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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Pakistan halts bear-baiting event
Asiatic black bear
Pairs of dogs attack the toothless and tethered bears
Pakistan has halted a major bear-baiting event planned in its Punjab province after a tip-off from staff of a global animal rights group.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) said 20 fights involving 30 bears and 100 dogs had been planned for a village festival.

The three-minute fights pit pairs of fighting dogs against a tethered and toothless bear.

The WSPA said Pakistan's move was a "tremendous victory" over bear-baiting.

It said its representatives had been monitoring the situation in Pakistan and had tipped off local authorities who stepped in to curb the bear-baiting.

Decree

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says the controversial practice is still carried out in some parts of the country.

We congratulate Pakistan on its diligent action and look forward to supporting further work to ensure bear-baiting is consigned to the history books
Victor Watkins, WSPA

He says the events are hosted by powerful landlords in rural areas and usually occur between November and April.

The WSPA says the authorities have now become more responsive to its appeals.

A WSPA statement said the large bear-baiting event was planned to take place during an annual village festival in Shah Jewiena in the Jhang district of Punjab province.

Wildlife officials stopped bears being brought into the festival or the surrounding area.

Victor Watkins of WSPA said: "This is a tremendous victory in the fight against illicit bear-baiting events.

"We congratulate the Pakistan government on its diligent action and look forward to supporting further work to ensure that bear-baiting is consigned to the history books once and for all."

The WSPA set up an information stand at the festival and said up to 9,000 people visited to learn more about animal welfare and bear-baiting.

In 2001, President Pervez Musharraf issued a decree calling for the enforcement of the existing ban on bear baiting, reinforcing Pakistan's Prevention of Cruelty Act.

Gen Musharraf also directed that confiscated bears be moved to a WSPA-built sanctuary in Kund Park in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province.



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