Footage of a muzzled bear dancing in front of spectators at a Russian football match has been condemned as “inhumane” by a leading animal rights group.
A YouTube video emerged of the animal being led into a stadium by his “trainer” and made to clap for fans before the match between FC Mashuk-KMV and FC Angusht Nazran in the city of Pyatigorsk.
The clip, uploaded by third division team FC Angusht Nazran, has received nearly 500,000 views on YouTube, with Peta calling the act “utterly out of touch”.
Onlookers can be heard clapping and cheering on the animal, whose mouth had been clamped shut, before he took a ball and handed it to the referee.
Several viewers left comments under the video criticising the show as “ridiculous” and “absurd”, with one asking: “How many times they were beating him to train him?”
Elisa Allen, director of Peta, said in a statement: “In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous unless, as is often the case, the animal’s teeth and claws have been cruelly removed.
“Bears are not willing performers, so Russian circuses and other lousy acts take them from their mothers as babies and then ‘train’ them using beatings, electric shocks, cigarette burns and food deprivation to make them perform belittling, stupid tricks like this, which make no sense to them.
“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 football league to pull this stunt, which flies in the face of the spirit of fair play.”
FIFA rubbished reports that the circus bear, apparently named “Tim”, was due to perform at the World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow.
The organisation told the Press Association: “We can confirm that no animals will be involved in the FIFA World Cup ceremonies.”