Seeing all the bears at the sanctuary so well looked after, and in many cases, so content, was delightful and incredibly uplifting. But there are thousands of bears still rotting in cages. Crushed to the ground, unable to move, and tortured daily. It is a life-time sentence unless they can be rescued. Around half China’s moon bear population (10,000) is in bear bile farms.
Asiatic black bears, known as moon bears because of the beautiful golden crescent on their chests, have been killed for their bile for use in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In the 1980s, it was realised that far more money could be made by caging the bears and ‘milking’ them for their bile. Without any anaesthetic, a steel tube is driven through their stomach into the gall bladder. These bears have no access to water and are deliberately denied adequate food – a hungry bear produces more bile. The bile extraction process causes the bears unimaginable agony.
Some farmers slice off the bear's digits to save de-clawing
Bear bile is believed to be good for the liver, muscle spasms, improving vision and clearing toxins. But in reality bear bile is contaminated with pus, blood, tissue and faeces. It is no coincidence that half the bears rescued die from liver cancer. The bears’ livers and gall bladders are often severely diseased.
And this is what people are taking for good health?
AAF is continuing its research to confirm the link between contaminated bile and liver cancer. If this can be proven and it is finally an indisputable fact that taking bear bile will actually endanger your health, then perhaps finally, the proponents of this ‘traditional practice’’ will give it up.
Animals Asia Foundation, depends solely on donations and, like all charitable organisations during these times, is struggling to get sufficient funds to meet its needs. A special care enclosure is being built and more land needs to be cleared for new enclosures so more bears can be rescued. Jill hopes to receive another ‘shipment’ of bears towards the end of this year and needs to have these areas up and running. Each ‘shipment’ represents one more bear bile farm that has been shut down. It is a long, delicate process of negotiation with the Government and with the bear bile farmer. AAF has to compensate the farmer for the loss of his income so they can continue to feed their families but in return for payment, the farmer must shut down the farm, give up all bears and surrender their licence, resulting in permanent closure.
What can you do to help?
- Write letters to the Chinese Embassy voicing your disgust at this practice and call for it to be banned [Find your local Chinese Embassy here]
- Visit Animals Asia’s website http://www.animalsasia.org/ and learn more and then spread the knowledge.
- Send a donation. At the end of the day, it comes down to dollars.
This obscenity has to be stopped.Assisi is luckier than many. He is a relatively young bear – around five years of age. He has suffered hugely in his short life, but his suffering has now ended. He has got a lifetime of freedom to look forward to – however long that is. His days in the sun are coming thanks to all the people who have generously given to the NZ Companion Animal Council / Animals' Voice magazine / SPCA campaign.
Assisi also has to thank one bear for his survival. That one, un-named bear reached out to Jill – literally – back in 1993 and asked for help. It is thanks to that bear, that more than 280 bears have been rescued from hell. It is because of that one bear that many more will see freedom. That anonymous bear never did.
As I sign-off on three unbelievable days of my life I want to thank Jill Robinson, Rainbow, Sailing, Charlie and Hayley, Heather and her amazing team for sharing just a snippet of life at Animals Asia Foundation. It has been a time of immense grief and one of joy and laughter. The team at Animals Asia live with this emotional rollercoaster ride of trauma, grief and joy every day. They are truly amazing.
The next issue of Animals' Voice magazine will carry more stories and pics of my visit.