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South Carolina: Bear-Baiting in the 21st Century

This writer is passionate about the issues of animal welfare and animal cruelty, as well as environmental protection in general.

Associated Press image

Associated Press image

I have written a fair amount online regarding animal welfare and animal cruelty. It has mainly been about dogs in the UK and animal issues in China. I know that sadly crimes against animals are far too prevalent in all countries around the world. However, I was appalled to see a report on UK television news about bear-baiting in the United States, of all places.

The UK was guilty of bear-baiting, but it was outlawed here in the early 1800s. No doubt rogue bear-baiting continued for some time but it would still have vanished ages ago. America is a great country, but like everywhere in the world, it has its problems. Bear-baiting should not still be one of them.

The news reports claimed that bear hunters are partially responsible for this "sport" or "training regime". This treatment of bears is still legal in the state of South Carolina. It appears that bear hunters are using "bear-baying" as they call it to train their dogs to hunt bears. The bears have their teeth and claws removed before being chained to the spot.

Packs of dogs were seen in one video trying to attack the bear's legs so that it stood on its back legs. With no fangs, teeth or claws the bear is pretty defenceless. It must also be terrified of the dogs. Of course, a bear is a powerful creature and it will pack a mean punch. As the bear is tethered though its movements are limited.

The Humane Society of the United States of America has stepped in to fight for the bears. As their representative John Goodwin has said:

"'Bear baiting' events can have up to one hundred dogs attacking a defenseless bear. "One pack after another. The bear gets no relief, no break to get some water and this goes on to up to four hours."

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The Humane Society report reads:

"A black bear cowers in the corner of a pen in rural South Carolina. She is tethered to a stake, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers. She is foaming at the mouth and popping her jaws, behavior that means she is terrified. Her captors have cut or removed her claws and many of her teeth, leaving her defenseless.

Three hounds run at the bear from one end of the arena, barking furiously. Some of them bite her face and legs. Others jump on her. She backs up on her hind legs, trying vainly to shield her face. The assault continues for four hours, as nearly 300 dogs attack her in quick succession. This spectacle is a bear baiting competition, called a "bear bay" by participants, and is practiced only in South Carolina. It is similar to the archaic blood sport of bear baiting."

I was saddened to read that although dogfighting is banned in the States the bears have no such protection. Permits to own bears for such events are issued by The Department of Natural Resources. These permits have been longstanding and it has been claimed that new permits will not be issued.

Unless there is firm legislation against such practices though that statement offers no help to the bears involved.

Watch the videos and look at the images. Can this be acceptable behaviour? I think not. Make sure that if you agree you sign any petitions and lobby those in power.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2010 Ethel Smith

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