Russian Authorities Rejected the Draft Law for Animal Protection and Passed the Law "On Hunting"

Hopes that Russia might at long last pass an animal protection law were dashed on June 5th 2009, Environmental Protection Day. Animal welfare was supposed to be the theme of a conference scheduled for that day at the State Duma (parliament) under the title "Humane attitudes to animals: a moral necessity for civil society", which was attended by parliamentarians, state officials and others. But on arrival animal activists were dumbfounded to read in the official handout that they had allegedly withdrawn demands for a comprehensive animal protection law, asking merely that the government improve the existing (poor quality) legislation dating from Soviet times.

During her speech at the conference VITA President Irina Novozhilova listed many instances of horrendous (and unpunished) cruelty to or neglect of animals in every sphere where they are used and abused by human beings, finally citing one of the worst offenders: the State Narcotics Bureau (Gosnarkokontrol), which prohibits veterinarians and others from using Ketamine, the only drug available in Russia for animal anaesthesia, thus causing totally unnecessary suffering to countless animals.

Elena Marueva, who represented InterNICHE at that event, also expressed indignation concerning the rejection of the law and explained concerning laboratory animals how the existing legislative acts, being just instructions and having recommendatory character, cause huge cruelty in the sphere of animal experimentation.

For more than a decade, VITA in collaboration with other Russian animal protection organisations has been battling for a federal law to protect animals from cruel treatment. A draft law, the work of revered animal rights veteran Tatyana Pavlova, had been placed before Russian law-makers in the 1990s and had passed three readings in the Duma; there was optimism that President Boris Yeltsin would sign it into law early in 2000. Unluckily for millions of animals, Yeltsin resigned at the start of the millennium and one of the first actions of his successor, Vladimir Putin, was to send the draft law back for revision.

The draft remained in limbo until March 2008, when it was removed from the Duma's legislative agenda on the (utterly spurious) grounds that animal welfare was adequately catered for in the laws, "On the animal world" and "On the health and epidemiological welfare of the [human] population". The former law considers animals merely as resources for humans to exploit and the latter has nothing to say about animal welfare. The only Russian legislation that can be considered as dealing with animal protection is Article 245 of the Criminal Code, which lays down penalties for those convicted of cruelty to pet animals - and which is rarely invoked.

What is more, the State Duma has approved a law on hunting - proposed by the Russian branch of WWF and Ministry of Agriculture which would allow unrestricted use of traps, side-arms and air-powered weapons and so forth, and permit the killing of pregnant and lactating females and their offspring.

On July 2nd VITA hеld a press conference at InterFAX which was attended by Russian scientists and celebrities, the aim of which was to halt the passing of this barbaric hunting law and to press again for a federal law to ban cruelty to animals. On July 9th VITA organised an all-Russian day of protests against hunting law. Photos from the Moscow demo can be seen through the following link:

Nevertheless, in spite of the protests of animal protectors, the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev signed the federal law "On Hunting" on 26th July 2009.

Letters (which may be in English) demanding that Russia pass a federal law to protect animals from cruelty may be sent to the following addresses: Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation:

and to the State Duma of the Russian Federation:
Fax: 007 495 203 42 58
Postal address of Duma:
103265 Moscow, ul. Okhotnyi ryad, 1

Sample letter:

To the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation

Dear Mr Putin,

Legislation to protect animals in the Russian Federation

Earlier this year people around the world applauded your compassionate decision to ban the killing of young seals in Russia's White Sea.

But now we learn that that in March 2009 the State Duma rejected a draft law on animal protection which would have been good for animals - and for Russia's image as a humane and civilised country.

Not only is the situation of animals in Russia not improving, but it is set to get even worse if the State Duma accepts the proposal to remove restrictions on the hunting of wild animals, including the ban on killing pregnant and lactating females, which would inevitably lead to great suffering for their young.

I urge you to stop this immoral draft law on hunting now, and as a matter of urgency to put the draft legislation on protecting animals from cruelty back on the agenda of the State Duma.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

With great respect,