End the Use of Animals as Shark Bait

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    French and La Reunion Island officials
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Mankinds true test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitudes towards those who are at its mercy: animals. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Recently we witnessed thousands of animals abandoned and stranded in New Orleans due to an unavoidable natural disaster, and thankfully we have also seen a great outpouring of relief efforts on behalf of those animals. What is described below is not a natural disaster, but a man-made one that should disgust and outrage you.

Various websites describe French-governed La Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean as a virtual paradise offering dramatic mountain scenery, jagged peaks, sheer cliffs, waterfalls, gorgeous gardens, and fragrant spice farms. La Reunion's lagoons are small and shallow, and the island's beautiful beaches and clear waters are suitable for basking as well as swimming and diving. But what the tourism websites don't tell you, and what The Sun (London's newspaper) and other reputable newspapers have recently unveiled, is that fishermen on La Reunion have been using live dogs and cats as bait for sharks. (You can find The Sun article at http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2005450292,00.html. Patti Daviss Newsweek article is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9664312/site/newsweek/ and if you go to http://www.seashepherd.org you can find links to both their Aug. 18, 2005 and Sept. 29, 2005 articles. Be forewarned that the photos accompanying these articles are graphic and disturbing.)

While this practice is specifically outlawed by French law, the law has been ignored by certain fishing communities. Fishermen take hooks and pass them through the snouts or leg tendons of the dogs and cats. They attach these hooks to lines and rods. Then, the young animals are tossed into the water to struggle helplessly to get free. The struggle and the smell of blood attracts sharks.

On August 18th, 2005 Sea Shepherd Conservation Society posted a reward for the arrest on La Reunion Island of anyone responsible for using live dogs or cats as bait for sharks. At least one violator has already been charged and appeared in court on September 30th.

We have created this online petition to inform La Reunion Island's officials that this inhuman behavior is appalling and to urge them to put an immediate end to the public mutilation of these dogs and cats. We have read that the gap in La Reunion between the well-off and the poor is extraordinary and accounts for persistent social tensions and a nearly 33\% unemployment rate. The economic well-being of La Reunion depends heavily on continued financial assistance from France, and we will send this petition to officials in France as well.

You might wonder if this is another hoax... but it is not. Snopes.com investigated this in early October of this year to determine if this was a hoax or urban myth. Here is a link to their finding... http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/sharkbait.asp. While intelligent people shouldn't believe everything they read on the internet, this investigation points out that a recent La Reunion newspaper article acknowledges that the practice does happen and reported the recent prosecution of a deliveryman (and amateur fisherman) on that island over animal cruelty charges associated with the described activity. That article notes that employing dogs in shark-fishing is largely the province of a small group of amateur fisherman rather than large numbers of professionals, that the dogs used are "generally" dead animals picked up from roadsides or culled from the island's large population of unwanted strays (estimated at 150,000), and that the animals are attached to unattended buoyed "shark trap" platforms rather than dragged alive behind boats. Whether the practice is widespread or limited to only a small number of fisherman using only a small number of victims is irrelevant: the fact that it happens at all, to even one animal, is intolerable.

The Snopes.com article also included the French Embassy response, which maintains that the practice is not unknown, but its occurrence and acceptance is not nearly as prevalent as recent news reports would make it seem. Here is the link to another urban legends website, which also found that there was truth to the story and that this is not an isolated incident. http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_dogs_shark_bait.htm

Milan Kundera wrote in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that [m]ankinds true test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitudes towards those who are at its mercy: animals. We urge you, by signing this petition, to help us let officials in La Reunion and in France know that they are failing this test. We hope that hundreds, and even thousands, of signatures on this petition will be the voice for those voiceless animals that cannot advocate for themselves. And that even if this practice is not widespread or prevalent, the impact of so many voices will convince officials that even isolated instances are unacceptable and must be taken seriously and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
If you want to contact officials yourself, contact information is below.

Thank you for taking the time to care,
Kirsten and Jill

Write to:
The Prйfet of la Rйunion
Mr Laurent Cayrel
1 av. Victoire
97400 St Denis
La Rйunion
The Minister of Outre-Mer
Mr Franзois Baroin
27 rue Oudinot
75007 Paris

Direction dйpartementale de la Sйcuritй Publique
5, rue Malartic
97400 Saint Denis
La Rйunion

Monsieur le Ministre de L'Agriculture et de la Pкche
а l'attention de M. BUSSEREAU
78, rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France

Monsieur le Substitut du Procureur
Tribunal de Grande Instance
Champ Fleuri
97400 St Denis
La Rйunion

Comitй du tourisme de la Rйunion
4 place du 20 Dйcembre 1898
97400 Saint Denis
La Rйunion