Q&A: Mona Khalil, Chairperson of ESMA
Most of us know Mona Khalil as a TV anchor at the Egyptian Satellite Channel. But what very little of us know is that she is also an animal rights advocate and the go-to person when it comes to animal cruelty and animal welfare in Egypt. Mona is the chairperson of Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), a charitable organization committed to animal welfare in Egypt that started back in 2007 with the utterly horrific mass shootings of stray animals all over the country.
Animal rights in Egypt is basically non existent. As an animal rights activist, how do you feel about that?
Well, the first obstacle we have is that we have no tools to practice animal advocacy. We don’t have any kind of laws to protect animals and we can’t report any cases of abuse or brutality towards animals to the authorities simply because they always ridicule or make light of the situation. We’re just working against all odds.
People often perceive stray animals as vicious or brutal, why do you think that is?
Unfortunately, this is the image the government and the media gave to the people. They provided the idea that all stray animals, whether it’s a dog or a cat, that they’re all rabid animals when truth of the matter is, they’re not. I’ve personally been an animal rights activist for over 10 years now and I have encountered only two cases of rabies.
How do you think we can change the view or the perception that so many seem to have about stray animals?
With the use of religion, the media and animal rights societies. Most importantly, by educating our younger generation.
There are thousands of dogs/cats looking for forever homes, how can we promote pet adoption instead of breeding and pet purchases?
First of all, we need to stop discrimination. Discrimination is the key word to everything. We discriminate between Muslims and Christians, we discriminate between men and women and we do discriminate between popular dog breeds and baladi dogs.
We also need to enlighten the younger generation.
Are you currently promoting any awareness campaigns?
Definitely. We’re always trying to do something through our social media pages along with our websites. We also started a school visiting program where we take dogs to different schools to educate children about compassion towards animals.
What we do is always limited due to the lack of of human resources and funding.
How do people react to ESMA as an organization when they try promote animal rights and welfare?
The problem mainly is with the regular people. You have homeless people or people who have little to no money who are able to show compassion and share the very little they have with stray animals and then you have well cultured people, people who are very well educated and surprisingly, they are the ones with the most ridiculous reactions.
There are many success stories in ESMA, what would be your all-time favorite?
All the success stories have a special place in my heart. For example, Felfel, the two-legged dog who was rescued and adopted by a family in Germany. Cathy, the dog that breastfed kittens and Mazloum, who had his hind legs amputated is now living in Miami, Florida.
There are many causes out there that require our immediate attention. That should not let us or excuse us from doing the humane thing or the right thing. Any help provided is highly appreciated as these animals just need someone to pet them and play with them. Just showing them a simple act of kindness by volunteering will work miracles – for you, and for them.
Last but not least, ESMA relies solely on donations and contributions, so to donate and provide this much needed support, please visit http://esmaegypt.org/blog/how-to-help/.
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