Cruelty to Bears in Pakistan


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times)Pakistan is a living example of what I keep saying : a person who is cruel to animals will be cruel to people as well. It has nothing to do with religion : the Prophet was one of the gentlest people who strode the world. It has something to do with anger and a feeling of being powerless so animals become the target. And the larger the animal , the more powerful the man becomes when he tortures it. That is why hunting is common in Pakistan even though it has been outlawed in the rest of the subcontinent. It is also the reason for the dreadful bear baiting fights that continue to take place only in Pakistan.
The world’s most savage blood sport is a common sights at local fairs . Bears have had their claws and canine teeth pulled out with pliers with no painkillers, nothing to stop the bleeding, and nothing to fight infections. Their molars are smashed with hammers. Some of them are blinded. They are tied to a stake with a rope of 2-5 metres long and 2-6 dogs are set on them. The dogs are Pit Bull Terriers, mixed with a local breed "Kohati" - males are used from the same litter for inbreeding. Without teeth or claws a bear must fight for its life against these ferocious dogs. Each fight lasts around three minutes and they usually have to undergo several fights during the day. Bears usually suffer ripped muzzles and torn ears.  Some of the younger bears scream like children from the pain. Some put their faces to the ground and try to cover themselves with their paws. As it is tightly tethered, a bear cannot escape the onslaught of teeth and claws. If the dog can attack the face and pull the bear down the dog wins. The bears wins if it can remain on its feet.  In the course of one fight a bear receives several long cuts and scratches and about an inch or more deep wounds.  Water is thrown onto the wounds but no medical treatment given. In fact the bear is made to dance if  it has been beaten by the dogs.

They normally develop secondary infections because of inappropriate treatments. In 1998 300 baiting bears died . Some bears get rabies from the dogs.

While a bear lasts 30 years in the wild , no bear makes it after 4 in the hands of the kalandars. At the age of 3 they are fed into the bear fights.  When a bear dies, the Kalandar lays the bear prostrate at the feet of the landlord and is given gifts in return. The landlord stuffs the bear – or what is left of him – and pretends that he shot him. 
Bear baiting occurs in the Punjab and Sindh provinces , Sargodha and Mianwali districts and in the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. These fights are organised by local landlords – people who pride themselves on their use of guns to subdue poorer people , their treatment of women as chattel, their subdued servants, their open defiance of the state. They own the fighting dogs – who also become victims  of this 'sport” and who are trained by being kept chained all the time and starved. It is not the top guys who do this , it is the less powerful landlords who use their dogs as an affirmation of their status.

The bears are owned by Kalanders – traditional bear owners who came from Afghanistan originally and are now stateless criminals spread across India and Pakistan who buy bears from shepherds and trade in illegal animals for sport –who are paid by the landlords to bring the bears to fight.  Many of them come from India – which is why we should take more interest in arresting the Kalandars in our own country.   Bear cubs that are poached and trained as dancing bears in India are sold for bear baiting when they become too weak to perform. These Kalanders smuggle animals across the porous borders of Gujarat and Punjab, from places such as Anjar, Okara and Multan.
 Asiatic black bears which are listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals and brown bears are used in bear baiting. The capture of bear cubs is prohibited across three provinces of Pakistan by: the Punjab Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act (1974); and the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1972) , , under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890 and under the Pakistan Wildlife Act. It is also illegal under Islamic Law to bait animals and is outlawed in the Quran ( baiting of all animals is forbidden). It makes no difference. The brown bear and the Himalayan black bear  are poached from the mountain region of NWFP, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Deosai plains.. They are captured by shepherds near NWFP, also from Nooristan in Afghanistan and then sold to the Kalandars.
This filthy practice of bearbaiting is an inheritance from the British who taught it to all their colonies. They imported bears to England, made bear-gardens, consisting of a circular high fenced area, the "pit", and raised seating for spectators chained bears to posts and set hunting dogs on it who were replaced as they tired or  wounded . Their royalty encouraged this barbarism. The deaths of a number of spectators, when a stand collapsed at the main London bear pit in 1583 was taken as a sign of God's anger, not because of the cruelty but because the bear-baiting was taking place on a Sunday.

In 1835 it was prohibited by British Parliament. But the adherents of the British empire in Pakistan still carry on. The sport which was brought in  by the British was adopted by small landlords to suck up to their British rulers . It has grown since 1940 as a result of widespread ownership of firearms.
Up to 600 bears, and around 1,000 dogs are still involved in the fights  but many are now done in secret private enclosures. These take place between from November - April.

In 1993 the fights were legal -  80 registered bear baiting events occurred. It was only when an international outcry started that the Pakistanis even realized that they were breaking their own hundred year old wildlife laws. President Musharraf  took bear baiting seriously. He issued a directive to stop it and confiscated a few bears. However , after a dip in the fights , they have increased again. In 2004 , the number of bairbaiting events had doubled from 2003.In one event alone, 12 tethered bears and hundreds of dogs were involved. While raids are being done by the government , there are parts of Pakistan where the rule of law has ceased to exist.  In many cases , as in India, the smugglers are tipped off by the authorities and the animals disappear without trace. In fact, as in India , local officials help in  organizing fights or providing security at them. In 2008 the wildlife department received information that poachers working for an influential wildlife trader in Peshawar had taken two cubs from the wild after killing their mother. The poachers’ house was raided and the cubs confiscated. The poacher showed no fear of the authorities. He attacked the place where the cubs were being kept several times.  The authorities moved to transport the cubs to the safety of the Kund Park bear sanctuary. He waylaid the truck twice on the road. Members of the Sukkur Wildlife Division were kidnapped by provincial landlords as they worked to prevent cruelty to bears and chained with the bears.The Kalandars are a scourge on this earth and the tribe should be wiped out by both India and Pakistan.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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