After the death of its 15-year socialist leader Hugo Chávez in 2013, Venezuela has suffered a swift decline into a state of poverty and panic. With Nicolás Maduro now in office, and a global drop in oil prices — the country’s main source of revenue — the people of Venezuela have turned desperate, angry, and scared.
The country’s economy has completely collapsed, and according to the International Monetary Fund, it’s suffering a 700-percent inflation rate — one of the worst in the world.
And with its crumpled financials, it’s been nearly impossible for Venezuela to import basic necessities like medicine and food.
In fact, three universities recently conducted a study on Venezuelan food accessibility and found that 87 percent of people couldn’t afford enough food for their families. It’s been unsettlingly dubbed “The Maduro Diet,” after the country’s current president.
Unfortunately, the food shortage has become so severe, that it’s now been reported that carcasses of strange, wild animals like pink flamingos, donkeys, and giant anteaters have been found after being eaten.
Investigators from Zulia University in Venezuela along with Biology student Luis Sibira– the man who first discovered a pile of eight flamingos with their breasts and torsos sliced out– have concluded that the protected animals aren’t being hunted for sport, they’re being eaten because of rampant starvation.
Doris Rubio, CEO of the Venezuela-based Animal Protection Association, although concerned, is completely aware that her fellow Venezuelans need to eat somehow. She told the Miami Herald:
“We find these killings grotesque, but how can we be critical of someone who hunts a pigeon, a dog, a cat or any animal because he or she is hungry? People used to hunt lizards for sport. Now they do it out of necessity.”
But many officials are trying to warn people away from eating these types of animals because without proper sanitary precautions, bacteria and viruses will most likely be contracted. Hugo Hernandez, a veterinary sciences professor in University of Zulia, told the Herald it could be lethal:
“In France, they eat horses and in China they eat dogs and cats, but after being raised according to sanitary programs. In our country, these animals are being hunted in the wild or in the streets and cannot be consumed by humans.”
In addition to the consumption of unorthodox animals, it’s also been discovered that many people have turned to scavenging trash in order to find food– something that up until recently was only observed by the homeless population and the mentally ill.
Ricardo Boscan, the head of Maracaibo’s waste collection department, informed the Herald that around six out of ten garbage bags have been rummaged through by the hungry:
“The situation has gotten worse since 2015. It’s happening because hunger is rising to a massive scale.”
The Herald also reported that for the majority of Venezuelan families, a decent meal just isn’t possible. While two pounds of sugar or flour is 7,800 bolivares ($2) and two pounds of meat costs 10,000 bolivares, it would cost a minimum-wage earning family more than half of their official monthly income for just those three items alone.
The CEO of the Venezuelan Observatory for Health, Marianela Herrera told the Herald that eating three times a day in Venezuela is a luxury:
“Many people have no access to basic food or rely on a monotonous diet that consists of only two or three items.”
So while animal rights activists may initially be up in arms over the news of butchered flamingos and anteaters, it’s clear that the Venezuelan people might need activists of their own in light of such devastating, widespread poverty.