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 the practice is also new to you.
I had the privilege of visiting the Animals Asia China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, China in May 2006. At the time, it was only open to small groups of Animals Asia 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 truly an amazing person who started this organization after visiting a bear bile farm in 1995.
These are my photos.
History of Bear Bile Farming
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. The bile is harvested from living bears via an open hole in the abdomen through which the bile drips out.
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.
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 makes 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 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 if their business closes.
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.
What a Moon Bear in a Farm Endures
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 China 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. Franzi is about 1/4 the size that she should be because she had been stuck in a cage for almost 20 years. Please read her story. Her enclosure has a big grassy pasture in the back.
The centre also has top-notch veterinary care. My husband and I were very impressed with the entire centre, which managed to sustain only minor damages in the 2008 Chengdu earthquake.
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 teams all over the world. Proceeds from the gift shop also go toward Animals Asia programs.