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Shark Bait


Claim:   Fisherman on Réunion Island employ live dogs as bait for shark-fishing.

MIXTURE

Examples:

[Hepburn, 2005]

Stray dogs are being skewered on hooks and dragged behind boats as live shark bait.

The cruel practice takes place on French-controlled Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, where Prince William spent two holidays.

A six-month-old labrador pup was recently found ALIVE with a huge double hook through its snout — like the dog above — and another through a leg.

The pup was found in a coastal creek and is thought to have somehow freed itself from a fishing line.

But other dogs and kittens have been chomped up and swallowed by sharks.

The RSPCA plans to petition the French government, demanding an end to the hideous torture.

Shark bait

 

[Collected on the Internet, September 2012]

PETITION: Please help stop French Islander and Mexican fishermen using live dogs and kittens as shark bait

To: The French and Mexican Governments

We have to stop this PLEASE help!

French Islanders using live puppies and kittens as shark bait??

Please stop this senseless abuse to innocent puppies and kittens. French Islander and Mexican fishermen are using LIVE puppies and kittens as shark bait!! No living being should have to undergo this torture and insurmountable fear! This is inhumane and must stop NOW. Together we can make a difference and let our voice be heard as ONE. Please sign this petition and please pass this along. Thank you for caring. Blessed be

Currently the penalty is only 2 years and $36,000 that is far too little for such a heinous crime. We urge that you raise the penalty to 10 years in prison with NO parole and a fine of $100,000. This will hopefully act as a deterrent and will stop these horrendous acts against innocent animals. Please do the right thing and help us stop these people.

Islanders on the French controlled Reunion Island have been using live dogs as shark bait.

The Sun claims that “a six-month-old labrador pup was recently found alive with a huge double hook through its snout – like the dog above – and another through a leg.”

It is also claimed that local fisherman have also been using kittens!

Reunion Island is an overseas départements of France and an official region of France, giving it the same status as a province or state in other countries.
 

Origins:   The claim that live dogs (and cats) were being used as bait by shark fisherman on Réunion Island (a French-controlled territory just off the coast of Southern Africa in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar) started hitting the world press in August 2005 and picked up steam in early October 2005, when it was reported by publications such as the UK's Sun (an excerpt from which is quoted at the head of this page) and Sweden's Aftonbladet, complete with a heart-rending picture of a purported "bait dog" with a large hook through its muzzle. Animal rights groups such as the RSPCA have taken up the cause of putting a stop to the horrible
practice.

Many observers remain skeptical of such claims, however, positing theories that range from media and animal rights groups having been taken in by a hoax to a deliberate disinformation campaign being waged by activists who seek to end the slaughter of sharks for their fins and cartilage by Indian Ocean fisherman. Arguments have flown back and forth over the practicality and plausibility (or lack thereof) of Réunion Islanders fishing for sharks in the manner described.

A 2006 Réunion newspaper article acknowledged the practice and reported the recent prosecution of a deliveryman (and amateur fisherman) on that island over animal cruelty charges associated with the described activity, suggesting that although there may be some truth to the shark-fishing claim, the practice does not appear to be as widespread or horrific (or tolerated) as implied by news reports in the foreign press. Rather than describing hordes of shark fisherman impaling live dogs on hooks and dragging them behind boats as shark bait, the article noted that employing dogs in shark-fishing was largely the province of a small group of amateur fisherman rather than large numbers of professionals, that the dogs used were 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 no-longer-alive animals were attached to unattended buoyed "shark trap" platforms rather than dragged alive behind boats.

The French embassy in Washington, D.C., also maintained that although the practice was not unknown, its occurrence and acceptance was not nearly as prevalent as recent news reports had made it seem:
Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns. We too denounce the barbaric practices you refer to. Such acts are obviously illegal and will not be tolerated on French territory. But while we share your revulsion, we would like to emphasize that the practice of using live dogs or cats as shark bait is in fact exceptional and isolated. It was never widespread nor traditional, but introduced by ruthless individuals, and has been strictly banned for decades now.

TV reports that raised initial indignation when they were aired in France and abroad in 2005 were filmed locally in 2003 following the discovery of a mutilated dog. The last few months have seen two identical events which received heavy media coverage (one of these events was soon determined to be a false alarm). But can these vile occurrences lead us to conclude that there is an ongoing tradition of barbarism on Reunion Island?

Reunion Island, a French territory and a European region, obeys the laws and regulations of the French Republic and the European Union. It respects the rule of law and does not practice inhumane ancestral practices. The facts that elicited your complaint are the act of a few isolated, irresponsible parties who are being sought by the police and will be brought to justice. The authorities on the island are closely monitoring the situation; one person is in custody and appeared in court on Friday September 30, 2005. All suspicions of such acts will be investigated, and animal protection organizations that have any specific information on these matters are strongly encouraged to inform French police authorities.

The French minister for agriculture and fisheries, Dominique Bussereau, is fully aware of the media and public outcry regarding this issue, and has written to the French National Assembly to emphasize that several measures have been taken to strengthen already existing laws. Veterinarians have been directed to immediately report any suspicious wounds to authorities, and the police will increase their inspections of fishing and pleasure vessels. Meanwhile, a sterilization campaign, launched in 2001 to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats on the island, continues.

Animal rights are an important issue in France: over half of French households have at least one pet, and France has some of the world's most stringent animal rights legislation. French law provides for the prosecution of those who are cruel to animals. Voluntary cruelty to animals is punishable by a sentence of two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine (equivalent to about $36,000).

Sincerely,

Press Office.
Cordialement / Regards
Service de Presse et d'Information / Press & Information Service
Ambassade de France / Embassy of France
Washington, D.C.
The photo displayed at the head of this page, which has adorned several news articles and humane society-related web pages on this topic, is a frame from a 2005 video produced by the 30 Million Friends Foundation. The video purportedly documents the case of a dog that had escaped from fishermen who planned to use it as shark bait; skeptics have questioned the authenticity of the video, maintaining that it merely shows the aftermath of an accidental entanglement that has been mistakenly or deceptively misused for publicity's sake.

A similar video purporting to document the practice using kittens as shark bait appears to be a hoax, intercutting shots of kittens' being dunked in water and dangled from wires with unrelated footage of ocean fishing activity:


Last updated:   17 November 2014

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Sources:

    Hepburn, Ian.   "Dogs Used as Shark Bait."
    The Sun.   1 October 2005.

    Mott, Maryann.   "Dogs Used as Shark Bait on French Island."
    National Geographic News.   19 October 2005.

    Aftonbladet.   "Valpen Skulle Bli Hajmat."
    2 October 2005.

    Clicanoo.   "L'homme, Le Meilleur Ennemi du Chien."
    30 September 2005.