Live Animal Feeding
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Bloodlust In Chinese Animal Park
Guilin, China | 4/25/2002
A sign welcomes visitors to the world's biggest bear and tiger rehabilitation centre but a tour of Xiongsen Mountain Village in southern China reveals scenes of cruelty rather than caring. One of the "highlights" of a series of events organised for local and foreign tourists is the mauling of a water buffalo by a tiger, complete with the victim bellowing as blood pours from its wounds. The attack continues for 15 minutes while the tourists, watching from a concrete platform above the encaged arena, react with excitement, fascination and horror as the tiger brings the buffalo to the ground. Finally the organisers force the tiger out of the encaged area and the buffalo, bleeding and stunned, rises to its feet. Some in the crowd laugh while others looked relieved. But the "show" has not ended and a mini-bulldozer drives in, then over the buffalo. Somehow the stunned animal manages to stand again and for another 10 minutes, two "rehabilitation workers" prod its wounds and hit it over the head with a pole, as they manoeuvre it on to a tray at the back of the dozer. The buffalo is only then finally put out of its misery when it is slaughtered in a small shed away from the tourists. The founder and chief executive of the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation, Jill Robinson, said "This is horrific abuse and these cruel practices should have already stopped." Robinson said she visited the Xiongsen park, about 10 kilometres out of the popular southern Chinese tourist town of Guilin, two years ago and lobbied the Chinese government then to ban "live animal feeding" after witnessing a similar incident. "We were told there was a ban across the country on live animal feeding. The government has been extremely helpful but it is something the park is ignoring," she said. The buffalo mauling was not the only incident of animal cruelty at Xiongsen, home to at least 60 moon bears and 90 tigers and lions. Earlier in the day, bears and tigers were paraded around a deteriorating mini-stadium while a young hostess cracked jokes into a megaphone, much to the amusement of the 150-strong crowd. Many of the bears were in red jump suits, standing on their hind legs and banging tambourines. Another bear was forced to ride a motorbike on a tight rope about 20 metres in the air. One bear that could not perform had just three legs and paced back and forward against the rusty wire of its cage in a corner of the park well away from the tourists. Robinson said the bear was showing the classic symptoms of being "cage crazy". "Basically it means it's mad. Bears are very intelligent animals and locking them up like that sends them cage crazy," Robinson said. Robinson was also horrified at the products on sale at Xiongsen, which included bone liquor made from "precious animals", bear bile wine and tea made from snake and bear skin. Selling tiger and bear parts is illegal in China while bear bile is extracted using a notorious method where 20-centimetre (seven-inch) metal catheters are inserted and left in the gall bladders of the bears. However a spokeswoman at Xiongsen said that the park was not breaking any laws and claimed the animals were being treated well. "The objective of keeping the animals here is to eventually release them in the wild," said the spokeswoman, who did not give her name. "There are regulations that we stick to." Robinson said Xiongsen's claim to be preparing animals for a life in the wild was just a marketing gimmick. "We hear so much nonsense talking about wilderness training but rearing these tigers in the presence of people and encouraging them to attack domestic animals is not preparing them for release in the wild," she said. "The obvious conclusion if the tigers are released under these circumstances is they would attack domestic livestock and be shot by farmers." Robinson said one of the biggest problems about the treatment of animals in parks such as Xiongsen and elsewhere in China was the lack of any national laws protecting them against cruelty. But she said the mood was changing in China and animal protection laws would eventually be introduced. "Legislation is still several years away but the most positive point is there seems to be a growing enthusiasm in addressing the problem, not just from the government but from the universities and the general community," she said. This was highlighted this month when a horrific case of cruelty sparked calls in the state-run press to introduce animal protection laws. The China Daily was one of the papers to lead the push after a college student escaped punishment for pouring caustic soda and sulphuric acid over five bears at Beijing Zoo. "Experts bemoan that no laws exist to punish those who abuse other living beings," the paper said. "As it is, people are officially free to roast their pets in microwave ovens or cut their dogs' vocal chords without facing any legal sanction." Robinson's Animals Asia Foundation and other animal welfare groups are working with the government to introduce laws. She said her organisation, in conjunction with officials in Beijing, had been collating laws from other countries in Asia that had strong animal protection legislation, such as Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines. "We are getting very positive feedback from the people in Beijing we are working with," Robinson said. However for the organisers at Xiongsen and other similar parks across China, preying on people's bloodlust with live animal feeding seems to be still a valid way to make a dollar.
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