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Bear baiting

In rural Pakistan, up to 2,000 spectators will assemble to watch a tethered and clawless bear set upon by trained fighting dogs.

WSPA is working hard to permanently stop what we believe is one of the world’s most savage blood sports.

Once popular in eighteenth century England, bear baiting is now found only in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan. The brutal but lucrative contests are organized by powerful local landlords. They own and train the dogs, which are also victims of this 'sport', encouraging ferocity in attack situations. The bears are owned by Kalandars – traditional bear owners – who are paid by the landlords to bring the bears to fight.

And while bear baiting is banned by the Pakistan Wildlife Act and contravenes Islamic teachings, which forbid the baiting of animals, it still exists today.

Taking action to end bear baiting

WSPA and our partner organization, the Pakistan Bioresource Research Centre (BRC), have helped to dramatically reduce the number of bear baiting events in recent years, by:

  • Working with the Pakistani government and wildlife officials to halt the fights.
  • Rescuing bears and giving them a peaceful home at Balkasar sanctuary.
  • Providing alternative livelihoods for former bear owners to ensure they don’t poach new bears from the wild.
  • Persuading powerful landlords to stop hosting these events.
  • Improving legislation and increasing the enforcement power of local authorities.
  • Educating potential spectators through religious teachings. For example, in 2010, WSPA persuaded nearly 3,000 mosques to preach against bear baiting.
  • Calling for greater action to prevent illegal bear cub poaching; a Pakistan-wide educational program is raising awareness of the issue.
  • Making Pakistani authorities aware of international opposition to bear baiting.

Preventing future baiting events

WSPA and BRC are committed to developing long-term, preventative solutions that can sustainably work to end this brutal practice forever. A key part of our success has been the Alternative Livelihood (AL) program run by dedicated BRC staff, which works to ensure that no new bears are brought into this practice.

Because bear owners and their families often depend completely on the income brought in by baiting matches, these exchanges are complex and require many months of negotiations. The AL team helps each owner choose an alternative profession which will give him and his family a stable source of income, and provides specific training to help ensure the success of the business. Ex-bear owners are then closely monitored to make sure they do not return to bear ownership. Incentives, such as education for children, are also offered after a certain period to further reduce the risk of re-offending. 

Support our work

Thanks to your help, WSPA has tracked down and stopped numerous bear baiting events. We’re getting closer to ending this brutal blood sport altogether, but there is still much more work to be done.

Please support our work so more bears can enjoy lives free from fear and injury.
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