The Hidden Truth About Life in Lebanon

By Marc Khoueiry

Cover picture from @betalebanon

There is no shortage of suffering in the world, and Lebanon is no exception. With the current state of the country, surviving is a struggle for most and supporting a family is one of the toughest daily tasks to complete. As you probably agree with the previous statement, I am writing this to highlight an issue that is placed in the shadows in our society and culture. It indirectly affects the Lebanese population while directly affecting millions of helpless lives. Owing to Lebanese culture and lack of education, domestic and wild animals around the country are barely surviving due to conditions they are not adapted to. We have numerous organizations that work towards improving animal welfare by targeting different communities and working all over the country. The main solutions are education, selflessness, and involvement; as Albert Einstein said, “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Throughout one of the worst eras for the Lebanese population- from political and economic crises to shortages in food, water, and electricity,- not only were we humans affected, but so were the lives of domestic pets. As the country has always neglected animal welfare, instead of progressing, we are doing the opposite. The economic crisis made us abandon our beloved pets, which I’m sure was not easy for most but was the only way for people to survive. In our country, we have always had a problem with stray pets, and it is getting worse with medication becoming scarce and expensive such as the price to spay pets leading to an increase in abandonment and strays in a very short time.

Many organizations try to support them with shelter, medical attention, and adoption/fostering services, and they do an excellent job. But, they have financial struggles and a scarcity of space in their shelters. To list a few organizations and shelters for domestic pets, we have: Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA), one of the largest NGOs for the protection of animals in Lebanon and works nationwide; Animals Lebanon, which works for the rights of all animals in Lebanon from wild animals that are treated badly to stray pets; AdoptDon’, an NGO that works remotely, providing an online space for adoption and fostering while promoting group volunteering opportunities to help strays. Other NGOs that work for stray dogs and cats are Give me a paw and Mt. Lebanon Dog Shelter. These organizations have shelters and organize events where people can interact and bond with dogs to encourage adoption. From another perspective on groups, we have the Lebanese youth starting clubs around universities that help on a smaller scale and educate their societies on animal welfare. Similarly, the Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals club (SETA) is a club directed by students at the American University of Beirut (AUB) that focuses on the welfare of cats on and around campus. Of course, there are many more organizations that do great tireless work  along with amazing people and groups that spread the positivity that is needed to care for animals and love the ones who give us unconditional love. We need to keep educating the majority in Lebanon about the benefits of having pets and the reasons why we should stop breeding and dumping by attacking the stigma surrounding pure breeds. We should always adopt and not shop because buying pets supports animal breeding and increases the number of dogs and cats in the country. If people learn that all dogs and cats can provide the same love, maybe then  they will start adopting them from shelters and rescuing them from the streets. We also need to spay our pets to reduce the risk of diseases and  pregnancy. We need to learn to love all living creatures because with that trend in our society, we can learn to love each other. Take it from me and the entire community of animal lovers, “A simple act of kindness and compassion towards a single animal may not mean anything to all creatures but will mean everything to one” (Paul Oxton).

As bad as abandoned domestic life can be, wildlife in Lebanon is also highly misunderstood and neglected. We have a high diversity of flora and fauna ranging all around the country, and we keep destroying it, adding complications to their survival. In nature, life is all about surviving: the population sizes of predators and prey follow each other, as one increases, the other also increases. In Lebanon, it is the opposite, as in our culture, hunting is a highly looked upon sport and is done recklessly. The tradition to hunt is accompanied by false misconceptions that are passed down through generations and are widely believed. These misconceptions are costing species their lives. For example, the striped hyena, the national animal of Lebanon, is believed to be a vicious killer even though it is a very important scavenger and can digest the bones of carcasses, bringing back calcium to the ground and nurturing the plants. Most Lebanese people have an embedded fear of wildlife due to a lack of education and understanding. We have numerous organizations that take care of wildlife by spreading awareness on the major issues that it faces and the reasons we should protect it. One of these NGOs is Animals Lebanon, which takes care of the illegal trade of wildlife and fights for their rights while collaborating with the ministry of agriculture to implement laws that can be found on their website:

We also have Lebanese Wildlife, an NGO that works on-call, rescuing wildlife that needs help. They provide medical care, rehabilitation, and educational sessions to educate the public about wildlife in Lebanon. 

Another one is Animal Encounter, a non-profit NGO run by Dr. Mounir Abi Said, his family, and volunteers that provides rehabilitation and conservation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Located in Ras el Jabal, Aley, it takes care of all kinds of endemic and migratory species ranging from owls to bears and educates and encourages understanding and care for wildlife through its platform.

The work done by the community of animal lovers is aided by wildlife reserves located around Lebanon. The Jabal Moussa reserve spanning around the Keserwein District is one of the biggest nature reserves in Lebanon and a major site for ecotourism with ‘Nahr Ibrahim’ flowing through it. Containing different kinds of mammals, there are more than 20 species from hyenas and wolves to bats. Other than the Jabal Moussa reserve, there is the Hima Hammana Protected Area which is a great reserve for birds, especially the Egyptian Vulture as it migrates through the country.

Many of these issues arise from the generational misunderstanding of wildlife. The most important thing to do to improve is to fight these negativities in our country through education. I strongly believe that with education comes understanding and with understanding comes compassion. As one of the greatest to have an impact on the animal world, Steve Irwin said, “If you can’t excite people about wildlife, how can you convince them to love, cherish, and protect our wildlife and the environment they live in?”

When the people start to realize how much a small act of kindness can impact their country, more will be involved. I encourage you all to read, listen, and try to understand the world we live in and the ones we share it with.

Edited by Reem Chehab

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