Animal rights groups around the world are sounding off after a circus bear was made to perform ahead of a soccer game in Russia.
The bear, named Tima, was brought out at the Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk club’s stadium before Saturday’s game.
Video from the event shows that the bear was instructed to sit and clap, as the crowd cheered. It was then given a ball to hold and hand over to the referee.
PETA was quick to denounce the use of a performance animal, calling it “inhumane” and dangerous.
“In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous,” Elisa Allen, U.K. director of animal welfare charity Peta, told BBC News.
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New York-based World Animal Protection group also condemned the stunt Monday, saying that it’s clear “cruel training methods have been used” on the bear.
Rustam Dudov, manager of the Mashuk club which arranged for the bear to perform, told the Sport Express newspaper Monday that the bear was borrowed from a travelling circus which approached the club itself.
Dudov said the Russian Football Union approved the performance.
Another source of controversy was the stadium’s announcer who suggested the bear would appear at the opening ceremony of the FIFA 2018 World Cup, which is slated to begin in Moscow in June.
FIFA has denied the claim, BBC News reported.
— With files from The Associated Press