AR-News: Pakistan Allowing Cruel Bear Sport: Activists
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Tue Jul 6 10:53:16 EDT 2004
_Ahmad Naeem Khan_ (mailto:ruth.david at oneworld.net)
_OneWorld South Asia_
06 July 2004
LAHORE, July 6 (OneWorld) - Animal activists in Pakistan accuse authorities
of encouraging a savage medieval sport in which de-fanged and de-clawed
Asiatic bears are tethered to a post and set upon by ferocious pit bull terriers.
A team of undercover investigators funded by the international body, World
Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), discovered that instances of
"bear baiting", as the sport is known, increased from 10 in 2002 to over 20 in
Law enforcement officials are accused of failing to follow up reports of the
torture of these endangered animals or implementing laws against bear
The WSPA - an umbrella organization of about 450 wildlife groups that
operates in close to 120 countries - estimates there may be less than 300 bears in
the wild in Pakistan. Adult bears are often killed so their cubs can be sold
"Our attempts to get the authorities to take action have been met with
indifference and sometimes resulted in threats and intimidation," the WSPA's
project manager in Pakistan, Fakhar Abbas, charged last week.
Abbas, who has witnessed several illegal bear baiting events, says he has
often been threatened and attacked for opposing it.
He complains, "We place ourselves at great risk when exposing bear baiting
events, only to see our efforts sabotaged by tip-offs, bureaucratic barriers
and even staged confiscations after which the bears mysteriously disappear
without a trace."
Bear baiting, widespread in Europe in medieval times, was introduced to this
region by the British during colonial rule. The sport has been illegal in
Pakistan for over 100 years but this is probably the only country where bear
baiting still takes place.
When WSPA began its probe in 1993, around 300 of the endangered bears and
1,000 dogs were involved in the savage events that cause dreadful injuries to
all the animals involved. Today, the number of fighting bears has reportedly
reduced to around 50.
Abbas charges that official involvement is so widespread that earlier this
year, the divisional wildlife officer in the city of Hyderabad in Sindh
province himself organized a bear-baiting event.
The problem with tackling the evil is that the organizers of these contests
are usually well-off rural landlords, who wield huge power. Local gypsies,
known as kalanders, rear the bears for the landlords.
WSPA says dozens of bear baiting contests take place between November and
April each year in rural areas. Three of Pakistan's four provinces - Punjab in
the east, Sindh in the south and the southwestern province of Balochistan -
witness these sports.
Fuelled by chants from spectators, trained dogs set upon the bears from the
start of the fight, injuring themselves and the tethered bears. The keepers
of the animals usually separate them before they kill each other for the bears
are in too great demand to allow them to die each time a fight takes place.
The events often resemble carnivals, attracting hundreds of spectators and
giving the landlords a chance to flaunt their wealth. Often, the very
officials who are supposed to stop such contests act as ushers for the landlords'
guests, charges WSPA.
I And I am my brothers keeper,
And I will fight his fights;
And speak the words for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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