Cuba was dreadful. I did know what to expect, I know it’s all falling down, nothing works, it’s a huge rip off for the tourists, I did know all that. What I didn’t expect was to become really ill for more than half the “holiday”, spend a fortune on simply surviving because of the blatant fleecing of the tourists, having to fend off aggressive beggars, musicians, restaurant owners, taxi drivers, the list goes on. Cuba is one big rip off from the moment you step off the plane.
Although this isn't the fault of Exodus, I felt I really had to post my experience of the appalling animal cruelty I witnessed. I am still so angry and heartbroken about what I have seen. Most of this is going on in the rural areas, but I saw a lot in Havana too. Starving stray cats and dogs wondering about is bad enough, we all expect this in developing countries but the most shocking thing of all is the treatment of their horses. At least cats and dogs can scavenge for food and beg from the tourists, but the horses are utterly dependant on the people who own them.
In rural Cuba horses are still used for transport, both riding and pulling carts. Did you know that in Cuba, there are no laws concerning the treatment and welfare of animals? That’s right, NO LAWS, you can do what you like to any animals in Cuba, both domestic and wild and no one will touch you because you’re not breaking any law.
Almost without exception, every single horse I saw was little more than a skeleton, barely able to stand because they were so weak, covered in sores from ill fitting tack, ribs, hips and backbones jutting like razors under a covering of skin. I saw them being beaten with ropes and chains because they were unable to pull overloaded carts up hills. I saw a young Cuban man forcing his emaciated horse to gallop up and down a tarmac road just so he could show off to his friends. I saw a horse clearly chronically lame in its near fore, being forced to trot pulling a cart which was too heavy even for a sound animal. I cycled past a cart with around a dozen young Cuban girls in it, each one clearly weighing 20 stones or more, all laughing and joking while the driver lashed his skeletal horse who was struggling, panting and in distress at trying to heave this colossal weight up a hill. I saw a man beating his horse with a knotted rope, I heard the animal groaning in pain (bear in mind horses are pretty much non vocal creatures and will only make a noise when in severe distress), a sound I had never heard before and I hope never to hear again, as the rope thudded in between its sunken fleshless ribs. I saw horses tethered in the blazing sun with no shade, food or water. These are just a couple of examples of what I saw, I could write pages and pages about each example. If this was happening in the UK every single one of those individuals would be arrested and sent to prison, their horses would be euthanized on the spot as they were beyond being rescued and nursed back to health.
These people clearly have more than enough to eat given the number of grotesquely obese Cubans I saw waddling about. They’re not interested in sharing it with their horses though. What sort of society behaves like this? I did speak to several of these people and asked them why their horses were starving and why they were not given water. I was treated as if I was mad, one man earnestly explained to me that horses must not be fed or watered while they are “working” as it’s not good for them. Seriously? This man's horse hadn’t been fed or watered properly for months given the state it was in. I asked another one to explain to me the economic sense behind not feeding or giving even the most rudimentary care to your horse, surely, I said, a horse is a relatively expensive commodity, why would you starve it to death? The reply? “Horses are cheap here, I’ll just buy another one”. So it’s cheaper to buy a horse, starve and beat it to death, then buy another than it is to simply just take care of the one you have? How sick is that?
There are a couple of horse charities in Cuba, I’m still doing research to try and decide who to donate to, so in the meantime, the only thing I can do is tell as many people as I can about what I saw and beg everyone, please do not go to Cuba, don’t give them your money, and tell people why you won’t go. The only way anything will change is if tourists don’t spend money there and tell them that we won’t support or tolerate this evil behaviour. These people really are wicked and cruel, it is NOT OK to abuse horses. You don’t have to be from a developed nation to understand that starving and abusing animals is wrong. The most sickening thing is that there IS food available in Cuba, these people are not abusing their animals because they have no choice or because they don’t know any better, they’re doing it because they can, and no one will stop them. Please, please don't go there.