Bear dancing is a cruel spectacle, where bears who have been taken from the wild as cubs are forced to ‘dance’ on the streets, mainly used as a form of begging. Passers-by, including young children and families, pay to watch a bear, decorated with ribbons and bells. Sadly, the bears are trained using incredibly cruel methods and live their lives in a constant state of pain and fear.
Why is this happening?
The bears are usually kept by very poor, semi-nomadic people who travel from village to village with their bears, making whatever money they can by begging. These people live in extreme poverty and are considered to be at the very bottom of society. I know it’s difficult to believe, but often they do not understand how much their bear is suffering.
Why can’t you rescue a bear straight away?
Unfortunately we can’t simply rescue a bear from its owner straight away. If we did the owner would likely just replace their current bear with another cub poached from the wild. To convince a bear owner to give up their only known way of earning a living, trust needs to be built and this involves a series of negotiations that may take several months.
We need to explain the intense suffering that they are forcing their bear to endure, and help them find an alternative cruelty-free way of earning of living, for example we often help owners set up a small shop. Without providing this education and support, the cycle of bear dancing would never end.
What else are you doing to help?
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1890) prohibits bear baiting in Pakistan, however this legislation does not include bear dancing or using a bear for begging. So as well as providing an alternative way of earning a living for bear owners, we are also campaigning for changes in Pakistani law. As well as this, we are helping to change the attitudes of the public, so they no longer pay to watch such horrendous cruelty.
How can I help?
Donations received from World Animal Protection supporters help to fund our partner, the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) in Pakistan. The BRC negotiate the surrender of dancing bears, and bring them to the safety of the Balkasar Bear Sanctuary in Pakistan (pictured below), where rescued bears can live the rest of their lives in peace. Donations also help with the running of the sanctuary and the campaigning and education work mentioned above.