Armenia: Oligarch's staff allegedly implicated in animal cruelty scandal

Facebook users today posted links to a video shot at what is alleged to be the private zoo of oligarch MP Gagik Tsarukian. Better known to most Armenians by his nickname, Dodi Gago, Tsarukian is believed to be Armenia's wealthiest citizen even if his tax returns reportedly suggest the contrary.

The former world arm-wrestling champion is also head of the second largest political party in the Armenian National Assembly as well as the President of the Armenian National Olympic Committee.


No stranger to controversy, especially given reports in the local press which allegedly link his bodyguards to shoot-outs and the beating of journalists, the latest scandal reportedly linked to members of his entourage saw the light of day via Twitter.

The video was quickly removed after the first posts were made on Facebook and links were quickly re-tweeted. The video has since rematerialized on Daily Motion. Unzipped sums up the feelings of most who have seen the video so far.

Thanks to a tweet by @GoldenTent, I came across this link to the YouTube video, which alleges that Armenian oligarch and head of ruling Bargavatch Hayastan (‘Properous Armenia’) party Gagik Tsarukyan stages this fight between his lions and a donkey. (or it was staged at his ‘private zoo’)


This is so disgusting that at first I could not force myself watching beyond the first few seconds. Then I forced myself… I felt physically sick after watching this video.

Any country, any society which has any prospect of calling itself a “civilised” should ban these sorts of outrageous displays of animal cruelty, and perpetrators should be held responsible before the law.

In February, a YouTube video highlighting illegal hunting in an Armenian nature reserve resulted in the dismissal of the head warden. However, if the video shows what many allege it does, it remains to be seen whether any action will follow.


  • 1. Dodi Gago’s use of his power and wealth in such a manner seems at best careless and at worst immoral.
    2. Why would Facebook remove the video post and comments?
    3. Here is another interesting way to look at this incidents and surrounding dialogue-with industrial meat production in mind…

    (Comment below by Peter Singer, Prof at Princeton and author):

    “That comparison that you just asked me to make between dog fighting and sport-hunting is interesting in itself because these are both really very minor cruelties in the terms of the scale of things. The big thing that is going undiscussed here is the industrial raising of animals for food. Just in terms of the numbers, it’s so vastly greater than sport-hunting, which in turn is a lot bigger than dog fighting. We’re talking literally about billions of animals each year being reared in conditions that don’t enable them to have a minimally decent life and then being killed in mass-production factory ways that again often are not painless. So that’s the schizophrenia, that all of this hidden suffering that’s engaged in by supposedly respectable corporations and that people then buy in their supermarkets is the thing that is unspoken. It’s not the recreational activities that we should be focusing on.”

    • Corinne

      Rating forms of abuse according to scale seems cruel in itself. This lesser amount of abuse does not matter because of this greater amount of abuse? Abuse is abuse, torture is torture and it is felt by all. Unfortunately two are are legal, protected and promoted. It all needs to end. We need more vegans.

  • Leah

    Thank you for posting this, Global Voices. Wherever this scene occured, it is truly horrible and the person who did it should be arrested.

  • Ulara – regarding your question #2, a lot of sites (facebook, youtube, etc) will remove things which are against their user agreements, which include things like cruelty to animals. I had posted a video on youtube which I took in Kyrgyzstan of dogs going after a chained wolf at a “hunting” festival, and it was removed from youtube because youtube specifically prohibits videos of animal cruelty, even when they’re posted for expose purposes. I would assume facebook’s guidelines are similar.

    • Hi Jane – Thank you for the insight. And your account from Kyrgyzstan – I am sorry that you were unable to make it more known.

      I took a closer look at Facebook’s Rights and Responsibilities Statement (
      which I did NOT read when I signed up) and I think that with this case, it would be this :

      -You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

      If this it is indeed why such videos are removed, at least the ‘gratuitous violence’ is being acknowledged?

      Another couple interesting conditions to take note:

      You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
      You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.

  • John

    Isn’t there an organization where we can appeal ?

    I suggest people write letters to local international embassies in Armenia as well as to the president of Armenia to punish these unjust acts against poor animals. This is disgrace to Armenian government. Shame on them that their “elite” instead of assisting poor people living in Armenia, they entertain their cruel appetite. Shame shame shame.

  • Tsarukian has since denied that the video comes from his private zoo:

    He also denies accusations that Armenia is an oligarchy and is avoiding paying all his taxes.

    I’m told that in another news report he says he will punish anyone who says differently “mentally, finanicially and physically.”

  • Levon Ter Petrosyan

    Onnik thinks yes, again I can write something negative about Armenia and Armenians!

  • Um, person hiding behind a false name (Levon Ter Petrosyan), the post is actually about what others wrote on their blogs. The media in Armenia wrote about the scandal, and many Armenians spoke about it too.

  • Levon Ter Petrosyan

    Then again, you just love to mention every negative aspect of Armenia. Come on Onnik, Georgia is your paradise, not Armenia!

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