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Relief Group Launches Appeal for Iraq's Animals - 2003-05-29

The world's largest animal welfare organization has launched an emergency appeal for donations to help Iraq's animals. The group says veterinarians in Iraq lack basic supplies to care for sick and injured animals, many which are essential to the country's agricultural regions.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals aims to raise more than $250,000 to purchase veterinary medicine and supplies to distribute in Iraq.

Brian Faulkner, a member of the relief team that hopes to deliver the supplies next week, says they will be used mainly to care for agricultural animals because of their importance to the economy.

"The very poor families, they all have one or two goats, and from the goats they obtain milk or make butter and things like that," he said. "And if they lose them, that is a food resource gone. So yes, they do rely heavily on their animals. The donkeys they use for transport. So they are a vital part of the fragile economy at the moment."

Mr. Faulkner says years of sanctions against Iraq and post-war looting of clinics have left the nation's veterinarians lacking the most basic medical supplies, including, antibiotics, vitamins, and drugs for deworming.

The London-based organization plans to deliver several tons of supplies, mainly for agricultural animals, to a network of clinics throughout central and southern Iraq, the country's main agricultural region and one of the most affected by the recent war.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals has 440 member organizations in 101 countries. It is the only animal welfare group that is an official consultant to the United Nations.

Earlier this month, the Society participated in a separate campaign to rescue and relocate animals from the Baghdad Zoo. But Mr. Faukner says the organization's latest mission should spur further aid donations because of its direct connection to relieving human suffering.

"Obviously that is always a question, a lot of people do say, 'Why should the animals get it rather than humans.' But certainly in this case, the animals that we will be focused on and dealing with the people themselves rely heavily upon them," he said. "And if they can produce some of their own milk, that is less milk that they would need to get from the Red Cross or someone like that."

The veterinary relief team plans to travel to Iraq next Thursday, and will distribute the supplies from a storage facility in Basra.