This is a rejection of once-in-a-generation opportunity to end slaughter at sea, says Humane Society International

Humane Society International / Global


Minke whale
Nature Picture Library/Alamy

REYKJAVÍK, Iceland—As news breaks that Iceland’s Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir will renew a one-year commercial whaling licence to whaling company Hvalur hf., despite clear evidence of immense animal suffering, global animal protection charity Humane Society International calls it a devastatingly disappointing decision.

An independent report published last year by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority revealed some whales killed in Icelandic hunts had taken up to two hours to die, with 41% of whales suffering immensely before dying for an average of 11.5 minutes. Such suffering was deemed in contravention of the country’s Animal Welfare Act.

Adam Peyman, director of wildlife programs at Humane Society International, said: “It is devastatingly disappointing that Minister Gunnarsdóttir has set aside unequivocal scientific evidence demonstrating the brutality and cruelty of commercial whale killing and allowed whales to be killed for another year. There is simply no way to make harpooning whales at sea anything other than cruel and bloody, and no amount of modifications will change that. Whales already face myriad threats in the oceans from pollution, climate change, entanglement in fish nets and ship strikes, and fin whale victims of Iceland’s whaling fleet are considered globally vulnerable to extinction. With the need for whale protection so critical. This is a rejection of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the slaughter at sea. There is a new shameful entry in the conservation history books―Iceland had a chance to do the right thing and it chose not to.”

Fast facts:

  • The International Whaling Commission agreed to enact a global moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986.
  • Iceland left the IWC in 1992 but returned in 2002 with an exception to the moratorium, despite objections from multiple nations. Since re-joining the IWC, Iceland had killed more than 1,500 whales, including fin whales.
  • Iceland suspended hunting fin whales in 2016 due to a declining market for whale meat in Japan. Hunting resumed for the 2018 season when 146 fin whales were killed, including a pregnant female and a rare fin-blue hybrid whale, plus six minke whales. Icelandic whalers killed a single minke whale between 2019 and 2021, and 148 fin whales in 2022.
  • Fin whales are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as globally vulnerable to extinction despite decades of recovery since the commercial whaling moratorium.

ENDS

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, director of international media: whiggins@hsi.org

The new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if passed, will set stricter penalties against animal cruelty and recognize five fundamental freedoms for all animals

Humane Society International / India


Erin Van Voorhies

DELHI, India—With the newly formed Government assuming office this month, Humane Society International/India and People for Animals urge the Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a letter to expedite passage of the long-awaited Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the upcoming Monsoon session of the Parliament. The draft bill introduces amendments to the current animal law including stringent penalties for animal cruelty, newer cognizable offenses, and establishes five fundamental freedoms for every animal—freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; and freedom to express normal and natural behavior.  

Despite India having some of the strongest animal laws in the world, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 has remained unchanged since its adoption, giving scope to animal offenders to go scot-free after committing serious crimes against animals. Currently, the maximum fine for even the most heinous crime against animals—including beating, poisoning, raping or burning an animal—is a mere Rs. 50 (and Rs. 100 for repeat offenders).  

The pressure to update this law has been increasing since 2016, with over 400,000 signatures submitted on petitions to amend the animal welfare laws. In 2022, over 180 parliamentarians demanded such an amendment, echoed by the 50,000 emails and letters sent in 2023 by animal advocates and the general public to PM Narendra Modi to amend the 1960 Act. 

Alokparna Sengupta, managing director of Humane Society International/India, said: “There is an urgent need for bringing the new act. In the long run, the lack of a better law poses a great threat to society at large. In the pursuit of compassion, justice and a more humane society, the time to act is now and we need urgent reforms from the newly elected Government that will act as a deterrent against animal cruelty and be applicable to both individuals and institutions.”

Gauri Maulekhi, trustee of People for Animals, said: “Amending the PCA Act is imperative and long overdue. It is wellknown that violence against animals is a precursor to violence against other vulnerable members of our society, be it women, children or our elders. Strengthening this law protects animals and serves as a pivotal step towards cultivating empathy and respect, fostering a society where compassion thrives, and brutality finds no haven.” 

Some recent cruelty cases of a highly disturbing nature include that of Jai, the community dog in Mumbai being brutally killed ; a pet golden retriever in Gurgaon thrashed in an elevator by a dog walker; and a street dog being beaten brutally in Jagatpuri, Delhi. The passage of this law is expected to set a strong precedent by raising fines and punishment for cruelty offenses against animals and helping to build a society that treats domesticated and wild animals with care and compassion.    

Urge the new government to keep up with the times and adopt better laws against animal cruelty by signing the petition. 

Facts:

  • Apart from the meager penalties, many offenses against animals under the current laws are bailable and non-cognizable, which means accused individuals can seek bail easily and prevent immediate police action without court permission.  
  • The main objective of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering on animals, to adopt guidelines regarding  experimentation on animals for scientific purposes and to empower a committee to make rules with regards to such experiments, and to restrict the exhibition and training of performing animals.         
  • #NoMore50 campaign was started by HSI/India and PFA after Shaktiman, a white horse, was beaten brutally by n member of the Legislative Assembly in 2016. #NoMore50 is a call to demand social justice and amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, by increasing the penalty from a mere Rs. 50. Since 2016, the campaign has received enormous support from people from all walks of life including eminent judges, celebrities and members of the Legislative Assembly.  
  • Several MPs in the past including Hema Malini, Pankal Chaudhry, Arjun Lal Meena, Dr. K. Laxman, Margani Bharat Ram, Dr. Mohammed Jawed and Raja Amreshwara Naik had written to the Prime Minister requesting that the proposed Amendment Bill be brought up for discussion.

More than 50 puppies are rescued by Humane Society International

Humane Society International / Viet Nam


Meredith Lee/HSUS

THAI NGUYEN , Viet Nam—More than 50 puppies have been rescued from two dog meat fattening farms in Thai Nguyen as part of a joint effort between the local government and animal charity Humane Society International to crack down on the dog meat trade in one of Viet Nam’s dog meat hotspots. The owners of the two facilities, where puppies were bought from local villages and fattened up for weeks to reach slaughter weight, plan to transition to new sustainable livelihoods, one an agricultural supply store and the other a crop smallholding.

Download video and images of the rescue..

These are the fourth and fifth dog or cat meat trade businesses to close under HSI’s Models for Change program, coming less than three months after Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh signed a directive instructing local authorities to strictly implement rabies prevention and control. The link between the dog meat trade and the spread of deadly rabies has been well established by the World Health Organization and others. The trade undermines rabies elimination efforts because it removes vaccinated dogs who are stolen for the meat trade from local communities, effectively removing the barrier to stopping the spread of rabies. This is a compelling driver to end the trade, as is the suffering and killing of 5 million dogs and 1 million cats a year for meat in Viet Nam.

HSI has a three-year agreement with the governments in Dong Nai and Thai Nguyen to transition businesses away from the dog and cat meat trades, implement rabies vaccination and humane dog population management programs as well as promote public awareness campaigns to discourage dog and cat meat consumption. HSI will also work with law enforcement agencies to crack down on dog and cat trafficking activities.

Fifty-two-year old Mr Phạm Dũng ran his puppy fattening farm for seven years before contacting HSI’s Viet Nam team to begin the process of closing up. Supplying puppies to local dog meat restaurants and slaughterhouses for so long has taken its toll on him and he feels deep remorse at the lives he has sent to slaughter.

Mr Dũng told HSI: “I’m looking forward to putting the dog meat trade behind me and growing crops instead. Harvesting beansprouts and sweet potatoes will be a lot more peaceful than fattening puppies for slaughter, and a lot better for my mental health knowing I’m not causing any suffering. It’s also a healthier lifestyle with no links to rabies, so my family and I are happy about this.”

Thirty-five-year old Mr Trần Lê Hậu plans to open an agricultural supply store in his local community supplying seeds and fertilizer for crop cultivation.

“When I first launched this business three years ago, I hoped it would be profitable, but I no longer want to be involved in the dog meat trade,” he said. “I know about the dangers of rabies and other diseases, and I don’t want that for my family or my community.”

Most dogs killed for meat in Viet Nam are stolen pets or strays snatched from the streets using poison bait, painful taser guns, pincers or ropes. Others are smuggled in on trucks and buses from surrounding countries such as Cambodia. Puppy fattening farms, which rely on traders going village to village on motorbikes to exchange puppies for cooking pots or cash,  represent a smaller part of the trade but in dog meat hotspots like Thai Nguyen the farms are far more common.  The puppies are crammed together in small cages and driven for hours to facilities like those run by Mr Dũng and Mr Hậu for fattening up, many enduring dehydration, suffocation, heatstroke and even death on the journey.

Quang Nguyen, HSI’s Viet Nam companion animals and engagement program manager, said: “The dog meat trade in Viet Nam is not only an animal welfare disaster but also incompatible with canine rabies elimination efforts. The mass, unregulated production and movement of puppies and dogs to supply fattening farms, restaurants and slaughterhouses contravenes internationally recognized guidelines issued by human and animal health experts on how to control and ultimately eliminate rabies.”

Dr Katherine Polak, HSI’s vice president of companion animals and engagement, said: “HSI is working towards ending the trade nationwide so projects like our Models for Change program, in tandem with dog vaccination, law enforcement and public awareness campaigns, are vital to crack down on this cruel and dangerous business. For the more than 50 puppies we’ve rescued from these two facilities, it’s been a lucky escape from the brutal dog meat trade and we look forward to seeing them start their journeys to find loving homes.”

Recent HSI research in Viet Nam has shone a spotlight on the vast network of dog thieves, traffickers and traders who operate across the country. In January this year, investigators observed dogs being brutally treated in holding centres in Thanh Hoa province where they were jabbed with metal poles, dragged by the neck with tongs and crammed into cages in the sweltering heat to be transported for slaughter. The investigators filmed truckloads of dogs, each carrying up to 500 animals, being taken on the highways on journeys lasting many hours without water, food or rest.

The HSI Models for Change project was attended by representatives from Thai Nguyen and Dong Nai provincial Department of Animal Health as well as the central government’s Department of Livestock Production and the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Mr Vinh Le Dac, director of Thai Nguyen Animal Husbandry, Veterinary and Fisheries Sub-department, said: “Rabies is a common disease in Viet Nam and the dog meat trade is a cause contributing to the spread  of the virus. Therefore, we are very pleased to collaborate with HSI in Viet Nam in the Models for Change program to contribute to promoting companion animal welfare and eliminating rabies in the province. Models for Change contributes to helping dog and cat meat restaurant, slaughterhouse and farm owners transition to better and safer livelihoods for themselves and the community.”

The more than 50 puppies rescued from the two fattening farms have been transported to custom-made sheltering at Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry where they will be vaccinated against rabies and receive medical care and rehabilitation before being made available for local adoption.

Dog meat fact:

  • HSI originally launched Models for Change in South Korea as part of a strategy to demonstrate to the government that a phase out of the dog meat industry there was achievable in cooperation instead of in conflict with dog farmers. Having played an instrumental role in creating the political momentum that ultimately led to a legislative ban in South Korea, HSI launched Models for Change in Viet Nam in 2022.
  • Most people in Viet Nam don’t eat dog meat. An Aug./Sept. 2023 Nielsen opinion poll commissioned by HSI found that around one quarter of the population (24%) had consumed dog meat (tht chó) in the last year, with 64% and 68% of respondents respectively supporting a ban on dog meat consumption and trade. A belief by some consumers persists—despite no scientific evidence—that dog meat has medicinal properties and can increase male virility.
  • HSI research shows that dog meat is not an expensive delicacy, costing from 150,000 – 200,000 VND ($6 – $8) per dish in Thai Nguyen.
  • Data from Viet Nam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology shows that a significant proportion of rabies patients become infected with the virus after killing, butchering or eating dogs, as well as from bites. Studies of brain samples of dogs collected from slaughterhouses in northern and southern provinces have also tested positive for the rabies virus.

Download video and photos of HSI closing down the puppy fattening farms

Download video and photos of Viet Nam’s dog and cat meat trade

ENDS

Media contacts:

The Nielsen survey was conducted online in August and September 2023, targeting 800 respondents aged 25 to 60, considering gender, age and regional demographics, with margin of error +-2.53%.

The initiative, that’s first launched in Mysore, enables communities to learn about snakes around them and puts first aid for snakebites at their fingertips

Humane Society International / India


Shaili Shah/HSI HSI/India’s wildlife team member Anisha Iyer engages with the community members and snakebite survivors and educates them about a WhatsApp chatbot that enables them with information on snakebites, types of snakes, how to prevent a snakebite, do’s and don’ts after a snakebite etc.

Mysore, KARNATAKA—Karnataka’s first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot has been launched in Mysore to educate citizens about snakes and snakebite prevention. The chatbot, launched by Humane Society International/India in collaboration with The Liana Trust, provides easily accessible information about snake species found in the local vicinity, as well as lifesaving snakebite first-aid, snakebite prevention tips, and myth-busting around misinformation about snakes that can lead to acts of cruelty. 

The automated chatbot, accessed via a QR code or messaging “Hi” to +91 9154190472, disseminates engaging, visual content in English or Kannada, making it easy to understand. Through the WhatsApp chatbot initiative, both organizations aim to reach at least a lakh users this year in Mysore to foster coexistence with snakes and prevent snakebites. 

India has an unfortunate reputation for having more snakebites than any other country in the world, contributing to nearly 50% of snakebite deaths across the globe. India witnesses ten lakh snakebites a year leading to nearly 58,000 human snakebite-related deaths annually and nearly 200,000 cases of morbidity, with Karnataka alone having 6,500 reported snakebites in 2023. It is also a neglected tropical disease, classified by the World Health Organization, taking a devastating toll on the socioeconomics of households and the mental health of those affected.  

Many people have an innate fear of snakes for various reasons including a lack of meaningful information about them. This often leads to snakes being killed or relocated to alien habitats where they have little chance of survival. The new app addresses this information vacuum to empower local communities to take swift and informed action when snakes are encountered.  

Vinod Krishnan, human-wildlife coexistence manager at Humane Society International/India, said: “Snakebite is a mass problem which requires a mass solution. As per our survey in the Mysore district, WhatsApp is one of the most used digital apps. Hence, this is an easy platform to reach many people with vital information that could save human lives and prevent snake persecution. While there is venom research and strengthening of healthcare infrastructure overall to ensure quality care for those affected, preventing a bite from occurring and knowing the right first aid once a bite occurs is crucial.”  

Gerry Martin, founder of The Liana Trust, said: “As we progress in avenues of public outreach, our methods need to evolve and keep with the times. The chatbot is a great way to have a continuous dialogue with the community, assess the information they are accessing the most, and add further layers to this such as information on the nearest hospital, ambulance services and so on in the future.”  

HSI/India and The Liana Trust have been working in Mysore district since 2018 through ecological studies, social surveys, community outreach, policy reform and institutional capacity building, all to aid in the development of a model district for snakebite prevention and management. In February 2024, Karnataka became the first state in India to declare snakebite as a notifiable disease. 

Download Photos/Video

ENDS

Media Contact: Shaili Shah: 9930591005; sshah@hsi.org 

Hunting Act, import and sale of foie gras and fur divides political parties ahead of election

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


HSI

LONDON—The four largest political parties in Westminster set out their animal welfare positions and commitments so far at a landmark first-of-its-kind “Animals Matter” hustings in Westminster yesterday evening as politicians and the public await the next general election.

The Labour Party has committed to ending the import of foie gras if elected. Speaking at the Animals Matter hustings, hosted by four of the UK’s leading animal protection organisations (Humane Society International/UK, Compassion in World Farming, FOUR PAWS UK and RSPCA), Ruth Jones MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs told the audience: “In terms of foie gras, yes we will ban it”, a move that would effectively bring an end to the sale of the cruel fattened duck and goose liver in the UK.

TV celebrity and animal campaigner Pete Wicks addressed a question to the panel about the fur trade, recounting his experience visiting a fur farm in Finland with Humane Society International/UK and how the cruelty he saw made him ashamed that fur from animals suffering in barren cages could end up being sold in the UK. Wicks asked the parties if they would commit to “ending imports of disgustingly cruel products like fur and foie gras”.

In response, SNP panellist Steven Bonnar MP, Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stated that the SNP is “fully committed to ban fur and foie gras imports”, calling them “barbaric practices”.

Other party spokespeople stopped short of committing to banning fur imports, with Ruth Jones MP (Labour) telling the audience it’s “an obvious one” because of the strength of public support for a ban, but that Labour is waiting on the Government to release the results of its Call for Evidence on the fur market in Great Britain.

The Call for Evidence was launched in May 2021 with the stated intention of using the findings to inform possible future action on the UK fur trade, but over three years on, despite repeated calls from MPs and animal protection organisations, Defra has yet to make the results publicly available. Rebecca Pow MP responded by saying these results would be published “very soon”.

On cracking down on illegal hunting with dogs, the Labour and SNP panellists confirmed they would strengthen the Hunting Act, to close loopholes that facilitate illegal hunting with dogs and to increase penalties, however when pressed for a yes or no answer on whether the Hunting Act should be strengthened the Conservative Minister Rebecca Pow said: “leave it as it is”.

Representing the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron MP committed to ending the ‘cage age’ for hens kept in cages saying “we should ban it” adding that “if we set higher standards for our farmers we need to be applying that also for imports coming into this country because we want to make sure we spread good animal welfare practice across the world”.

The SNP’s Steven Bonnar MP commented: “The SNP knows that animals matter; to our climate, to our health, to our economy, and to all of us as sentient beings. The SNP is proud of its record on animal welfare and we are committed to maintaining our place as leading the way in progressing animal welfare standards across the UK. […] We will also push for bans on trading in cruelty, including stopping the imports of fur, foie gras and hunting trophies, as we know that these cruelties have no place in our nation of animal lovers.”

Conservative Rebecca Pow MP said: “We’re going to be supporting our livestock farmers using public funds to pay for health and welfare enhancements. We also want to make it easier for farmers to transition to the types of production systems that we know the public value. So for example, enabling them to move away from farrowing crates for pigs.” She added: “We just dramatically increased the budget for horticulture to help farmers and growers produce more of our vegetables. That’s a real priority.”

Speaking about fur imports Ruth Jones MP from Labour said: “royalty have said they don’t wear it anymore. The public don’t want it.” She went on to add that if elected, Labour would “build on our legacy and make animal protection a priority, including cracking down on smuggling of puppies and banning the import of hunting trophies. All animals deserve to be protected against inhumane shipment and to be able to live a life of dignity.”

A spokesperson for the Animals Matter coalition said: “We welcome the parties using this platform as an early opportunity to set out their stalls on many critical issues that impact the welfare of millions of sentient beings. The two biggest parties have yet to take a stance on many points, including caging of animals on farms and imports of fur, and we encourage them to include strong commitments in their manifestos. At the upcoming election millions of compassionate voters will be looking at which political parties commit to translate warm words into concrete policies that will improve the welfare of millions of animals at home and abroad.”

Attending the event, Green Party Deputy Leader Zack Polanski told the room that his party would introduce an Animal Protection Commissioner, saying: “We need to make sure that when animals can’t speak up for themselves, we have people elected in Parliament and a Minister in Parliament who can.” Polanski also accused the main parties of being a “weathervane and not a signpost” in tackling animal cruelty, and said that the Green Party would prioritise animal welfare and decency above big profits to big business.

Actor and animal advocate Peter Egan was also in attendance, and said: “Animals matter so much to me. That’s why 15 years ago, I stopped eating them, wearing them, or using them for entertainment, and I find a plant-based life is the most compassionate way of living and it answers a huge amount of the problems that we’re discussing here tonight.”

Protecting animals is a priority for millions of voters, with more than two thirds of UK voters saying that political parties who implement better animal welfare policies have the right priorities.

The event provided a platform for party spokespeople to be directly questioned on their plans – both by the audience and panel moderator ITV news presenter Lucrezia Millarini – across a number of high-profile issues including fox hunting, ending intensive farming practices such as keeping hens and sows confined in cages, and the import and sale of fur, and to address whether they will attempt to deliver on the expectations of millions of animal loving voters when the country goes to the polls. While party manifestos have not yet been finalised, there were commitments put forward by spokespeople which could make a difference for animals across the country.

Photographs from the event are available here.

To request video footage of the event, please contact: sivens@hsi.org

ENDS

Media contact:  Sally Ivens, senior media manager, HSI/UK , sivens@hsi.org , 07590 559299

Notes:

The panellists who took part in the event were:

  • Rebecca Pow MP (Conservative), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Ruth Jones MP (Labour),Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
  • Tim Farron MP (Liberal Democrats), Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Steven Bonnar MP (SNP), Environment, Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Humane Society International / Japan


Vicki Beaver/Alamy

TOKYO―Japan’s new whaling factory ship, the Kangei Maru, has left port to start the new whale killing season in the north Pacific. The 9,300-ton vessel is capable of hauling and storing slaughtered massive fin whales, a species Japan has proposed to add to its kill list alongside Bryde’s, sei and minke whales. Humane Society International has expressed its alarm at the addition of fin whales, a species classified as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN and the second largest mammal on the planet.

Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission in 2019 but continued pirate whale hunting in its Exclusive Economic Zone in the North Pacific. In 2022, Japan told the IWC it killed 25 sei whales, 187 Bryde’s whales and 58 minke whales.

Nicola Beynon head of campaigns at HSI Australia said: “These new plans to hunt fin whales are incredibly alarming. These are the second biggest whale on earth. Killing whales causes significant suffering due to the size of the animals, not to mention the fact that considerable time often passes between the first harpoon strike and death.”

Adam Peyman, HSI’s director of wildlife programs, said: “All whale species are battling a range of threats in their marine environment including climate change, noise pollution, ship strikes and fisheries bycatch. There is no nutritional, scientific or moral justification for killing these magnificent ocean giants, so the launch of the Kangei Maru is a chilling sight at a time when the imperative to conserve rather than kill whales is so urgent.”

ENDS

Media contacts

Humane Society International / Latin America


Eduardo Cabrera

PETEN, Guatemala—Multiple mammals and birds have been released back into the Guatemalan rainforest after being rescued and rehabilitated from incidents of illegal trafficking and cruelty.

Asociacion Rescate y Conservacion de Vida Silvestre, with the support of Humane Society International/Latin America, released the animals in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, a protected area that spans 13.3 million acres in Peten. This joint project aims to tackle wildlife trafficking for the pet trade and other human activities that negatively impact wild animals.

The group of animals included one anteater (Tamandua mexicana), two raccoons (Procyon lotor), one margay (Lepardus wiedii) and two royal toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus). The anteater, margay and toucans are all protected by legislation in Guatemala as endangered.

Both raccoons were rescued as juveniles back in August 2023. They were treated at the ARCAS rescue center before being moved to larger rehabilitation enclosures. These enclosures replicate a wild environment as closely as possible, ensuring the raccoons’ safety and well-being. The adult toucans arrived separately in 2023, allowing them to retain their wild behavior and quickly advance in their rehabilitation process, which ensures that animals can survive in the wild by hunting for food, hiding from predators and learning how to fly, jump or run.

Andrea Borel, executive director of Humane Society International/Latin America said: “The capture of wild animals for the national and international pet trade is a real problem in Guatemala. These animals are often kept in cramped, inadequate conditions not suitable for their species and denied the ability to exhibit their natural behaviors, which can further cause them physical and psychological distress. By supporting and working with our local partner, ARCAS, we are able to help animals regain their freedom as well as increase their wild populations to ensure future breeding in their natural forest habitat where they belong. We also work together on awareness raising to urge citizens not to buy products from wildlife and to report any such suspicious activity to the authorities.”

ARCAS director Fernando Martinez said: “Our mission is to reinforce existing wildlife populations, to prevent the extinction of species and thus ensure that there are healthy populations capable of adapting and reproducing in their natural habitat. We are proud that our rescue center is a pioneer in endemic species rehabilitation and release in our region, and we appreciate HSI/Latin America’s support.”

ARCAS carries out the physical, medical and behavioral rehabilitation of victims of wildlife trafficking and exploitative human activities, under strict scientific management standards. HSI/Latin America and ARCAS have been working together in wildlife protection and conservation in Guatemala since 2007. The release was conducted with the authorization of Guatemalan authorities from the National Council for Protected Areas, or CONAP.

ENDS

Media contact: Grettel Delgadillo: gdelgadillo@hsi.org

Humane Society International / Latin America


HSI

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—This year, Humane Society International/Latin America has conducted three comprehensive trainings for Costa Rican authorities on how to properly handle wildlife either seized or rescued in police and judicial operations. According to the Judicial Police’s Specialized Section against Environmental Crimes, between 2022 and 2023, 534 wild animals were seized in Costa Rica.

These workshops are part of the “Improving Costa Rica’s capacity to combat wildlife trafficking” project, funded by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and administered by Humane Society International in coordination with Costa Rica’s National Environmental Security Commission.

During the workshops, public officials learned how to properly handle seized or rescued wildlife, how to protect people involved in confiscation processes and how to feed and transport wild animals. They also learned about a new online guidebook designed to help enforcement officers identify different species and to provide them with information on legal protections, conservation status and handling techniques for different animals.

“For the Attorney General’s Office, ongoing training and inter-institutional coordination are key to environmental law enforcement. Knowing how to properly manage seized wild animals, their products and by-products, is the best way to guarantee, first, protection of these public domain assets and, second, appropriate sanctions for people who are illegally hunting and trafficking them,” said Jose Pablo Gonzalez, deputy environmental prosecutor and national environmental security commission coordinator for the Costa Rica Attorney General’s Office.

“The majority of wild animals seized or rescued in police and judicial operations have experienced captivity, stress and abuse. That is why at HSI we seek to support law enforcement authorities so that they are prepared to handle these animals in a humane and safe way, not only thinking about the animals themselves but also the safety and wellbeing of the people involved”, said Andrea Borel, executive director of HSI/Latin America.

Officials from the Ministry of Public Security (police force, national coast guard service, border police and air control) attended the workshops, as well as officials from the Ministry of Environment and Energy (the National System of Conservation Areas, the National Commission for Biodiversity and the Administrative Environmental Tribunal), the National Animal Health Service (SENASA), the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) and the Attorney General’s Office.

ENDS

Media contact: Alejandra Zuniga: alezuniga@outlook.com

Keeping lions and other big cats as pets must be made illegal in South Africa, says Humane Society International/Africa

Humane Society International / Africa


Kobus Tollig/Kobus Tollig Production

CAPE TOWN—A four-month-old lion cub named Pi, who was rescued from an illegal pet owner in Lebanon, has been safely relocated to his new forever home at a true sanctuary in South Africa. Distressing social media videos surfaced in March 2024 showing the cub being exploited for selfies and petting in the streets of Lebanon. Pi was shown being kept chained up in poor conditions with his mouth taped shut. In a globally coordinated effort, he was rescued by local group Animals Lebanon, his flight to South Africa funded by Humane Society International to be received by Drakenstein Lion Park just outside of Cape Town which has offered him lifetime sanctuary. HSI previously partnered with Animals Lebanon in 2020 to rescue animals following a chemical explosion in Beirut.

Despite the private ownership of lions as pets being illegal in Lebanon, the practice is rampant, with big cats being smuggled in from neighbouring countries to feed the trade. Pi is the third captive lion cub to have been confiscated in Lebanon and brought to the sanctuary in South Africa in the past six months; cubs Issam and Kelly also found their forever homes at Drakenstein Lion Park.

This third rehoming occurs just as South Africa’s highest levels of government unanimously approved a landmark decision to close down the captive lion breeding industry, as well as intensive breeding and management of other species such as rhinos. This is a significant policy shift and one that HSI/Africa and its partners have campaigned on for years. The intensive captive breeding of lions in South Africa mostly sustains two activities after the cubs are too big for tourist interactions: canned lion hunting—a practice of breeding lions to be shot in enclosures by wealthy hunters—and/or a grisly global trade in lion bones and skeletons.

According to a government-commissioned Report there are an estimated 7,800 lions kept in more than 342 captive facilities across South Africa, breeding wild animals like commodities for commercial trade purposes, with no conservation value.  HSI/Africa has welcomed the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Policy Position to end captive lion breeding but says the plan has some glaring omissions that need to be addressed. The Policy currently fails to prohibit the keeping of big cats as pets and/or for interactive experiences like cub petting and ambassador species interactions and walking with big cats. It also fails to include the closure of breeding establishments for other big cat species, such as tigers, leopards and jaguars that could ultimately form a replacement industry for captive lion breeding.

Dr Audrey Delsink, wildlife director for Humane Society International/Africa said: “Pi’s ordeal in the illegal pet trade is an example of what thousands of cubs just like him endure at the hands of the captive breeding industry here in South Africa. It is heartening to know that, after many years of advocacy, South Africa’s cabinet supports an end to this cruel and exploitative industry so that these magnificent creatures will no longer be born to suffer for profit. As the Ministerial Task Team’s voluntary exit plan unfolds, and a moratorium on further lion breeding is established, numerous cubs will be saved from the clutches of profiters. However, while we commend the DFFE for its commitment to reforming this industry, we urge it to apply the ban to all captive big cats in South Africa and to include a prohibition on keeping big cats as pets.”

Shane Hart, assistant director for Drakenstein Lion Park, said: “We at Drakenstein Lion Park, South Africa’s oldest true sanctuary, are incredibly proud to provide Pythagoras (Pi) with his forever home. Here, he will receive our expert care for the rest of his natural life, free from exploitation and abuse. We are incredibly grateful to Animals Lebanon and Humane Society International for all of their help and effort in ensuring his rescue could take place. Pi is in an evaluation and quarantine area built to his needs while his mental wounds start to recover, and will graduate to a larger cub enclosure as soon as he is ready. Once this little warrior is no longer little, he will be moved into his full-size enclosure,  his lifetime sanctuary.”

TAKE ACTION: You can help make a difference to the lives of lions in South Africa.

  • Never visit or support any facilities that offer interaction with wildlife (such as cub petting or walking with lions), or that breed and trade wildlife. Visit org for further information.
  • Sign HSI/Africa’s Big Cats petition to help urge the DFFE to introduce legislation that prohibits keeping tigers, lions and other big cat species as pets. This legislation should include banning public contact with all big cat species, not just lions, including keeping such species for promotional, educational or entertainment purposes, and interactive experiences like cub petting and walking with big cats. Sign here.
  • Follow HSI/Africa’s social media channels (@HSIAfrica) to find shareable information about South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry and associated activities. Please share this knowledge with your friends and family and encourage them not to be a part of this exploitative trade too.

Download photos and video of Pi’s rehoming here.

Note: This newsroom link is set to expire the week of May 20 when we will be upgrading our media visuals library. If you need access to these visual assets after that date, please contact LRoode@hsi.org to provide you with a new download link.

ENDS

Media contact: Leozette Roode, media and communications specialist, HSI/Africa, LRoode@hsi.org, +27 71 360 1104

Veterinarianss, animal organisations and government authorities trained in new geolocation tech and low-stress methods for street dogs

Humane Society International / India


HSI.

INDIA—To celebrate World Veterinary Day, Humane Society International/India launches an innovative street dog spay and neuter training program to equip veterinary professionals, animal welfare organisations and relevant government agencies with essential skills to improve the well-being of dogs living on the streets. The initiative seeks to address critical challenges in caring for and managing street dogs by improving spay and neuter practices and aligning them with the Animal Welfare Board of India’s 2023 Animal Birth Control Rules.

The program will initially train two animal protection organisations—Jeevdaya Charitable Trust and Just Be Friendly—using a multifaceted curriculum including street dog survey methodologies, low-stress dog handling and catching techniques, GPS tagging procedures facilitated by a mobile application launched by Humane Society International/India, kennel management protocols, clinic protocols, and hands-on spay and neuter surgical training. By integrating newly trained professionals into city directories, the initiative aims to cultivate a network of veterinarians and animal welfare organiszations equipped to adopt humane and innovative techniques to care for dogs living on the streets.

“Veterinarians play a pivotal role in shaping the future of animal welfare, and we are thrilled to announce this groundbreaking program on World Veterinary Day,” said Dr. Sanjay Ahir, Senior Manager, Veterinary Training and Capacity Building Program at Humane Society International/India. “At its core, this initiative is about empowering veterinarians and organisations to become champions for street dog welfare and ultimately reduce conflict between street dogs and people. We hope to create a pool of next generation veterinarians and individuals who will further the movement of animal protection,” he added.

To join the veterinary capacity building program or to learn more about street dog management training opportunities, veterinarians, animal welfare organisations and government agencies can reach out to HSI/India via email at india@hsi.org.

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