Every soccer fan (especially any European fan) is most likely looking forward to the big event called Euro 2012, the European Soccer Championship. I’m not a soccer fan but usually I get myself swept up into the craziness that comes with the European and World Soccer Championships. This year however, I get a weird feeling inside when I see all kinds of merchandise in stores or other publicity for the event and I’m still debating boycotting the whole thing completely, which is easier said than done living in Europe. The reason is the fact that many stray animals have been killed because of this event in the countries hosting it – the Ukraine and Poland. This has been an ongoing issue for a while, and even the EUFA (Union of European Football Association) has criticized the practice, urging the authorities to stop. Things seemed to be getting better for a while but unfortunately the cruel mass murders are still going on in the Ukraine as a report from PETA recently revealed.

As many other countries, the Ukraine also has a lot of stray animals roaming the streets, but no real solution; or rather they never really bothered doing something about this issue. Spaying and neutering is the first step in reducing the stray animal population. Once they knew that Euro 2012 was going to be held in their country, however, they thought that their streets should be “cleaned” for all the fans, soccer player and officials coming in from everywhere. Their idea of cleaning is to kill all stray dogs and cats that are around in the most brutal ways. The animals are poisoned (using a kind of poison that paralyzes them and leading to a slow and painful death), shot or burned alive (because often when they are dumped into the crematories they’re not even dead).

As mentioned before the problem of killing strays has been going on for a while. It basically started after it was made known that Poland and the Ukraine would be hosting the matches of Euro 2012, there have been lots of campaigns, protestors, and even soccer players and officials have spoken out about this. However while it seemed like things were getting better last November, or at least it was said they were getting better with the government promising they would stop, the killing just continued.

I think it’s absolutely horrific that because of a sports event hundred thousands of animals need to be killed. There are other solutions. I already wrote about spaying and neutering earlier, but obviously this is only a long term solution to decrease the stray cat and dog population. In my opinion, a country that can host such a large soccer event should also be able to spend the money on animal shelters to give these animals a proper place and programs to get them adopted. And if they can’t do it themselves, there are organizations around the event that should put money towards animal protection as well. I’m pretty sure that sponsors would get pretty good publicity if they would put money towards saving the stray animals.

To sum it up there are many factors that come in play here:

  • The event should not have been given to these countries in the first place.
  • These countries should have had a proper way of dealing with strays way before they were getting such a big event.
  • Having been given the event they should have at least started with a spay and neuter program right away.
  • If they weren’t able to handle it themselves, organizations involved in the event should have helped out from the start.

However, as things are too late for many animals now, we can only hope that the killings will indeed stop with the still ongoing campaigns and that after EURO 2012 the problem will be handled in a correct way to prevent such a horrific thing from happening once more. The way stray animals are dealt with is something that needs to change in more countries than we can imagine but to think that animals are killed for something as commercial as a huge sports event makes the whole situation even more appalling.

In the case of EURO 2012, something that would make a big impact would be a complete or at least a large boycott of the event but unfortunately that is most likely a utopian idea because there is too much money involved and too many sports fans that just want to pursue their hobby. I will leave you with some petitions by PETA. The US and UK sites send out a letter to the respective Ukrainian Embassy and the UEFA and the petition on the German site of PETA sends out a letter to the Ukrainian president, several large sponsors of EURO 2012, the Ukrainian minister of environmental issues and the president of the UEFA. Whichever petition you sign, every signature is a step into the right direction.


Image copyright of Efrem Lukatsky/AP