Royal Canin has admitted their involvement in sponsoring brutal bear-baiting events in the Ukraine. Royal Canin Austria, owned by global pet food giant Mars PetCare, released a new statement accepting full responsibility and offered an “unreserved apology” for supporting such events.
The initial public statement from the pet food manufacturer denied any involvement and was vague, evasive and made no suggestion as to how the bears could be helped. Royal Canin said, while they were “shocked and deeply upset” about the incident, they insisted that they knew nothing of “events like this”.
Yet, damning information, photographs and video published by international animal welfare organization Four Paws showed a chained bear being brutally attacked by several hunting dogs as part of a contests sponsored by the company in the Ukraine told a very different story.
Despite Royal Canin’s insistence that they were ignorant of their sponsorship of such events, photographs of branded trophies bearing the Royal Canin logo carrying the following inscription (translated from Ukranian): “Second championship between hunting dogs for bears and wild boar”, were awarded to handlers of the most aggressive fighting dogs.
Following international outrage and increasing pressure, regarding new information that revealed that Royal Canin knowingly sponsored such events as early as February 2012, Royal Canin released another, revised, statement admitting their full involvement in sponsoring bear-baiting events. Remarkably, Royal Canin finally expressed a willingness to work with Four Paws International in rescuing the bears held in captivity in the Ukraine.
I was alerted to the updated statement after Royal Canin Austria contacted me following the article I published here on Poisoned Pets exposing their sponsorship of these barbaric events. I replied to their letter saying that while I appreciated their apology, I wanted to know, specifically, what steps Royal Canin plans to take to re-home the abused bears.
My letter to Royal Canin follows:
Dear Royal Canin,
Thank you for your message. While it is heartening to read that Royal Canin has admitted their involvement and acknowledges their sponsorship of events in the Ukraine where bear-baiting took place and has apologized for doing so, I would like to know what measures Royal Canin has taken to eradicate this inhumane blood sport in the Ukraine.
While I am relieved to know that Royal Canin has further expressed a desire to work with Four Paws by “working to improve the welfare of the Ukrainian bears and dogs that are involved in the bear-baiting”, I would like to know what specific steps Royal Canin is taking with Four Paws ensure the safety and welfare of captive bears in the Ukraine.
I would also like to like to know why Royal Canin has not given a satisfactory explanation as to why Royal Canin sponsored dog shows that clearly featured bear-baiting? The explanation that Royal Canin was not aware of such activities seems disingenuine considering the obvious support of such events with trophies awarded to the handlers of the most aggressive dogs attacking the captive bears.
Without complete transparency Royal Canin’s assurances mean very little to myself as well as consumers all over the world who placed their trust in Royal Canin.
I would hope that Royal Canin is aware that rebuilding brand trust will mean showing consumers how Royal Canin is taking measures to re-home the bears abused by these horrific blood sport in the Ukraine.
The updated statement released by Royal Canin Austria reads: (translated from German)
UPDATED OPINION Jul 26, 2013
Royal Canin condemned any activity that endangers the life and health of animals, and apologizes unreservedly for the sponsorship of events in Ukraine, where a Bärenhetzjagd [bear baiting] has occurred.
Royal Canin rejects the sponsorship of such events in the future and aims to work closely with all partners in the interests of animal welfare on.
You may have heard of the incident, the rounds in the social media platforms and other media and acts of Bärenhetzjagden [bear baiting] in Ukraine. Royal Canin apologizes unreservedly that we have sponsored events in Ukraine, which took place at a bear baiting.
As a company whose philosophy is based on the knowledge and respect for animals, we condemn any activity that endangers animals or inflicting suffering. Royal Canin was absolutely shocked when we saw these images in conjunction with our brand. The sponsorship of such events is in no way consistent with the welfare-oriented policy of Royal Canin. Our philosophy is in accordance with the animal always first and foremost.
“4 Paws International” has made this known incident in May 2013, and Royal Canin has immediately made the appropriate investigations. As a result we have immediately responded and withdrew our sponsorship of this event. At the same time the entire sales and marketing personnel of Royal Canin was again forcefully reminded of our welfare-oriented corporate policy and instructed to review sponsorship of events carefully. Since the video we did not know at the time, we did not understand the true meaning of events.
This incident is a painful and humiliating experience for Royal Canin. We thank “4 paws International” that she has brought us this event practice, and reminded us that, as carefully and conscientiously, we must ensure compliance with our corporate philosophy. We look forward to working with all our partners with whom we fight together to prevent through policy changes and improved animal welfare practices every kind of cruelty to animals. Specifically, this means that Royal Canin is working to improve the welfare of the Ukrainian bears and dogs that are involved in the bear baiting.
The animal welfare policy from Royal Canin defines clear that we perform, support or sponsor, where animals come to no harm events, or research projects. All activities which could endanger the health, well-being, lifestyle and life expectancy of animals were, and are prohibited by this policy. This policy also extends to sponsorship of marketing activities in which the life and health of animals could potentially be at risk.
Your team of
ROYAL CANIN Austria
In response to Royal Canin’s expression to work with Four Paws, For Paws released the following statement which reads, in part:
At last ROYAL CANIN has officially contacted FOUR PAWS and a face to face meeting between ROYAL CANIN and FOUR PAWS has been scheduled for Tuesday next week. In this meeting FOUR PAWS will emphasise the need for a swift and lasting solution for the bears in Ukraine.
Due to the upcoming meeting with Royal Canin, we want to inform you that we will stop our protest mail site until further notice.
While I am heartened to know that Royal Canin has expressed a willingness to work with Four Paws in helping bears abused in this brutal blood sport, I reserve my complete relief when concrete steps have been taken to rescue the bears in the Ukraine.
Right now Four Paws is desperately trying to save a female bear named Masha in the Ukraine whose entire life has been one of terror and indescribable pain. Four Paws is calling for financial help to rescue Masha and describes, in heartbreaking detail, the horror her life has been:
In her five years of life, Masha has endured terrifying abuse every single day, and heartbreaking misery every night. This beautiful brown bear has been raised on a dog breeding site in Ukraine, where she is attacked by hunting dogs on a daily basis. This cruel training builds the dogs’ strength, enabling the trainers to make a heftier profit from their eventual sale.
Weak, chained and unable to defend herself from the relentless onslaught, Masha is fighting for survival. The scars on her face say it all.
Once the dogs are finished attacking Masha for the day, the exhausted bear is returned to a tiny wire cage, just two feet by three feet. She is given little food and water, to ensure that she is weakened for the next days assault.
FOUR PAWS have drawn up a rescue plan for Masha. We intend to take her to the safety of our bear sanctuary ‘Nadiya’ in Ukraine, where she will experience compassion and empathy for the first time in her life. Once at the sanctuary, Masha can begin her recovery from her trauma, in a naturalistic environment and with experts on hand to aid her return to health.
The best outcome of a scandalous tragedy such as this will be the increased awareness of this little known blood sport known as bear-baiting and will ultimately lead to the rescue of bears like Masha held captive in the Ukraine.
Among the estimated 15 – 20 bears abused in the Ukraine for bear-baiting events, Four Paws estimates there are more than 100 brown bears living in very poor captive conditions across the Ukraine. Most of them are living in small cages next to restaurants, hotels or petrol stations. Four Paws has been working on protecting bears for years and runs bear sanctuaries in Austria, Germany and Bulgaria, where numerous rescued animals are being cared for.
I urge you to support the work of Four Paws in helping bears tortured for human entertainment and continue to boycott Royal Canin and all Mars products until action has been taken to rescue each and every single bear used for this barbaric sport.
Note: All the photographs of bears are bears that were rescued by Four Paws, with the exception of Masha whose fate is undetermined.
Illegal bear baiting in Ukraine: Statement from pet food manufacturer ROYAL CANIN evasive and incomplete/Four Paws
FOUR PAWS uncovers illegal bear baiting in Ukraine
Royal Canin: Stop Bear Baiting/Four Paws
Bear Rescue Campaign Efforts/Four Paws
Bears in the Ukraine/Four Paws
Bear Sanctuaries at/Four Paws