Royal Canin sponsored bear-baiting in Ukraine
It was reported last month that Royal Canin (a subsidiary of Mars) had been involved in the sponsoring of bear-baiting in Ukraine.
The animal welfare organisation Four Paws had obtained footage which showed dogs being set on a chained brown bear over a two-hour period. As a small audience looks on, the dogs attack and bite the bear - which was unable to defend itself because its claws had been removed and it was chained to a tree. Several men controlled the bear's movements using a chain, dragging it around a fight area demarcated with Royal Canin-branded plastic tape. An official awards points to the individual dogs and trophies carrying the Royal Canin logo were awarded to the owners.
According to Four Paws, bear-baiting contests took place between four and six times a year. The campaign group also claimed to have evidence that the company had sponsored more than one event. It estimated that there are between 15 and 20 baiting bears in Ukraine and said that the animals lived in tiny cages and were released only for training or competitions. The bears were often taken from their mothers after they were born and were often deprived of food and water to make them weaker opponents for the dogs.
Dr Amir Khalil, a vet and project leader at Four Paws said 'it was not enough for Royal Canin to distance itself verbally from such activities. The company must take responsibility and support the government in securing a species-appropriate life for the bears concerned'.
In a statement to the Observer, Royal Canin said "As a company with knowledge and respect for animals at our heart, we condemn any activities that harm or endanger animals. Royal Canin has been absolutely horrified to see these images linked with our brand. The sponsorship of this event is not consistent with Royal Canin's animal welfare policy, our philosophy of pet-first or our vision." It said that when Four Paws International raised the incident in May, it was investigated and the company undertook immediate action to cease sponsoring this event. It had reminded sales and marketing staff of its policy on animal welfare and sponsorship due diligence. It said: "Having not seen the video at this stage, we did not understand the true nature of the event that took place. This has been a humbling experience for Royal Canin. We again thank Four Paws International for bringing this practice to our attention, and in doing so reminding us that diligence in ensuring our policy is followed is paramount."
The company said it had pledged to work to improve the welfare of Ukrainian bears and dogs involved in bear-baiting.
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