questions, Ask Auntie

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Unison says:

    I think there is a special judgement to those who torture or deliberately mistreat animals.
    How you treat them will be taken for how you treat people.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s very sad to see an important topic engender imbecilic comments.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why is it humane to use chemical weapons against ants? They’re responsible for the consumption of more meat than tigers,wolves and lions combined and is highly important in keeping the envionment stable.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why doesn’t the CIAA fill in the ponds at the beginning of the runway to solve or greatly reduce the number of birds there? Or, is that too simple?!

  5. Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      If they don’t care about welfare of children, their own flesh and blood and country’s future, do we expect them to care of animals?

      • Anonymous says:

        Say it agin. But they soon get a wake up call.
        The youths robbing up the place for them…civil war soon start

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very true. It’s irrational and totally hypocritical, as blue iguanas are vegetarians just alike the greens.

    How could people allow such hate to manifest without taking other steps to protect their “trees” or “yards”??

    Because the radio said so… Your blind uncle did…or your buddy from Canada where no iguanas exist? What is it with YOU? When will you ever be satisfied….