The stray issue revisited
December 15, 2006
AS RECENTLY as August of this year we had to editorialise on the issue of stray animals roaming the roadways of Guyana.
According to a story in yesterday's edition of the Guyana Chronicle, an "inter-ministerial team" had been set up to deal with the issue due to the fact that stray animals not only represented traffic hazards but also caused serious damage to agricultural produce.
This issue has come up before and will again unless dealt with decisively at this point. The problem really is that our development has proceeded in sporadic fits and starts, with modern roads emerging in areas that were traditionally dams, and where persons have been raising livestock animals for generations.
The clash of cultures as it were – "road culture" and "agriculture" – has often proven both literal and deadly.
According to a traffic report issued by the Guyana Police Force late last month, some 30 per cent of traffic accidents in West Berbice constituted collisions between motor vehicles and stray animals.
Another report, The Guyana Transport Sector Study, also cites stray animals as a key factor in road accidents, making the following observation:
"Traffic accidents: Upgrading and completing new roads are likely to bring highly significant impacts. Serious accidents are likely due to a combination of excessive speeding, visibility impaired by dust, adverse road surfaces, poor vehicle maintenance, driving impaired by drunkenness or drugs, tiredness, poor signage, persons (particularly children) playing along the roadway, and the prevalence of stray and domestic animals on the roads.”
We have gone past the days when the major result of most collisions involving stray animals was simply free beef for anyone with a sharp enough cutlass.
Cars are faster, more powerful, the roads are smoother, and Guyanese in general have yet to develop the safest of traffic habits.
The once public pasturelands which are being snapped up for developmental purposes can possibly be replaced by open communal pastures which are overseen by the State.
In fact the idea of publicly administered common pastureland isn't a new idea at all, having been practiced in, for example, central Italy for centuries.
The United States also has a system of state-owned land being made available for public grazing. Administered by the Bureau of Land Management, some 164 million acres are made for the grazing of livestock animals, with farmers paying an annually adjusted federal grazing fee which works out to less than US$2 per animal each month.
While Guyana doesn't have that sort of land space to spare, we can be sure that some amount of public land space can be made available in different areas on the coast – particularly where agricultural activities are high – specifically for grazing.
If there is such a system in place, these areas need to be clearly defined and
While we must acknowledge the role which agriculture – specifically animal rearing – plays in the local economy, the cost caused by stray animals in terms of lives, injury, property damage, and the public image of our country has long become too high.