By Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpour
August 29, 2019
“Iran: please sign the petition and contact the [Iranian] embassy in your country to help the street dogs who are killed in the most brutal manner with an injection of acid in the heart.”
This was the message the Brigitte Bardot Foundation tweeted recently in response to news that stray dogs were being killed in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
The foundation was founded by the French actress, who in the 1950s and 1960s was one of the most iconic stars on the silver screen and, since then, has become one of the most prominent and staunchest supporters of animal rights. Her foundation’s activities are far-reaching, from helping to create shelters for elephants in South Africa to campaigning for the protection of koalas in Australia. It has also filed lawsuits in an effort to stop cruelty to animals.
Bardot learned about the latest dog massacre in Tehran when she received a video from Leonardo (Bahram) Tajabadi, an Iranian opera singer who now lives in Paris. The video was posted on social media during the week of August 19 and shows street dogs in Tehran in the throes of dying after municipality workers injected acid into their hearts.
After a public outcry in Iran, some municipality officials claimed that the video was actually from 2017 and that the group responsible was a municipality contractor given the task of controlling stray animals in the city, adding that the contractor had since been dismissed. It is said that a disgruntled guard who had been expelled from his job recorded the video. Municipality officials claimed the guard, who worked at a center in Aradkooh in southern Tehran that kept sterilized and sheltered stray dogs, was fired for misconduct.
Despite repeated denials by Tehran municipality officials, Tehran city councillor Arash Hosseini Milani, a member of the council’s committee on health and the environment, confirmed the massacre in Kahrizak district. “Unfortunately, the news of acid injections and the savage massacre of stray dogs in Tehran is true and the responsible party is a contractor for Tehran municipality,” he tweeted.
Following on from this, Brigitte Bardot launched a campaign to stop dog killings in Iran. “Ms. Bardot asked me whether there was a way she could dispatch a veterinarian to Iran to help injured dogs or even bring the dogs to France,” says Leonardo Tajabadi, who is a friend of Bardot. “When I told her that there was no way, she said she would issue a statement to let supporters of animal rights know about the sad situation of dogs in Iran.”
Tajabadi himself is a supporter of animal rights, follows news about the issue in Iran, and finds it painful to hear stories such as the recent one. “I read in a local paper that a Frenchman did not move his car for three months,” Tajabadi says. “He had to use public transportation for a long time because he noticed that in the wintertime a stray bird had built a nest on top of his car. I get depressed when I compare this attitude to the recent brutal treatment of dogs in Tehran.”
According to him, Brigitte Bardot feels the same way. “Humans must know that the earth does not exclusively belongs to them and all creatures have a right to live safely on this planet,” she apparently told Tajabadi.
Some time ago, Bardot launched a similar campaign against the mistreatment of dogs in Spain. “A few years ago I heard that they were burning dogs in Spain in a cruel way,” Tajabadi says. “But thanks to Ms. Bardot, a volunteer group went to Spain, gathered the dogs and provided funds to take care of them.”
Brigitte Bardot, who is now 84, and her fourth husband live in Saint-Tropez in southeastern France. She has used her celebrity status, and perhaps preserved it, by supporting the cause of animal rights through her foundation, which mostly relies on mobilizing volunteers. These volunteers from around the world have enthusiastically answered her call. The foundation has offices and representatives in several French cities and towns.
“According to French law, if a person abandons his dog in the street, he must pay a fine of 2,000 euros,” Leonardo Tajabadi points out. “This law states that if a person is unwilling to take care of his dog, he must hand the animal over to centers that can take care of them.” He says thanks to social media, brutalities such as the recent spate in Iran are now exposed and protests against them can be heard. “It is horrible that they paid the contractor approximately 150,000 tomans [$13] for killing each dog,” he says. “Such actions must be exposed. Twice on social networks Ms. Bardot published the address of the Iranian embassy in France and asked supporters of animal rights to declare their protests against such savagery. I believe what she did was the best thing to do.”
In many countries, including France, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers are ready to help homeless animals and care for them. One of the methods they use is placing ads in papers to find families willing to take in a specific stray animal. In France, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation is the best-known NGO dedicated to this effort. She has also been very active in exposing instances where circus animals are kept in inhumane conditions or when people use animal skins to make clothes for the rich.
“Ms. Bardot does not do this to show off her humanity,” says Tajabadi. “She really believes in it and for years she has been taking care of a variety of animals at her home.”
Bardot’s views on animal rights, however, have not always ended well for her. More than once she has been condemned in public opinion and/or in the courts of law. In 2008, Bardot was convicted of inciting racial and religious hatred after she wrote an open letter objecting to Muslims in France ritually slaughtering sheep by slitting their throats without anesthetizing them first. She also complained that Muslims are “destroying our country by imposing their ways.” For inciting racial hatred, she was fined €15,000.