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Human Threat To Wildlife

The welfare and existance of many animals have suffered at the hands of man.  Here we look at 4 examples.

Shark fins
Many Shark species are treated cruelly for the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup.  Particularly in China, and Vietnam, offering shark fin soup at your banquet, or dinner, shows wealth and higher class.  Unfortunately, this delicacy kills tens of millions of Shark species per year.  Fishing boats trawl with the long lines, which can reach up to 100 kilometres in length, catching not only Sharks, but various other species.  These unwanted species usually die through trauma, lack of oxygen and starvation.  Once caught, the Sharks fins are all hacked off by machetes and the bodies discarded back in to the water, most still alive where they will sink to the bottom to die slowly, or get eaten by other species.

Since the 1970’s there has been a decline of 95 percent of several species of Sharks, mainly through the high demand for their fins.  This ancient creature is almost driven to extinction.  Almost a quarter of the worlds species of Sharks are now on the IUCN lists from vulnerable to critically endangered.  This is of great concern for these species as Sharks biologically have a slow growth rate and a slow reproductive rate making them much more at risk of extinction.  CITES have also listed Shark species on their appendix I and II.  

Although many seas are now protected, international waters are not well regulated, making it difficult to control.  Shark finning not only takes place in Asiatic waters but waters worldwide.  Legislation is in place in certain areas, but it takes voluntary organisations to assist in the control of this.  The European Union, along with twenty seven countries, placed a complete ban on shark finning.  Australia banned shark finning at sea and placed restrictions on this.  The Sharks must now be landed, and finned on shore.  Taiwan and Canada both have an outright ban on shark finning, and the United States placed a ban on shark finning at sea, but allow them to be finned on shore.  Unfortunately, there is still such a demand for their fins, and action must be taken to stop this cruel trade before extinction takes place.

The farming of Asiatic Black Bears, Sun Bears and Moon Bears for their bile is a large concern for animal welfare, and one which is not well known to the western world, however animal welfare charities are working to educate public awareness on this matter.

Bile is produced by the liver, and is stored by the gallbladder to be used to assist in the digestion of lipids in the small intestines.  Bear bile has been used in Asian traditional medicine for thousands of years, although this caused a decline in many wild populations of the Asiatic Black Bear, and other species.  Bear bile farming increased majorly in the 1980’s, mainly in China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Vietnam.  Thousands of bears were kept in rusty, tiny cages which restricted the bear from any movement.  

To enable the farmers to extract bile, surgery must take place, and the gallbladder located.  Surgery was usually carried out by an untrained surgeon using dirty tools and metal catheters, and many bears died through stress or infections arising from this treatment.  Animal welfare and rights groups have worked endlessly to end this cruel farming, and it has come a long way in such a short space of time.

Bear bile farming is now illegal in both Vietnam (where it was banned in 2005), and South Korea (where a ban was brought into effect in 1992).  In Vietnam, existing bear farms were to be phased out, although it is believed that there are still thousands of bears suffering in these farms.  Although it is illegal to farm Bears in Vietnam, it is legal to keep bears as pets, therefore making the ban on this trade even harder to enforce.  In China, although wild Bears are protected by law, bear farming is legal, and a regular legal Bear farm can hold up to 2000 Bears.  Regulations have been brought in during the last two decades.  Regulations on cage size and extraction methods are now in place, alongside the Bears having access to outside areas.  They must also be supplied with food and water.  Extraction must be completed painlessly, with hygiene in mind, and treatment must be followed by nurses.  It is believed that these laws are not fully enforced and Bears are still suffering in facilities which break the law.  CITES assist in regulations of the trade of Bear bile.  It is illegal to trade any body part of these bear species used in bile farming.  It is illegal to internationally trade Bear bile, although domestic trade is allowed.  Although this practice continues, times are changing, and there is hope that this barbaric treatment will end at some point.  

Fur Trade
Animal fur has been used by man since the beginnings of civilisation. The use of animal fur has become significantly less fashionable in many countries, but other countries (including China) still have a very high demand for animal fur. As a result tens of millions of animals were still being farmed well into the 21st century.

Around 1 billion rabbits and 50 million other animals are either farmed or trapped in the wild for their pelts. Commonly farmed animals include foxes, mink, dogs and rabbits. Foxes and minks adapt poorly to living in captivity. Farmed mink are often kept in very small cages where they suffer high levels of stress. Self mutilation, cannibalism and heightened disease susceptibility are common.  Foxes are often raised in confined enclosures where psychotic behaviours become a common result.

Trapping animals in the wild has many welfare issues also. The most common form of trapping in north America and Russia is a “leg hold trap”. This trap clamps the animals leg, holding it alive and in pain (sometimes for days before a trapper finds it).  When the trapper does find a catch they commonly kill it by either suffocation (standing on the chest and neck) or clubbing. These kill methods preserve the pelt, but cause further suffering to animals.  This type of trap is condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and banned in many places around the world (yet is still widely used elsewhere).

Civet Cat Coffee
Civet cats are a small nocturnal animal used in the coffee industry in Indonesia. These animals are taken from the wild, kept in cramped small cages and fed coffee fruits.  The coffee beans pass through their digestive system, and are collected when excreted.  These excreted beans are in high demand in some western countries, as the world’s most expensive coffee. Awareness of this cruel treatment of civets in 2013, led to major retailers removing civet coffee from their shelves.

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