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Controversial Swedish wolf hunt ends, one escapes

Russia to export 2.5 tonnes of caviar to EU: watchdog
Moscow (AFP) Feb 16, 2011 - Russia expects to export at least 2.5 tonnes of sturgeon caviar to the European Union this year after lifting a nine-year ban on such sales, the fisheries watchdog said Wednesday. The world's second-largest official producer of caviar after Iran said earlier this month that it would resume EU sales of black caviar from farmed fish, sending a 150-kilogramme (330-pound) test shipment to Europe.

Russia banned the harvest of sturgeon caviar in 2006 to help fight overfishing. Caviar production resumed in specially designed farms in 2010. The head of the Federal Fisheries Agency said Wednesday that Russia expected to send 2.5 tonnes "or more" of the premium delicacy to Europe this year, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. The report provided no export figures to other countries. In 2010, Russia and three other former Soviet republics set quotas allowing for the export of three tonnes of sturgeon caviar between them. The decision was reached to help fight poachers, who were flooding the black market with illegally-produced caviar.
by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) Feb 16, 2011
Sweden's controversial wolf hunt, which has sparked widespread criticism from environmentalists and legal action from the European Commission, ended with hunters failing to cull one of the 20 animals in the quota, officials said Wednesday.

"The hunt is now over in all regions," Anneli Nivren of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency told AFP, adding one wolf had escaped the hunters.

This year's hunt started on January 15 and ended Tuesday, during which time hunters were permitted to shoot 20 wolves across six regions.

But by an hour after sundown Tuesday when the hunting season ended, only 19 animals had been culled.

"It's too bad. We would have have gladly taken it," the head of the hunters' association in the central Swedish region of Vaestmanland told the TT news agency late Tuesday.

Sweden argues the hunt, which was reopened last year after a 46-year hiatus, allows it to strengthen the gene pool of its largely inbred wolf population, insisting it will import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the killed animals.

The hunt also enjoys support in rural Sweden, where the small wolf stock has grown over the past three decades and sheep and reindeer have increasingly come under attack.

The Swedish parliament decided in 2009 to keep wolf numbers at 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year.

In January, the European Commission launched legal action against Sweden for allowing the hunt of a protected species.

It decided to open a formal infringement procedure, which could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, which can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the bloc's rules.

According to the Commission, some 6,700 hunters took part in this year's hunt.

The hunt is also controversial in Sweden. Earlier this month, protestors marched through central Stockholm carrying 20 coffins to symbolise the number of wolves in this year's hunting quota, and nearly 8,000 people sent letters to Brussels to protest the hunt through a Swedish environmental group's website.

Last week, former screen idol turned animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot also blasted the hunt as "retrograde" in a letter to Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and urged a halt to the cull.

earlier related report
Rights group opposes China bear-bile listing
Beijing (AFP) Feb 15, 2011 - An animal rights group said Tuesday it has urged authorities in China to block the possible stock listing of a company that farms the bile of bears for medicinal purposes, citing cruelty to animals.

The Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation said the Guizhentang pharmaceutical company in southeast China's Fujian province is hoping to raise 70 million yuan (10.6 million dollars) through a listing in order to increase production of bear bile.

"Bear farming is a cruel and unnecessary industry which causes both physical and psychological suffering to thousands of bears caged on farms across (China)," Animals Asia said in a statement.

"To extract bile from their bodies, bears are subjected to crude surgery which creates permanent wounds through their abdominal wall and into their gall bladders."

Bear bile has long been used in China and other Asian countries to treat fevers, liver disease, eye problems and other health problems, but its efficacy has been widely questioned by the scientific community.

An estimated 7,000-10,000 bears still languish in bile farms across China, Animals Asia said.

The group has appealed to the Fujian's securities regulator to block the listing, it said.

Guizhentang's website said the company farms 470 bears and hopes to increase the number to 1,200 following the listing in order to step up annual production of bear bile to 4,000 tonnes.

Calls to the company went unanswered on Tuesday.

Since 2000, Animals Asia has worked with Chinese wildlife authorities to end bile farming and runs a facility in southwestern China housing more than 350 bears that have been rescued from farms, the group said.

The Animals Asia campaign has also garnered widespread coverage in the Chinese press with official newspapers like the Beijing News, the Legal Daily and the website of the People's Daily reporting on the opposition to Guizhentang's possible listing.

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China rice laced with heavy metals: report
Beijing (AFP) Feb 16, 2011
Up to 10 percent of rice grown in China is contaminated with harmful heavy metals but little has been done to highlight the possible public health risks, a report said. This week's edition of the New Century magazine cited studies showing that large amounts of Chinese rice have been tainted with heavy metals like cadmium due to years of pollution stemming from the nation's rapid economic gro ... read more

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