Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

Animal abuse in Kurdistan sparks international reaction on social media

British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais joined chorus of voices condemning animal cruelty

An African Lion is seen at the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 27 May 2019. EPA
An African Lion is seen at the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 27 May 2019. EPA

Animal abuse in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan sparked criticism on social media in places as far as the UK as videos documenting acts cruelty emerged.

British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais joined a chorus of voices condemning a viral video showing a man smashing a birthday cake into the face of a lioness and dragging it across the floor of a cafe in Duhok province.

Mr Gervais, whose latest comedy-drama After Life is currently airing, called the abuser "dirty, worthless filth".

The comment was in response to a post by a popular biologist and activist, Daniel Schneider, who regularly shares videos of animal and environmental abuse.

"Each and every person in this video needs to have cake thrown in their face, every hour on the hour, for the rest of their lives. Why is it so hard to #BeKindToAnimals?" Mr Schneider wrote on Twitter.

Local animal rights groups have also condemned the video.

"This has become a topic of interest for the whole world. The various sides have considered this as inhumane, bad, and unacceptable..." the Persian Leopard Conservation Organisation in Kurdistan said on Facebook.

Sheikh Blend Berifkani, the perpetrator of the abuse, defended his actions on Instagram.

“I had never intended to abuse Leo,” he wrote. “I admit, it was wrong throwing a cake on the lion’s face. I have let my emotions of excitement take over me and I apologise to those whom I have offended.”

The man claimed the cake was the shape of a lion and it had been intended to celebrate the animal’s birthday.

His assurances were met with scorn by critics, who accused him of backtracking.

Officials in Kurdistan have acknowledged the illegal trading of wild animals but said they lack resources to combat the issue.

The trade of exotic animals in the Middle East is prolific as these animals are seen as a symbol of status and luxury. The illegal trade in wildlife is thought to be worth at least $19 billion a year.

Updated: June 7, 2019 10:14 AM

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