The recent killing increase is largely due to heightened demand for rhino horn, which has long been prized as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. It has been claimed recently that rhino horn possesses cancer-curing properties as well as the ability to cure impotence; despite there being no medical evidence to support the assertion. Each horn weighs around 10kg and currently fetches over US$ 20,000 per kilo on the Asian market.
The current wave of poaching is being committed by sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquillisers and silencers to kill rhinos at night while attempting to avoid law enforcement patrols. The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa have been described as highly organised and coordinated, using advanced technologies – this is not typical poaching.
Around 500 lions are hunted legally every year in South Africa, most of them from commercial lion breeding farms which also supply zoos all over the world.
Until recently, hunters paid $20,000 (about R160 000) just for a trophy to hang above the fireplace, and the carcass was thrown to the dogs.
But their crushed bones have become popular as substitute for the bones of tigers in love potions or “tiger wine”. Trade in tiger parts is banned under international law as the animal is a threatened species. Now Asian hunters buy lion trophy hunting permits to get at the bones. “They prefer hunting lionesses, whose $4,000 price tag is more affordable than the males.”
Seal hunting is inhumane. Groups have campaigned on the issue for years and their evidence shows all the horror of the hunt – dragging conscious seal pups across the ice with sharpened boat hooks, stockpiling of dead and dying animals, beating and stomping seals, and skinning seals alive. In 2002, an international team of veterinary experts attended the hunt. They observed sealers at work from the air and from the ground, and performed post-mortems on 73 seal carcasses. Their study concluded that: 79% of the sealers did not check to see if an animal was dead before skinning it; In 40% of the kills, a sealer had to strike the seal a second time, presumably because it was still conscious after the first blow or shot; Up to 42% of the seals they examined were likely skinned alive.
Worldwide, more than 40 million animals are killed for their fur – 85% are bred and killed on fur farms and the rest are trapped in the wild. This figure does not include the thousands of millions of rabbits killed for the fur trade. The most commonly bred animals on fur farms are mink and fox, but the industry also breeds and kills polecats, raccoons and chinchillas. It is estimated that two million cats and dogs are also killed for their fur. There are 6,500 fur farms in the EU. Europe is responsible for 70% of global mink fur production, and 63% of fox fur production. The countries that farm the most animals for their fur are Denmark, China and Finland. On fur farms, animals are imprisoned in tiny wire-mesh cages for their entire lives until they are killed.
For species such as mink and fox, these conditions are especially appalling, as they are wild animals and would naturally travel many miles each day. Being caged in huge sheds, where thousands of other animals are also imprisoned, drives them insane with anxiety and fear. Repetitive movements, such as head-bobbing and circling, are therefore common. Animals on fur farms are killed by electrocution (through the use of electrodes in the mouth and anus), gassing, lethal injection or neck breaking. These crude methods are employed to ensure that the pelts (the animals’ skins and fur) are not damaged.
Everyday, “fishermen” catch sharks, pull them out of the ocean, cut off their fins, and throw the still-living remains back into the ocean, where they slowly bleed to death. It’s called shark finning, and it’s happening all over the world. Gruesome, I know—but it doesn’t seem nearly as gruesome until you consider the magnitude of the killings. And how many is that? How many sharks meet their fate in this repulsive manner every year?
Forty million. 40,000,000 sharks are slaughtered in this barbaric manner for their fins every year, according to National Geographic. That raises the issue from animal cruelty to global crisis.
And why are they killed? Primarily because shark fins are considered a delicacy in China. Shark fin soup is a luxurious meal, and sign of prestige in Chinese culture. And over the last few years, as China’s economy has grown at a rapid-fire pace, so too have the number of affluent connoisseurs desiring the meal.
On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and confined to wire cages, gestation crates, barren dirt lots, and other cruel confinement systems. These animals will never raise their families, root around in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural and important to them. Most won’t even feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter. The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories.
The factory farming industry strives to maximize output while minimizing costs—always at the animals’ expense. The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they can make more money by cramming animals into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals get sick and some die. The industry journal National Hog Farmer explains, “Crowding pigs pays,” and egg-industry expert Bernard Rollins writes that “chickens are cheap; cages are expensive.”