The World Cup kicked off in Russia on Thursday, and with it came more bears.
Videos surfaced on Thursday following Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia to open the World Cup of what looks like a real bear playing a vuvuzela — the popular horn from the South African World Cup in 2010 — in the back of a jeep in Moscow.
— Rob Stone (@RobStoneONFOX) June 14, 2018
The bear played the horn a few times, and then saluted the large crowd of soccer fans that had naturally formed around the jeep while it was stopped at a traffic light.
Now, it’s admittedly hard to tell from the video if that is actually a real bear, and not just someone in a realistic bear costume. However, a video surfaced on YouTube in April showing a real bear on a soccer field with his trainer playing a vuvuzela, so it’s entirely possible that the bear seen Thursday is the same one from the video.
The bear has often been used as a symbol for Russia dating back to the USSR days, and is the symbol of the country’s ruling party, United Russia, so it’s no surprise that the animal is part of soccer’s biggest event.
It’s not a new thing for the country to use bears at sporting events, either. A trained bear named Tim helped open a third league game in April when it marched out onto the field and handed the ball to the official.
Once the video of the bear in the jeep surfaced, though, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was instantly up in arms, calling for the country to stop abusing bears in that way. PETA Germany also sent a letter to Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, asking to “identify the bear’s owner, confiscate the animal and ensure his or her transfer to a reputable sanctuary.”
“The cruel and degrading sight of a bear being forced to play a musical instrument shouldn’t be what the world associates with Moscow and the World Cup,” PETA foundation director of captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet said in a statement. “PETA is calling for this bear to be confiscated and retired to a reputable sanctuary where he or she would be able to live in peace, not as a prop.”
It’s tough to tell from the video on Twitter if the bear in the jeep was abused. However, based on the fact that three people are willing to calmly sit in a moving vehicle with a live bear, its probably safe to assume that the animal was either doped up or had its teeth and claws removed — or both.
While it looks like a cool trick, and would definitely be a sight to see in person, we shouldn’t forget the conditions that these animals are forced to live in — especially as more trained bears are likely to be seen throughout the World Cup this month.
“The sight of this poor bear, forced to perform tricks for the crowd, should shame us all,” Animal Defenders International (ADI) president Jan Creamer told Newsweek in April. “An incredible, intelligent and inquisitive wild animal reduced to a figure of fun. All that we learn from using animals in entertainment are the reasons why it must stop. Avoid these sickening shows and support the efforts of ADI and others to stop circus suffering.”
More World Cup on Yahoo Sports:
• Russia smashes Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener
• Russian lawmaker warns against sex with foreigners
• U.S., Canada and Mexico win right to host 2026 World Cup
• Potential U.S. 2026 World Cup host cities, ranked 1-17