The issue of animal rights was a hot topic in Bolivia last month after a woman in Cochabamba became upset with a neighbor’s dog that entered her property and ate one of her chickens. Rather than reporting the incident through official channels (which are notoriously inefficient) she took matters into her own hands by stringing the animal up by its neck and stoning it the death. The incident was filmed on a cell phone, uploaded to social media and quickly went viral.
WARNING: DISTURBING FOOTAGE
Bolivian’s were appalled by the shocking footage. Public outrage multiplied when the media revealed that under current law the woman would only receive a fine of 1400BS (about US$200). Although quite a lot of money for an impoverished Bolivian, the punishment was clearly insufficient for such a horrific deed. Bolivians did what they do best and took to the streets in protest. Huge marches were held across the country to demand new laws with stricter penalties for animal abusers. The government paid attention, promising to quickly introduce a harsher penalty of three to six years jail time.
The woman in question almost certainly suffers from mental illness. When approached by reporters after the incident she didn’t shy away or express remorse. Instead she laughed and lifted up her pollera (indigenous skirt) to expose her backside for the whole country to see. It’s fair to say that there are crazy people all over the world who horrifically abuse innocent animals. So does this one incident really demonstrate an epidemic of animal abuse across the entire country? Perhaps not, but there are plenty of other equally disturbing cases.
The abuse of animals was standard practice in the Bolivian military up until 2009. Stray dogs were routinely butchered in front of shocked cadets to desensitize them against the horrors of war. The Minister of Defense officially put an end to the practice after it was exposed by Bolivia’s animal rights agency, SOS Animales. However, institutionalised animal cruelty still occurs. In 2014, a military engineering teacher caused an uproar when he repeatedly stabbed a live dog, cut it open and smeared it’s organs over his students’ faces. Why future engineers could possibly need such desensitization is beyond me.
Satanic sacrifices of rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs have been held in a forest near the road between La Paz and El Alto for several years. Highway workers reported seeing groups of up to 50 people gathered in the area during the dead of night and the next day they found various animal carcasses scattered throughout the forest. In 2009, police destroyed an altar bearing the name Uncle Lucifer after finding a human corpse nearby. The culprits are thought to worship a mixture of Satanic and indigenous beliefs.
Human and animal sacrifice have been a part of the Aymara belief system for 1000’s of years. These days human sacrifices are outlawed (although they allegedly still occur) but animal sacrifices are still fair game. It’s common for Aymara to bury an animal under a new building to receive blessings from Pachamama. Dried llama fetuses sold in La Paz’ Witches Market are a cheap sacrifice; while bigger animals attract bigger blessings. The new law imposing tougher sentences against animal abuse provides exemptions for indigenous ceremonies.
Perhaps the most disturbing example of animal abuse in recent times was during a 2007 political rally for a party known as Los Ponchos Rojos (Red Ponchos) in the rural town of Achacachi. Los Ponchos Rojos wanted to send a threatening message to a rival separatist prefect so they hung two dogs up by their necks and cut their heads off with a machete. Rather than being outraged by the terrible act, the crowd are seen to chant and cheer.
WARNING: EVEN WORSE THAN THE FIRST VIDEO