20 October 2005

The cruelty of man - Dogs used as shark bait

If only the story about live dogs being used as shark bait on a remote French island could have been a hoax. Sadly, it isn't.

It sounded like something out of a horror movie--so unbelievably cruel it could only exist in fiction or in the minds of some heartless hoaxer. But as the report spread across the Internet in the last week or so, animal rights organizations began to receive anguished phone calls and e-mails.

The story?
On the French-controlled island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, live dogs have been reportedly impaled on large fish hooks and left overnight in the ocean as shark bait. One consistent detail of the story was that a puppy that had somehow managed to free itself from the fishing line, was found alive in a creek bed, the hook still embedded in its upper lip. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society posted horrific photographs on its Web site.

Like everyone who came across this story, I wanted it to not be true. I wanted to find out it was some horrible, vile prank. Unfortunately, it is true.

A Reunion newspaper, le Journal de l'Ile, reported on Sept. 30 that some amateur fishermen have been known to use dogs for shark fishing, sometimes employing the carcasses of stray animals found on the island. This summer, a man was charged with cruelty against animals after a live dog pierced with a hook was found near his home, according to the newspaper. The first person to be caught by authorities using this illegal fishing method, the man admitted he had used live dogs as bait several times, the report said. He could face up to two years in prison as well as 30,000 Euros in fines, according to the newspaper.

In response to inquiries about the story, a letter from the French Embassy states, "We too denounce the barbaric practices you refer to. Such acts are obviously illegal and will not be tolerated on French territory." It is worth noting that similar acts were discovered and reported upon in 2003 on the island of Reunion, located east of Madagascar with a population of less than 800,000. The island's newspaper notes that the practice is not used by professional fishermen.

It's tempting, although futile, to ask what kind of human beings could even think of this barbarism, much less carry it out. What shut down inside them that they could immunize themselves to an animal's pain and terror, and toss it into the water in the hopes that the suffering animal's thrashing will attract sharks? Do these men go home at night and tuck their children into bed? Congratulate themselves on a good day’s work? Do they consider themselves decent human beings who are living their lives as they were intended to live them? Do they go to church? Pray? Convince themselves that God is on their side?

Such questions are futile because for most of us to try to navigate the pathways of uncensored cruelty is truly to travel into the heart of darkness--and our own hearts rebel. Here is a better question: Who are we if we don't send our outrage across continents and oceans and demand answers?

We're all accountable in this life for what we do. The men committing these atrocities may have managed to live lives with no conscience, but too many others know that a life with no conscience is a worthless one. The sad truth about this world is that there seems to be no limit to the cruelty that some people are capable of. It's up to the rest of us to pledge never to be silent and never to look the other way.

As horrific as this story is--even if it is only a few "ruthless individuals" as the French Embassy has said--it's important to recognize that people have not been silent. A small island in the vast Indian Ocean has felt the wrath of people around the globe, and has had to provide answers and explanations.

In its letter, the French Embassy adds: "The French minister for agriculture and fisheries, Dominique Bussereau, is fully aware of the international media and public outcry regarding this issue, and has written to the French National Assembly to emphasize that several measures have been taken to strengthen already exiting laws. Veterinarians have been directed to immediately report any suspicious wounds to authorities ..." They went on to say, "The authorities on the island are closely monitoring the situation … All suspicions of such acts will be investigated, and animal protection organizations that have any specific information on these matters are strongly encouraged to inform French police authorities."

Any act of cruelty is a window into evil and shouldn't be ignored. There are people in this world who have deadened their hearts, who without hesitating inflict unbearable pain and suffering on others, especially those who have no voice. It's up to the rest of us to call on our own hearts, to remember that our voices are loud and our spirits are powerful weapons against barbarism. It might be the best way to create a more peaceful world--one life (human or animal) at a time.

Source: www.msnbc.msn.com


At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is outrageous! It is disgusting that any human would premeditate anything so cruel!


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