Animal welfare organisation Four Paws is charging popular French manufacturer of dog and cat food, Royal Canin, with sponsoring brutal and illegal bear-baiting in the Ukraine.
The organization explained that it obtained video of one bear-baiting contest that took place in April 2013 near Vinnytsia, Ukraine.
The video shows a chained brown bear unable to escape as two to three dogs are set upon it at approximately 10-minute intervals. 'During the competition, the bear's movements are controlled by three men yanking on its chain to restrict the animal's response. The panicked bear, unable to mount a defense, frantically begins to foam at the mouth. Off to the side, a referee awards points to each dog's owner.
Dr. Amir Khalil, vet and project leader at Four Paws, says this can go on for hours, until the bear is left unable to fight.
As men sit and watch the spectacle unfold before them, Royal Canin tape separates them
FOUR PAWS Ukraine
Dogs are awarded points by a referee for how aggressive its attack is, said FOUR PAWS.
from the arena area. Banners also bearing the Royal Canin name and logo are displayed over a table hosting the manufacturer's sponsored trophies. These trophies or "cups," are awarded to "the owners of the most aggressive dogs," said FOUR PAWS in a press release to Digital Journal.
According to Four Paws, these contests are hosted at least four to six times per year and take place in special training camps for hunting dogs in the Ukraine. The organization added that it has, "evidence that Royal Canin has sponsored several of these gruesome spectacles over recent months."
Despite repeated requests for a meeting, Four Paws alleges, Royal Canin has refused to discuss the matter, but did issue this statement via their Global Corporate Affairs Director, Hervé MARC:
It appears that these photos were taken during a dog show in Dubovy Gay in the Ukraine, on April 27th-28th 2013. Our colleagues in the Ukraine confirmed that we sponsored brand placements with 1 banner, 2 cups and free products for a dog show and nothing else.
FOUR PAWS Ukraine
Royal Canin responded that it only sponsored two trophies, yet clearly more are available in the photo captured by FOUR PAWS.
Additionally, in all discussions with the organizing team of this dog show, there was no mention of the demonstration using a bear. As a result of our investigation, we have decided to immediately pull out of future sponsorship of this event and undertake some additional actions, such as reminding our sales and marketing teams around the globe of the relevant policies in place. We hope these actions will prevent situations such as these from occurring in the future.
Our Animal Welfare Policy states that we do not undertake, support or sponsor research that harms animals. This policy extends to sponsored marketing activities. Activities that could endanger the animal's health, its life expectancy, its well-being or way of life would be prohibited under this policy.
I would like to sincerely thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
But Khalil fired back:
The company promotes itself with the principle, 'Respecting the animal nature of dogs and cats' and places companion animals' well-being at the center of their company philosophy. By sponsoring appalling bear baiting Royal Canin is reducing wild animals like the brown bear to the rank of second-class animals.
Khalil added that bear-baiting is illegal in the Ukraine, "the brown bear is protected by law," he said, "and any activity which causes pain and suffering to a bear in captivity is banned."
FOUR PAWS Ukraine
This chained bear is jerked and controlled by three men. They pull on the chain to prevent the bear from injuring the dogs.
Bears are often targeted in the Ukraine. Used in bear-baiting activities, young bears are also often taken away from their mothers at an early age to be used as props in photo shoots with tourists.
Last year, FOUR PAWS uncovered and eventually rescued a bear named Nastia after two keepers at Lutsk Zoo in the Ukraine were captured on video ripping the four-month-old bear cub from its mother and forcing her into a tiny box to be sold to traders.
FOUR PAWS estimates there are between 15 and 20 baiting-bears in Ukraine with most of them heralding from zoos, circuses or the wild. Taken from their mothers, they are
FOUR PAWS rescued Nastia after she was wrestled away from her mother.
declawed and, "live cruel lives in tiny cages with nothing but a concrete floor," the organization said. Four Paws explained that these bears are often withheld from sustenance to weaken them for the hunting dogs, and only released from their cages, "for training or to be attacked by hunting dogs."
Dr. Khalil believes the pet food manufacturer's response was insufficient, and that the company should do more to make amends.
"It is not enough for Royal Canin to distance themselves verbally from such activities," he said. Now that the Ukrainian government has asked FOUR PAWS to assist them in formulating a project to give the bears a species-appropriate home Kahlil explained, Royal Canin, "must take responsibility and support the government for all the bears concerned."
For further information on bear-baiting and Four Paws, visit Four Paws Ukraine. The organization is asking the public to send letters of protest to Royal Canin.
More: Four Paws provides further evidence of another Royal Canin sponsored bear-bait.