Tourist dollars prolong the cruelty

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The Independent Online

Dubious "sports" such as cock-fighting are flourishing around the world, particularly in the Indian subcontinent.

Dubious "sports" such as cock-fighting are flourishing around the world, particularly in the Indian subcontinent.

Cock-fighting, described by animal welfare groups as bloody and sadistic, is illegal in most countries. It was outlawed in India in 1960.

By contrast, the use of performing captive animals in entertainment - from dancing bears to performing monkeys and snakes - is still widely and depressingly prevalent.

Western tourists are often unwittingly drawn into supporting these practices, campaigners warn, by stopping to watch, applaud or give money to the animal owners.

Capturing bears in India was made illegal in 1972, but the law is rarely enforced. The use of performing bears dates back to the 16th century, when they provided amusement for the ruling classes. The tradition now continues along the roads from Delhi to Jaipur and Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, where bears "dance" for hours on end on their hind legs for the benefit of tourists. In Japan, bear parks entertain members of the public by forcing the animals to perform circus tricks and by crowding them into concrete pits. "Overcrowding encourages the bears to fight, and they often have terrible injuries," said Victor Watkins of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

Animal rights groups are also calling for the banning of the traditional Turkish sport of camel-wrestling, which takes place in an annual festival at the ruined ancient amphitheatre of Ephesus. Religious and cultural festivals involving animals are among the main targets of campaigners.

One of the most violent rituals, according to the WSPA, is Brazil's Farra do Boi, loosely translated as "ox fun days", which involves the torture and killing of dozens of bulls to celebrate weddings and birthdays in coastal communities.

An annual horse-race in Belgium, where the animals are forced to run on cobbled streets through a medieval town, frequently ends up with horses suffering serious leg injuries. It is now considered an outrage by animal welfare campaigners.

Many types of animals are victims of cruelty at fiestas in Spain. Goats are thrown from church towers, chickens are beheaded by blindfolded children and rabbits are stoned to death, while entertainment involving bulls is inextricably linked to the celebration of patron saints.