Dr. Fakhar-I-Abbas, a Pakistani zoologist, is the director of the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC), a Pakistan-based member society of the WSPA. He is at the forefront of efforts to halt bear baiting in the country.
Landlords are extremely powerful figures
in certain areas of rural Pakistan. They are the main actors behind these fights, which they organise for several reasons. Firstly, the events are intended to draw large crowds – and therefore more money - to village fairs in the landlord’s territory. But mainly, the landlords want to prove they are above the law: defying the government ban against bear baiting is a way of flexing their political muscles.
We are taking three types of actions to try to eradicate bear-baiting in Pakistan. Firstly, we are appealing directly to landlords to convince them to stop organising the events. We tell them about the miserable conditions the bears live in, and how the fights leave them permanently maimed and traumatised. Many have responded positively – over the past 10 years, over 80% of the landlords we spoke to agreed not to organise such events any more.
Our second approach consists in visiting mosques in regions where the practice exists and speaking to imams. We refer to Islamist teachings that condemn cruelty to animals, and ask them to denounce bear baiting in their Friday sermons, to help make the general public aware that the practice goes against their religion.
Finally, we have representatives in villages where the practice exists who alert us when a bear-baiting event is to take place so that we can warn authorities. This has led to several successful raids
during major bear baiting events in recent years. But in some areas, the warlords are so powerful that they control the entire law enforcement apparatus. In these cases, police intervention is all but impossible.”
A bear attempts to fend off attacks from specially trained dogs at a bear baiting event in Pakistan, in January 2008.
Dog owners pull the dogs off the bear after several minutes of fighting. Although the bears are often injured, they are too valuable to their gypsie owners - who use them over multiple fights - to be killed.
A toothless bear injured after a fight wih dogs.
BRC vets remove the ring on a rescued bear's nose. Baited bears are controlled with a rope tied to a ring through their nose or lip, which hurt them when it is pulled on. All photos courtesy of the WSPA.