Remembering Sheena

Stop Animal Abuse in Malaysia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Letter in the STAR, Opinion Page Feb 2nd, 2006

Below is my letter that appeared in The Star on Feb 2nd, 2006. Our supporters have written wonderful letters too that have been published in the newspapers. Daniel will soon put up a Press Room Link on the right where you can read the published letters RSC supporters. If you have written any letters in support of animals that have been published kindly mail them to us so we can put them up in our Press Room.

The Star Newspaper, Opinion Page, Feb 2nd 2006

New Wildlife Laws Useless If Authorities Don't Act

I'm elated that the Wildlife and Conservation Bill will raise the current fine for poaching from RM15,000 to RM150,000.

The move, which was reported in a local newspaper on Jan 24, is a step in the right direction.

However, I’m concerned whether this is just another case of being seen to do the right thing but not actually doing it.

A disturbing report in The Star on Jan 21 described long-tailed macaques chained to a steel-bar platform and water lizards kept in small, dingy cages at an animal show held on the grounds of a hypermarket in Shah Alam.

The report also said pools filled with dirty water were the only source of drink available to the animals, which were kept in filthy cages.

I immediately wrote to the hypermarket after reading the report about the deplorable conditions at the show, but have yet to receive a reply.

The owners have a duty as a responsible corporate citizen to ensure that such acts of abuse do not occur on its premises.

Frankly, I’m quite shocked that the hypermarket feels it is all right to expose children to animal abuse at its very own premises!

When I telephoned the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to air my concerns for the welfare of the animals in the show, I was told by an officer that the organiser had a valid permit to keep the wild animals.

As far as the deplorable conditions of the animals are concerned, he called it a subjective viewpoint.

The officer claimed to have gone to the exhibition site to investigate, and as far as he was concerned the animals were not kept in conditions considered as abusive.
The Wildlife and Conservation Bill has provisions to protect the rights of animals in circuses, displays and exhibitions.

I’m now wondering if the proposed laws will make any difference to the condition of Malaysia's wildlife if enforcement measures by the authorities do not improve.
If the spirit of the law is not observed, surely little attention will be paid to the letter of the law.

Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Unconditional Love Will Have The Final Word

Hi People,

You may have noticed that I have been quiet for awhile.

Well, for one I needed a break because of all the threats I had been receiving. I’m not perturbed by these threats as God is my strength and my fortress, but I am disturbed and shocked that they are coming from the very people who profess to be protecting animals.

From the beginning, RSC has maintained that we are a serious group who are out to make some “real” changes to the poor treatment of animals in this country.

We are not interested in organizing tea parties just so that we can cuddle up to animals in front of the cameras for some free publicity. We know that all you kind-hearted people out there share our views.

Hence, we urge you to continue calling the authorities who have the power to stop animal abuse, and to speak up whenever and wherever you see abuse taking place, even if no one listens. If you read about it in the newspapers, write to the Media, even if your letter never gets published.

And if you call the Enforcement Section of the Veterinary Services Department, please ensure that you write down the name of the person you talk to.

Do not remain silent. Write letters to the Media, or telephone them with details of where, when and what kind of abuse is taking place so that they can highlight the matter.

Please also telephone the Media to congratulate them whenever they highlight animal issues. After all, everyone likes to be appreciated for the work they do.

And don’t forget to advice, educate and speak to animal abusers even if they verbally abuse you. Continue to speak calmly and explain to abusers that their actions are hurting animals and what goes around will come around. These people will surely reap what they sow.

Sadly, speaking up is not part of Malaysian culture, which is to turn a blind eye and have a “tidak apa” attitude. The West leads in every way not because they are wealthy, but because they always right a wrong when they see it.

Public outcry means something in the West and the shame and disgrace of a wrong highlighted in the Media brings about changes because people care. I don’t know when we will see this in Malaysia. We can only hope and pray.

While we appreciate that many of you report animal abuse cases to us we cannot do anymore than you can. Please understand that we are just like you – ordinary folks. We’re not even an NGO, but we are still talking, writing, advising and complaining. You too can do the same.

Some people have told us they don’t want to be identified and don’t want trouble. Nobody wants you to pick a fight, but we have a responsibility to stand up for what is right to protect our voiceless creatures.

Don’t keep passing the buck to others to do something. And if there is nothing else that you do, at least you can pray every single day that ALL animals shall be free from all bondages and wickedness in this world.

The lyrics of a song go like this: Every time I pray, I move the Hands of God. My prayer does the things my hands cannot do. How true!

I leave you with the words of Dr Martin Luther King:

“I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him…

“I believe that unarmed Truth and unconditional Love will have the final word in reality. This is why Right temporarily defeated is stronger than Evil triumphant.”

Shoba Mano.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Animal Law Knowledge

We're currently doing a little research into Malaysia's animal law. Do take out a short survey - come on, you know it's fun.

Click here to take our survey!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dept of Vet Svcs

Just FYI, folks, we are just a bunch of individuals who are trying to get the laws changed in favour of protecting animals. In light of the fact that Sheena has been adopted for the campaign, the focus (or perhaps my focus) is on domestic pets. We hope to get more people educated along the way, in terms of pet care and responsible pet ownership. Along the way, if we come across the plight of wildlife being treated cruelly, or even foreign animal cruelty (like the puppies being used as drug mules situation), then we'll talk about it. This is, after all, a blog.

So, really, we have no jurisdiction to save pets who are being treated cruelly. FYI, the SPCA, PAWS etc. do not have jurisdiction either. If you contact us, we'd have to either contact these organisations, who in turn, will contact the only people who have jurisdiction: the Veterinary Services Department (VSD). Here's a list of their departments in the area near you. Do contact them with any situation which can be construed as cruelty towards animals. According to the Animal Ordinance 1953, this is what cruelty is legally defined as.

Also, you might want to check out section 428 of the Penal Code regarding cruelty to animals. As far as our research has shown, no one has been charged under this section. But we're still researching, so bear with us.

Again, we encourage you to contact the VSD yourself, that would mean you're contacting the correct authority immediately, and saving precious time in preventing cruelty/saving an animals life.

Thanks all.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Louisa Ponnampalam says...

It is very interesting to read that the wildlife department did not think that the state of the animals at Animal Island was deplorable.

My biggest regret yet is that I didn't bring along a camera on that day I went to the exhibit to "investigate".

I wonder if there was a way to demand that they show us the "valid permit" that the organisers of the show supposedly had?

Not only were most reptiles in small, filthy aquarium boxes, HUGE monitor lizards were in cages not big enough for them to turn around properly. Monkeys were chained to steel bars (the pig-tailed macaque in the cage looked absolutely withdrawn and suicidal).

Pythons the width of car tyres were in tubs, and there was wrong labeling and spelling of the animal species (with mostly wrong information too), while frogs, birds and monitor lizards had no labels.

I do believe that there were wildlife species in there that come under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) Appendix 1 list, which "generally prohibits commercial international trade in specimens of these species".

The brochure of the Animal Island Show did not even have a company name or contact person's name. All it said was "For enquiries, call....(the number)".

So my question is: How does one justify the whole thing? How could the organizers have gotten a 'valid permit'? In my opinion, the exhibition was too exotic to be legal. Where did all that wildlife come from and how did it enter Malaysia?

So if anyone out there comes across a similar exhibition, I urge you to alert the media, an environmental NGO or the RSC.

At the end of the day, there isn't much that can be done if the organisers really have a valid permit and are operating "legally". BUT all that exotic wildlife do not deserve to be kept the way they were/are.

If such shows are meant to expand the knowledge of children, then they should be done the proper way ... not in the manner the Animal Island Show has/is doing.

My 2 cents worth,


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Saving bears - The Jill Robinson story

by Lisa Owens-Viani

In a bamboo forest along the Pi River, Jill Robinson holds out a finger dipped in honey. The sun peeks through the canopy, illuminating a rusty cage.

Tentatively, a tongue reaches through the bars. "Andrew," an Asiatic black bear, also known as a "moon bear" for the crescent of plush golden fur around his neck, licks the sweet substance from Robinson's finger. It is his first taste of kindness in 20 years.

At a recent talk in San Anselmo, California, Robinson, a petite, soft-spoken British woman, and the director of Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), the non-profit she founded in 1998, told Andrew's story.

Andrew now lives at the Moon Bear Rescue Center in southeastern China, a sanctuary run by AAF. Like most moon bears, Andrew stands six feet tall on his hind legs.

But he lived most of his twenty years on a "bear farm", lying on his belly in a three-foot-wide by three-foot-high by six-foot-long cage. In it, he could neither change positions nor have free access to water.

Like many of the bears AAF has rescued, Andrew was snared in the wild as a cub. One of his legs was mangled in a trap; the farmer probably chopped off what remained.

Immediately after he was captured, Andrew was taken to a grim concrete room filled with rows of tiny elevated iron cages containing other moon bears.

In this room he underwent an operation in which a seven-inch catheter was inserted into his gallbladder. Then, from beneath his cage, the bear farmers would "milk" bile from his gallbladder twice a day in a crude and painful procedure.

In addition to being confined in tiny cages, bears are sometimes further immobilised in metal jackets, torso-squeezing devices like corsets, or in "crush" cages to keep them from protesting during the milking.

In addition to the hundreds of bear farms operating in China, there are many more in North and South Vietnam and Korea.

The products of bear farms are dry bile powder used in Chinese medicines to treat ailments like high fevers, haemorrhoids, liver problems, and sore eyes. The amount of bile powder obtained from one bear per year, from 365 days of torture is only about 2kgs, the size of a small bag of rice.

Although bear bile has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, the practice of "bear farming" is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Traditionally, moon bears and other bears were killed for their gallbladders. But in the early 1980s, North Korean scientists figured out a way to obtain the desirable
products of this organ without killing the animal.

By taking cubs from the wild and extracting their bile while keeping them alive, they could produce a continual flow of "liquid gold".

A few years later, China began bear farming, the Government encouraging the practice in a misguided attempt to conserve the wildlife population. By the early 1990s, there were almost 500 bear farms operating in China, containing over 10,000 bears.

Meanwhile, illegal poaching of wild bears continued, and today, the Chinese Government estimates that less than 15,000 moon bears remain in the wild.

In 1993, things began to look up somewhat for China's moon bears when Robinson, who had been working there for over a decade as a consultant for the International Fund for Animal, was taken to a bear farm.

"I broke away from the group watching the breeding bears outside in a pit and found some steps leading downstairs into a basement. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I heard some strange 'popping' vocalisations in the background.

"The closer I crept to the noises, the louder and more frantic the sounds became. I realised then, with shame, that the very first lesson I would learn from this intelligent, endangered species was the lesson of fear, and that the presence of a human being meant only pain to these animals.

"Caged, declawed, and defanged, with metal catheters in their bellies, they had become nothing more than machines," she said.

Robinson wandered around the dark room, numb and in shock at the medieval scene. What happened next would change her life forever.

"I felt something gently touch my shoulder. I spun around, coming face to face with a female bear that had stretched her paw through the bars of her cage. Probably foolishly in retrospect, I took her offered paw.

"Yet, rather than pulling my arm from its socket as she had every right to do, this powerful bear simply squeezed my fingers, and our eyes connected."

Robinson named the bear Hong ("bear" in Cantonese), and while she never managed to save her, that moment was the beginning of Robinson's fight to free all farmed bears.

AAF is now working with the Chinese government to close bear farms. When a farm is closed, the government turns its license over to AAF, and the farmers are compensated and given assistance to find new employment.

Yet Robinson has a Herculean task ahead of her. Although the Government has promised not to issue any additional licenses, 7,000 bears remain on farms. To date, AAF has been able to rescue only 130 bears. Robinson hopes they will save another 100 this year.

Meanwhile, bears continue to arrive at the Moon Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu, often in deplorable condition. Moon bears are intelligent, curious creatures who need lots of mental stimulation, said Robinson.

Life in such extreme captivity has caused some of them to bang their heads or wear down their teeth on the cage bars, even to chew at their own legs in frustration.

Some of the bears weigh less than half what a healthy bear should weigh. At least 30 per cent of the wild-caught bears are missing a limb or two. Some have had their canine teeth sawed off or the tips of their paws cut off, to take away their defences and make them easier to "milk".

But as soon as the bears arrive at the centre, their lives take a turn for the better. They are immediately given a light shower of water through their cage bars.

Often severely dehydrated, the bears lap at the water eagerly. Rescue centre employees also offer them bowls of honey, fruit, and other sweet treats. Once the bears are rehydrated and sedated, an ultrasound examination is performed to help veterinarians determine the bears' internal injuries.

Often, the animals have tumours, mutilated gallbladders, hernias, abscesses, or equipment left behind from previous botched surgeries. Surgery is then performed to remove their catheters and repair their wounds. Occasionally, a bear is so badly injured it must be euthanised.

After the bears have recovered - several weeks or even months later, depending on their injuries - they can begin to live lives free of pain and confinement. But they cannot ever be released.

Many lack limbs; most never learned the skills they need to survive in the wild, as they were captured as cubs. But at the sanctuary, they can socialise with other bears, swim in a pool, climb into a bamboo basket, swing in a hammock, follow a fruit and honey trail, or crawl through a tunnel.

They are given nutritious, tasty food for the first time - cereal, meat protein, veggies, fruit, and rice. They especially enjoy eating giant "Popsicles", which are one-foot-square blocks of ice containing chunks of fruit and vegetables that keep them happily occupied for over an hour at a time.

And for the first time in many of their lives, they have free access to water.

Robinson won't rest until she's done her best to help the 7,000 bears that remain on farms. AAF is exploring the possibility of acquiring more farmland surrounding the sanctuary, which would offer space for several hundred more rescued bears.

She hopes that bears like Hong did not die in vain, but will continue to inspire the battle to save living bears. "Each bear has a story to tell. We can learn from them and use them to bring bear farming to an end," said Robinson.

At Robinson's talk in San Anselmo, one member of the audience wondered whether it wouldn't be "more practical and cheaper" to euthanise all of the farmed bears.

Robinson's response? "These bears have been through hell and back. The fact that they recover so surprisingly well, have a love for life which is obvious to see, and actually forgive the species that has caused them so much suffering, moves all of us deeply. I believe they have earned their day in the sun."

Letter In The Star

Please do not remain silent when you read the story below. Telephone the Johor branch of the Star and ask them to please follow up on the story. Every time we speak up, we make a dent in the wall of cruelty, and pretty soon we will bring that wall down.

The STAR, Opinion Page, Saturday February 4, 2006


I VISITED Johor Zoo on Jan 29 and was shocked to see how a baby bear was treated.I saw the bear chained to a tree, i.e. put on show within touching reach of the public.

The collar seemed very tight and the chain had twirled round the tree. Apparently, this is done during the day, every day, for the visiting public’s benefit.

By 6.30pm or so, the bear is taken away to be kept in a cage for the night. I saw the bear being squeezed into a tiny white carry cage with the collar and chain still on.

It was obviously in distress (could not even turn round in the cage) and was trying to bite the chain.

When asked, a zoo worker claimed the baby bear was caught/found in the jungle and did not know where the mother was.

Aren’t bears protected and aren’t there laws governing how they should be treated?

Mita K,

Petaling Jaya.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Animal Island Show Update

Hi people!

Many have asked about the outcome of the Animal Island Show that was held on the grounds of Tesco Shah Alam, so I've decided to give you an update.

To recap, I had sent out a letter to James McCann, the CEO of Tesco (see my blog entitled RSC Demands Tesco Explanation), but until today, I've not received any response from him.

The good news is that when I spoke to a lady who identified herself as McCann's personal assistant, she assured me that the Animal Island Show will be told to vacate the premises.

To check up on them, I visited the Tesco Shah Alam grounds soon after and found that the Animal Island Show had indeed vacated their premises.

The bad news is that we don’t know where they have moved to, so if anyone out there can help, please let us know so that we can continue to monitor the organisers to ensure the wildlife do not suffer.

Meanwhile, I had also telephoned the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and spoke to the Deputy Director, Aziz Che Man to enquire what action his department would be taking against the organisers of the Animal Island Show, and to ensure that such abuse does not recur.

However, Aziz responded that he had visited the show, and as far as he is concerned, the organisers have a valid permit to own the wildlife that was displayed.

He further claimed that although the law did protect wildlife from abuse, what constituted “abuse” is very subjective and (despite the report in the Star on Jan 21, 2006) in his opinion, no abuse had taken place.

I then wrote a Letter to the Editor which was published in the Star on Feb 2, 2006. RSC supporters, Cynthia Hassan and Louisa Ponnampalam have said they and their friends intend to send letters of complaint to Tesco’s headquarters in the UK.

We will find out the e-mail address and post it here soon, so that each one of us can similarly write a letter of protest to them. We encourage all of you to write too in support of the RSC so that Tesco and similar hypermarkets will behave more responsibly in future.

One thing is for sure, without you, we will not be able to put a stop to animal abuse, be the victims dogs, cats, wildlife or any other of God’s creatures. So people, we need your continued help and support to set things right. Please help us to help the animals. Thank you.

Shoba Mano.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Updates + Misc

There are two very interesting letters to the Star newspaper here and here. It's especially interesting to note the almost all violent criminals began their "career" in abusing animals. Well... I don't think it's far fetched to consider that Malaysia might be breeding some serial criminals for future generations...

Newspaper scans of the rally are viewable below: