The announcement comes as International Animal Rescue plans to remove the very last dancing bear off India’s streets this weekend (December 26-27, 2009).
Animal rights activists are celebrating as the final curtain is drawn on India’s ancient dancing bear industry, a practice in which sloth bears are beaten and tortured into dancing to earn money for handlers and entertain crowds.
Though the industry was outlawed in 1972, organizations like International Animal Rescue say the problem was still prevalent. The group rescued 500-plus bears with the help of other charities in a five-year campaign to end the practice. Traditionally, sloth bear cubs - considered highly endangered from habitat destruction in India - are bought by traders and trained through fear and torture tools to dance on their hind legs to performance music.
At six months, an iron needle is heated and driven through their muzzles for their trainers to tether them with ropes, according to the Web site of Wildlife SOS, one of the organizations involved with the cause.
The practice of dancing bears originated centuries earlier as royal entertainment. Today, Wildlife SOS describes the practice as rife with cruelty, from the manner the bears’ canine teeth are removed - knocked out with a metal rod - to beatings and starvation. Systematic starvation of the bears causes blindness in many cases.
As dancing bears are eliminated from Indian culture, sanctuaries have been built to house them, advocates say. Many of the impoverished, nomadic people who owned them are being provided rehabilitation packages to help them learn alternative employment skills, International Animal Rescue said.
The announcement comes as International Animal Rescue plans to remove the very last dancing bear off India’s streets this weekend, according to Alan Knight, the organization’s chief executive.