WORLD NEWS: Pope on Circuses, Animal Rights in Pakistan, and More! (1/17/18)


In this episode of Animal People World News, find out…

  • Why the U.K.’s foxhunting ban is here to stay
  • How the U.S. Interior Department is pushing its pro-hunting agenda
  • How China is implementing its new ban on ivory sales
  • How the last dancing bears in Nepal were rescued
  • Why Pope Francis promoted a circus convicted of animal cruelty
  • What a new Swiss law means for companion animals, lab animals, and crustaceans
  • How three Indian states are improving life for dairy cows
  • What Sindh’s new bill means for animal rights in Pakistan


Research by Kim Rogers Bartlett
Presentation & editing by Wolf Gordon Clifton
Theme music: “Praetor,” courtesy Ross Bugden


Greetings! I’m Wolf, like the animal, reporting for Animal People World News.


The United Kingdom’s 2004 ban on hunting with dogs will remain the law of the land, says Prime Minister Theresa May. May has in the past been a vocal supporter of foxhunting, and declared as a campaign promise prior to her June 2017 reelection that she would hold a vote to relegalize hunting with dogs. Although many Conservative party politicians are foxhunting enthusiasts, most U.K. citizens oppose the bloodsport, including nearly three quarters of Conservative voters. In abandoning her promise to try and repeal the ban, May suggested that her party’s past support for foxhunting might have been a factor in its recent electoral losses.

Although illegal, hunting foxes, hares, and other wild mammals with dogs remains common in the U.K. Trail hunting, a legal alternative in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent, is often used as cover for the hunting of actual animals. There were over four hundred and thirty prosecuted cases of illegal hunting between 2005 and 2017. Hunting birds with dogs remains legal, but increasingly controversial.


Ryan Zinke, the United States Secretary of the Interior, announced on January ninth the creation of a new Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. The Council will advise the government on creating policies to expand hunting access, increase public support for hunting, and encourage more Americans to take up the practice.

Promoting hunting has been a major agenda item for Secretary Zinke ever since his appointment to the position by President Trump. His first day in office, Zinke signed an order to allow hunting with lead ammunition and fishing with lead tackle on public land, despite data showing that lead in the environment poisons millions of animals every year. He has declared October to be “National Hunting and Fishing Month.” In November 2017 he created the International Wildlife Conservation Council, whose duties include quote-unquote “educating” the public on the benefits of hunting, weakening legal protections for threatened species, and promoting trophy hunting overseas.

Zinke claims that “hunters and anglers are at the backbone of American conservation,” arguing that killing wild animals fosters appreciation for nature and provides essential funding for species and habitat protection. Yet his own department’s statistics show that while hunting has dwindled in popularity, non-violent wildlife watching and photography have become more popular than ever. With more than seven times more people watching wild animals than hunting them, Americans spent a total of one hundred and fifty-six billion dollars on wildlife activities in 2016, more than any other time in the previous twenty-five years.


China’s ban on ivory sales, first announced December 2016, is now in full effect. After gradually shutting down factories and traders over the course of 2017, the Chinese government declared on New Year’s Eve that all sales of elephant ivory, including online, and imports from abroad would be illegal.

International commercial trading of ivory has been illegal under CITES, the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, since 1989. However, the allowance of domestic sales within China has continued to fuel demand for ivory products, and to provide cover for the illegal killing of African elephants for the Chinese market.

The Chinese public seems generally to support the ban, with hashtags translating to “no sales, no killings” and “make ivory products commercial no more” trending on Chinese social media. However, the impact of the ban is unfortunately undercut by the persistence of legal markets in neighboring regions, which conservationists fear will continue to sustain ivory smuggling into China.

Hong Kong, which is governed autonomously from mainland China, isn’t scheduled to ban ivory until 2021. Japan, meanwhile, has now become the world’s new largest legal ivory market, and shows no sign of banning the trade. At the most recent CITES meeting, Japan defeated a proposal to ban all domestic ivory sales, joining forces with Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the European Union, which all profit from trophy hunting of elephants.


The cruel practice of bear dancing has now been eradicated in Nepal. The last known dancing bears in the country were rescued on December nineteenth, by Nepali police and activists from Jane Goodall Institute Nepal and World Animal Protection. The bears, a male named Rangila and female named Sridevi, are now under the care of Parsa National Park.

Dancing bears are taken from their mothers as cubs, often captured in the wild. They are controlled using ropes threaded through a piercing in their nose, taught to stand on their hind legs and shuffle by being placed on hot metal or coals, and have their claws and teeth broken off to ensure obedience.

Fortunately, the practice is now in steep decline. The last known dancing bears in India were surrendered to the organization Wildlife SOS in 2009, after a lengthy campaign to rescue and rehabilitate the animals and train their former owners for alternative professions.

Bear dancing still exists in Pakistan, where at least two hundred and twenty bears remain in captivity. Yet Pakistani officials are cracking down, and plan to eradicate the practice within the next five years. The last dancing bear in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, was rescued last September.


I would like to take a moment now to acknowledge the legacy of Martin Luther King, Junior, whose life is celebrated throughout the United States on January fifteenth. The movement to recognize the moral rights of animals builds on the precedents of historic struggles to establish and defend human rights, including the movement for racial justice of which Martin Luther King was a major leader, and which continues today with campaigns such as Black Lives Matter.

A compassionate world for animals of every species cannot be achieved without also securing freedom and justice for human beings, of every race, religion, gender, and orientation. At the same time, there cannot be true, lasting peace between humans so long as the cruel exploitation of other sentient beings is tolerated, simply because they are different from us. Human rights and animal rights do not conflict; they are mutually interdependent.

Thank you. We now return to our main program.


On Thursday, January eleventh, Pope Francis paid for more than two thousand guests to attend the Medrano Circus in Rome. The Medrano Circus uses a wide variety of captive wild animals in its performances, including elephants, giraffes, camels, big cats, kangaroos, ostriches, parrots, reptiles, spiders, and scorpions. In July 2016, an Italian court found the circus’s director at the time guilty of animal cruelty, after investigations revealed animals kept confined in small, barren enclosures, exposed to extreme heat and cold, and exhibiting stress behaviors such as pacing and scratching.

The Vatican distributed free tickets to refugees, prisoners, homeless, and poor people, with the declared intent of showing the Church’s solidarity with the downtrodden. Yet the decision to support circus use of animals contradicts Pope Francis’ own teachings on compassion for all creatures. In his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home, he declares:

“The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God… Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.’”

The Pope’s circus patronage also goes against the shifting tide of public opinion. Just this month so far, the governments of Scotland and the U.S. state of New Jersey have both banned the use of wild animals in circuses, recognizing the inherent cruelty involved in forcing wild animals to perform for human amusement.


The government of Switzerland has passed a reform of its animal protection laws. The new law, which will take effect in March, address a wide variety of practices harming animals, including strengthening penalties for illegal puppy farms, outlawing painful mechanical devices meant to stop dogs from barking, regulating petting zoos to minimize stress to easily frightened animals such as guinea pigs, and requiring laboratories that test on animals to employ animal welfare advisers.

The law also regulates the treatment of crustaceans killed for food, as per scientific evidence that crabs, lobsters, prawns, and other arthropods likely feel pain. It prohibits transport of crustaceans on ice or in ice water. It also bans the boiling of live crustaceans, and requires that the animals be stunned, either with an electric device or by cutting through the brain, before butchering.


Living conditions may soon improve for dairy cows in three Indian states. The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Telangana have issued new guidelines to ensure higher welfare for dairy cows. These include providing soft bedding, access to the outdoors, and thorough vaccination against disease; banning or limiting the use of artificial hormones; preventing excessive milking; and recommending that calves stay with their mothers for at least three months, rather than being separated shortly after birth.

The new guidelines come in reaction to the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations’, or FIAPO’s, #EndExploitativeDairies campaign. FIAPO investigations have revealed cruelty and neglect in hundreds of dairy farms across India. Among the most gruesome practices is the use of khalbacchas, dead calves stuffed with hay, to keep mother cows lactating after their own young have died or been taken away. FIAPO hopes that the new protections for cows at the state level will pave the way for national legislation regulating dairy farms throughout India.


Finally, animals in the province of Sindh, Pakistan may soon be granted basic legal rights. On December thirtieth, the governor’s cabinet introduced a new bill for consideration by Sindh’s house of representatives. If passed, the Sindh Welfare and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act would prohibit beating, neglecting, torturing, or frightening animals, as well as specific practices such as overloading draft animals or forcing animals to fight for entertainment. Violators would face sentences between three months and three years in prison.

In addition to improving animal welfare, the Act would also acknowledge animal rights, reading:

“[Animals] will be granted inalienable rights to adequate nourishment, appropriate shelter, and life in an environment free of abuse.”

Although laws regulating human treatment of animals are common worldwide, only a few recognize animals as having legal rights of their own. If the Sindh Welfare and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is passed, the Pakistani province will join Switzerland, Germany, Spain, India, New Zealand, Argentina, and Colombia, becoming one of a small but growing number of jurisdictions to acknowledge that animals are sentient persons rather than mere objects to be used.

These are just a few of the countless issues affecting animals worldwide. Visit the Animal People Forum to find out more, and share your own perspectives on animal rights, welfare, and conservation.

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ANIMAL PEOPLE is an animal rights charitable organization dedicated to the principle that animals’ lives have intrinsic value apart from human interests. We believe there is an urgent need to cultivate human compassion for the other creatures with whom we share the earth. To that end, ANIMAL PEOPLE seeks to further animal advocacy by providing a global forum in which people who care about animals can speak and be heard. Click to see author's profile.

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