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A New Detox—for Drunken Bears

Ukraine is to crack down on bar owners who ply bears with drink.

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By Jason Gotlieb

08/05/11

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Ukraine's Environmental Minister, Mykola Zlochevsky, is calling for an end to a practice that he denounces as extreme animal abuse: forcing bears to swill vodka in seedy bars. "On television, they keep showing bears suffering in restaurants and roadside hotels," the animal-loving politician complained in a recent interview, "How long can we tolerate animal torture in restaurants where drunken guests make bears drink vodka for laughs?" Not very long, we hope. Capturing and boozing up bears to entertain equally boozy bar patrons used to be a widespread tradition in Russia—and the tradition seems to have survived Ukraine's divorce from Soviet rule. You might say of the region that at least it gets there in the end: After Russia recently ruled ruled that beer was a beverage—rather than a food—it's nice to see its neighbor reach the conclusion that putting drunk people in close proximity with giant, vodka-infused beasts might not be the best idea. Zlochevsky says that he intends to confiscate more than 80 bears from their owners and relocate them to a large enclosure in a Ukrainian wildlife sanctuary, where they can detox in supervised comfort.

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