Animal welfare issue is now global

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1993, 12:00am

THERE seems to be a misapprehension on the part of Mr S. L. Koo (Letters, South China Morning Post, December 6) when he expresses the opinion that foreign pressure groups approach animal welfare issues in Hong Kong and China with hostility.

I do not know if it is a good thing that the world has become a ''smaller'' place, with easier access to distant lands and information on foreign matters available at the touch of a button. But good or bad - these are facts of modern life. The issue of animal welfare is surely global.

Animals are not bound by politics nor, on many occasions, by frontiers. Kindness to and compassion for these same animals - whether wild or domestic - are characteristics of human nature, not of any particular culture. The criticisms made by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Zoo Check about the situation which exists at Shenzhen Zoo, would have been made if that zoo had existed in Britain, Italy or the US.

The unfavourable press coverage which included descriptions of the living conditions for performing animals (not usually found in zoos), the feeding of live chickens to the tigers, the parade of various animals round the greyhound track (some dressed in skirts and trousers) and the filing of teeth and claws of the performing nose-ringed bears, has not been confined to the Post, but has also appeared in the Oriental Daily News. When 1997 finally arrives I suggest that the tourist industry in China will increase. More and more people will visit China's cities and sites of interest, and its zoos.

With the world's increased understanding of how animals live and behave in the wild - thanks to the superb nature films we now see on television - I anticipate that the criticisms now levelled at Shenzhen (and other Chinese zoos) will also increase. Thiswould be a great pity. To be part of a global community must mean we are sensitive to the views of global citizens. We can all learn from each other and, I agree with Mr Koo, suggestions should be constructive.

I think he will find that if the management of Shenzhen Zoo was willing to meet, with an open mind, representatives of IFAW, the RSPCA and Zoo Check to discuss the important issues raised in the recent press, we would all be pleased and willing to work with him to create a more caring environment for the animals - whose well-being is the concern of us all.

VIRGINIA McKENNA The Born Free Foundation