Violinist Vanessa-Mae speaks out on the recent Polar bear cruelty case in Russia

APPROVED_DSC0200Violinist Vanessa-Mae speaks out on the 
recent Polar bear cruelty case in Russia and the lack of animal welfare legislation in the world’s biggest country. 

I was deeply shocked and upset to hear about the recent case of animal cruelty, involving a Polar bear, that took place on one of the Russian Arctic islands – Wrangel Island. The female bear, accustomed to humans giving her food, was thrown a firecracker by those she trusted the most. Polar bears would often come to the island’s construction site to feed on the leftovers that were put out for them by the workers. She grew to trust humans so much that she would even bring her little cub along. One day, instead of tasty treats, a firecracker was thrown to her. It blew up in her mouth destroying her face and causing severe bleeding. Her lengthy agony was filmed and uploaded online for the whole world to see. Her cub’s sad fate was also sealed, as he ran away scared of what “friendly” humans did to his mother.

2F9609A200000578-3372014-image-a-52_1450884179122-2I love Russia, I took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics and just gave concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg. This is why I cannot stay silent about the way the Russian government keeps ignoring demands from the people for better animal welfare legislation. There is no punishment for animal cruelty in Russia or any functioning law that make people think twice before treating animals like garbage. This case got a lot of attention and might get a follow-up because it involves a protected species, but people in Russia know, that the chances of getting a punishment for torturing an animal belonging to a non-protected species are close to zero. There must be a price to pay for abusing those who have no voice. Yet hundreds of thousands of cases don’t even make it to the police. In spring 2015, after more than a decade of pleading from its people, State Duma once again declined the amendment of the Anti Cruelty Legislation Act 245. Several other animal related laws have not been allowed to move forward as well.

It makes me very sad, that such a beautiful country is so behind concerning animal welfare legislation. If Russia wants to be a truly developed country, it must foster a culture of compassion and a society where cruelty and irresponsible attitude towards those who cannot stand up for themselves are not tolerated.

As an animal lover and long-time supporter of Cruelty Free International’s work for a global ban on cosmetics tests on animals, I praise the work Big Hearts Foundation carried out with the government on the recently published landmark bill, aiming to phase out all animal testing cosmetics and their related ingredients in Russia by 2020. Big Hearts Foundation is a small, but effective charity lobbying better animal welfare legislation and prosecuting cruelty in Russia. The foundation is currently trying to press criminal charges against the abusers of the Polar bear on Wrangel Island, but the existing legislation is working against them. To make a real difference for animals in such a big country, this young organisation needs our support. Your support. With the necessary resources, including the public’s voice behind them, they will be able to make the world’s biggest country a better place for animals and eventually stop cases like this from happening once and for all.