Russian Football League Criticised As Bear Is Brought Out Before Match
The Russian Football League has received criticism from animal rights activists after a captive bear was used to perform tricks ahead of a third division fixture.
Just months before the 2018 World Cup takes place in the country, this is exactly the kind of bizarre publicity that the Russian football authorities could do without.
The bear, known as 'Tim' was brought out on a leash ahead of a fixture between football clubs Mashuk-KMV and Angusht. He was bringing the match ball to the pitch and then was forced by his handler to sit by the side of the pitch and clap at the fans.
The whole incident was captured on video and to say it's unusual is an understatement. It's hardly the statement that Russia will have wanted to make just weeks before the start of their biggest tournament ever.
Naturally, animal rights charities are up in arms about the whole thing. Elisa Allen, a director of animal welfare charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called the stunt 'utterly out of touch'.
She told the Daily Mail: "In addition to being inhumane, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous.
"The bear is the symbol of Russia, so we hope the country's people will show some compassion and national pride and stop abusing them. Common decency should compel the league to pull this stunt."
One of the football teams involved in the match, Angusht, said on their Facebook page after the game that Tim was to be used at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, on Thursday 14 June.
It surely will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that football's governing body, FIFA, have moved quickly to distance themselves from this claim.
That said, few football fans would be surprised to see a whole zoo of captive animals running around at any event run by FIFA. *trombone slide*
Brian da Cal, director of another animal charity, Four Paws UK said: "While some supposedly find this depressing scene 'entertaining' there is nothing at all light-hearted about this kind of abuse.
"Bears are wild animals and as such have very specific and complex needs.
"Being chained up, muzzled and forced to perform unnatural acts in front of large, rowdy crowds of people causes tremendous stress and can have an untold impact on these animals, both psychological and physical."
It's not the only concern ahead of the World Cup, with reports of hooligans promising trouble at games, reports of fans being put off by Russia's existing anti-gay laws and the ongoing tension between countries in the rest of Europe and the Russian Government.
On the plus side, the USA haven't qualified, so at least those particular tensions are one less thing to worry about.
Featured Image Credit: YouTube/FC Angusht