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.
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!