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La Jolla Mom - Animals Asia Rescues Moon Bears from Bile Farms

Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue: Please Read

Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue

The sweet bear in this swimming pool was once stuck in a metal cage not much larger than his or her body, unable to move and never once let out, for years and years.  I can’t remember this bear’s name or story, but I love this photo for many reasons.  This bear was rescued by Animals Asia and there are tens of thousands of others who are waiting to be.

This is a tough post to write. I struggled with what details I should and shouldn’t mention, while trying to deliver the information as objectively as possible.  As you may know, I used to live in Hong Kong, where Animals Asia is headquartered.  I didn’t know about bear bile farming until I moved there so I thought I’d write a post about it, in case you may not know much about it either.

I had the privilege of visiting Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, China in May 2006. It is only open to Animals Asia small groups of supporters on two Saturdays per month, by reservation only.

We were very lucky because on the day we went, we were given a tour of the facility by Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia. Jill Robinson has dedicated her entire life to Animals Asia, traveling all over the world to promote her cause.  She is a totally amazing person and started this organization after visiting a bear bile farm in 1995.  These are my photos.

Animals Asia Moon Bear Wilbur

History Of Bear Bile Farming

Asiatic Bears are also called Moon Bears, because of the white crescent moon on their chests. Bear bile farming is legal in China.  Moon bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy to heal a variety of ailments such as fevers, vision problems, gall stones, and to strengthen the liver. I want to add that I am a supporter and beneficiary of plant based, traditional Chinese medicine, which has helped me with issues that western medicine has not.  The bile is harvested from living bears via an open hole in the abdomen through which the bile drips out.

However, it is believed that there are herbal remedies that are more effective and less expensive than bear bile.  There is also a synthetic version of UDCA, the active ingredient in bear bile, that is also considered to be a safe medicine.  This make bear bile farming even more controversial as there is, essentially, no need for it. The methods of harvesting it from bears are inhumane.

The Plight Of Bear Bile Farmers

China, as I know it, is most definitely a nation in which a lot of people struggle to make a living.  Bear bile farmers often are simply unable to give up the trade, because their livelihood depends on it. In China, there is no unemployment you can collect if you lose your business. A family might go hungry, in this circumstance.

Animals Asia works with the Chinese Government to shut down these farms.  If an agreement is made, Animals Asia rescues the bears and compensates the farmer an amount of money negotiated by the farmer and Chinese Government.  The farmer’s bear bile farming license is revoked.

Animals Asia strives to make these negotiations very civil to avoid ill will in the community, and because they do want the farmers to be able to support their families through other means.  In Vietnam, bear bile farming is illegal so they do not compensate the farmers for the bears.  This has not discouraged Animals Asia, however, as they are having great success in rescuing bears in Vietnam.

If  You Want To See A Moon Bear In a Farm…

I’ve decided not to post photos of the bear bile farms, but to really understand what goes on and why so many people all around the world have felt compelled to act on behalf of the bears, please click here.

Animals Asia Rescue Center In Chengdu, China

The Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue Centre is an oasis for these rescued bears.  Sadly, many of the bears are in such bad shape after being rescued, that they must be euthanized.  The rest live the remainder of their lives here.  Despite the scars and missing limbs, most of these bears certainly looked happy.

The bear in the photo was named Franzi (rest in peace) and in 2005, she was the equivalent of 90 years old.  Jill is giving her a dog biscuit, her favorite treat.  She is about 1/4 the size she should be, because she had been stuck in a cage for almost 20 years.  Please read her story here. Her enclosure has a big grassy pasture in the back.

The Centre also has top notch veterinary care.  La Jolla Dad and I were very impressed with the entire Centre.  They managd to survive the Chengdu earthquake in 2008 with minor damage, thankfully.

More About Animals Asia

Animals Asia now does so much more than rescue Moon Bears. They are very efficiently run on donations and are a US registered charity with an office in San Francisco. Proceeds from the gift shop also go toward Animals Asia programs.  They are just getting started on Twitter, @AnimalsAsia, and you can fan Animals Asia on Facebook.

You might also have an Animals Asia support group near you.  The one in San Diego will be wrapping gifts at Barnes and Noble during Christmas time to raise donations.

Did you already know about bear farming?  I even wrote Oprah a letter about it and I’ve never done anything like that before!

  • Alison Fennell - June 17, 2011

    Hi lajollamom

    I cam across this blog and it is of course still as valid as it was then – I fundraise for the Moon Bear Recsue and I – like you are deeply moved by what is happening to these defenceless magnificent beings. I am also on facebook and wondered would you be ok if I posted a blog post about Moon Bear stationery on it? All of th esales go to Animals Asia – so far (since 25th May we have raised over $300!) –

    Thank you – Alison

  • Jayne @ Misplaced City Girl - August 25, 2009

    Oh, how I’m crying. I love bears. I mean I love bears. All of them, even the ones not technically bears. We lost two of our bears at the Tulsa Zoo within a short time span, and I cried when they died. We lost our grizzly and our polar bear.

    I remember the first time I watched “An Unfinished Life.” There is a scene when Robert Redford’s character is getting ready to shoot the bear that so badly wounded Morgan Freeman’s character. And I remember crying and saying to myself, “He was just doing what bears do.” He didn’t shoot. And later, Morgan Freeman’s character said the same thing about the bear.

    I am glad the rescue is trying to work with these families instead of against them to help teach why this is so unnecessary. If you have anymore pictures of the rescue facility, I would love to see those. I cannot go to the pictures where the practice is shown.
    .-= Jayne @ Misplaced City Girl´s last blog ..I have a problem with this… =-.

  • Stefany - August 25, 2009

    That is just horrible. :( Thank you for posting this.

    Stopping by from SITS
    .-= Stefany´s last blog ..Monday Musings =-.

  • Laura - August 24, 2009

    Not many people know about bear farming but I find that as soon as they do, they tend to want to help. Thank you for posting this, I think getting the message out is the most important thing we can do right now. Ultimately, everyone’s contribution, no matter how big or small, will make a difference.

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I'm Katie Dillon, a freelance luxury travel writer who lives in seaside La Jolla, CA. This is where I document my recent trips around the world, the latest San Diego happenings and other fun lifestyle topics. Thanks for stopping by!

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