A video has appeared on YouTube showing a circus bear called ‘Tim’ hand a ball to the referee before the Russian third-tier game between Mashuk-KMV and Angusht in Pyatigorsk.
The bear was then seen clapping to fans as it stood on its hind legs.
FIFA has been forced to deny claims the bear was reportedly going to be used in the opening ceremony of the World Cup in June.
“In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous,” said Elisa Allen, the director of animal welfare charity Peta.
“The bear is the symbol of Russia, so we hope the country’s people will show some compassion and national pride and stop abusing them. Common decency should compel the league to pull this stunt.”
The shocking incident has also been slammed by animal activists in the UK.
“While some supposedly find this depressing scene ‘entertaining’ there is nothing at all light-hearted about this kind of abuse,” Brian da Cal, country director of Four Paws UK, added.
“Bears are wild animals and as such have very specific and complex needs.
“Being chained up, muzzled and forced to perform unnatural acts in front of large, rowdy crowds of people causes tremendous stress and can have an untold impact on these animals, both psychological and physical.”