The first animal welfare law in Cuba has been passed. It penalises animal cruelty, although it did not go far enough as it still allows, and regulates, cockfighting and the sacrifice of animals for religious purposes.
Grettel Montes de Oca, the founder of the Cubanos en Defensa de los Animales (CEDA), told AFP “ We were until today the most backward country in Latin America and the Caribbean…This is only the first step and it is a very long road…It’s positive that there is a law now, but there are a lot of things that are not right, that are quite negative…For example, the authorities will continue to collect [animals] in the streets and sacrifice dogs, and cockfighting, the mistreatment of animals in shows, circuses, rodeos, and zoos, will continue”.
The Council of State of Cuba published on 10th April 2022 in the Official Gazette the new animal welfare law, with stipulates fines for animal abusers but authorises some cockfighting and religious sacrifices, under certain rules. In article 9, the decree “prohibits people from inducing confrontation between animals of any species, except for that approved by the competent authority.” Dogfighting and bullfighting are banned, but cockfighting is allowed as long as it occurs in the “cockfighting clubs” registered by the Business Group of Flora and Fauna.
Animal sacrifices in cults of African origin such as Santeria will still be allowed but must be done with methods provided for in the law. In the Rule of Ocha (or Cuban Santeria) a cult of Yoruba origin deeply rooted and very popular in Cuba, goats, chickens, roosters, pigeons, rams, and other animals are sacrificed as an offering to the orishas (gods). This law, although may not look as advanced as others, is not that different from the average animal protection legislation in Latin America and other continents, as some countries still allow bullfighting, and on others animal sacrifices. In fact, at least in theory, it may protect more animals than the average animal welfare law in developing countries as not only aims to give some protection to all vertebrates, but also bees, some molluscs, and some crustaceans (which only a handful of countries do).