Ukraine to save bears from forced vodka drinking

KIEV Wed Aug 3, 2011 6:22am EDT

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's Environment Minister Mykola Zlochevsky vowed on Wednesday to free all bears kept in restaurants for entertainment purposes and often forced to drink alcohol, Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday.

Captured and tamed bears were often used for entertainment in the Russian Empire, which included Ukraine, turning the animal into a national symbol.

The practice appears to have also survived Ukraine's emergence from Soviet rule, but Zlochevsky said it was inhumane and unacceptable today.

"On television, they keep showing bears suffering in restaurants and roadside hotels," Interfax quoted him as saying. "How long can we tolerate animal torture in restaurants where drunken guests make bears drink vodka for laughs?"

Zlochevsky said his ministry was building a large enclosure in a wildlife sanctuary where it would place about 80 bears it planned to liberate.

(Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Paul Casciato)