Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fly Me To The Moon Bears

UK expatriate, Jill Robinson MBE, founded the Animals Asia Foundation when she discovered how thousands of Asiatic black bears (a.k.a. Moon Bears) were being raised in factory farm conditions on Chinese bear bile farms (the bile is sold for use in traditional medicines). After years of tireless campaigning, the Moon Bear Rescue Centre was established in 2000 following an unprecedented agreement with the Chinese authorities to release 500 farmed bears. The Moon Bear Rescue Centre is open to the public, and visitors travel for miles to see the bears experience freedom after spending decades in tiny crush cages.

The delegates of the Asia for Animals Conference 2011 were privileged enough to be taken on a day tour of the Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan. It was a moving and magical experience for all of us.

Moon bears may have to spend up till 30 years of their lives in small, cramped cages in unsanitary conditions for the bear bile trade. It is a myth that bears for the bile trade are raised in hygienic and comfortable conditions. Fresh food and water is rarely available and the conditions are unsafe, unsanitary and cruel.

Caged moon bears frequently bash their heads against the bars of their cages in an attempt to stimulate their intelligent minds.

Moon bears are made to wear metal jackets which crush their torsoes in order to facilitate the extraction of bear bile.

A legal breakthrough for Jill´s team. And this is how the Moon Bear Rescue Centre came to be...

Caged farm bears being transported to the sanctuary.

Veterinarians performing life saving surgery on rescued bears. The bears suffer a wide range of ailments and injuries in the bear bile farms and need immediate medical attention.

Living in cramped cages often result in extensive scarring.

RIP Little Mouse. I cannot get his gentle face out of my mind.

Thank you, dear readers of Daily Mail, for your generosity!

Bears kicking it at their clubhouse. Humans not invited.
Bears love to climb trees, and so the sanctuary staff have to install bamboo sheaths around the trees to prevent them from climbing certain trees. If the tree were to break, the bears might fall against the electric fence, or over the fence and into the enclosure of other bears, posing a safety threat.

One of the living quarters for the quarantined/ aggressive / antisocial bears. They will be let out on their own later when the other bears are inside. As you can see, this den is enriched with stimulating toys, too.

Dr. Monica, one of the chief veterinarians, briefing us upon arrival at the Rescue Centre.

What is bear bile used for?
To con gullible Chinamen into parting with their money, that's what. Pshaw.

Do we need bear bile?
We DON'T! There are better, safer, humane alternatives to bear bile!

Bear bile might be harmful to you! It's definitely harmful to the bears! Boycott the bear bile trade!

Farmed bears face not only physical but psychological trauma and this may present problems in the rehabilitation and reintegration process.

Ooooh, itchy! Skritch, skritch!

These friendly bears approached us for a closer look. I am amazed at their capacity for forgiveness and love, given the horrifying ordeal they had to go through in bear bile farms.

Another friendly and curious bear approaches us, much to our delight.

A moon bear conga line!

This sweet bear kept making clucking noises at us. Dr. Monica explained that this could indicate curiosity and friendliness. The bear didn't see us as a threat.

Bear playground -- perfect for a real-life Teddy Bears' Picnic!

Sowmnya and me and and bears in the background.

Sathya and me and bears in the background.

Strike a pose! What a handsome fellow this bear is!

To learn more about the Animals Asia Foundation, please visit their official website.

If you plan on visiting the Rescue Centre on your next trip to China, please click on this link.

For a map of the Rescue Centre, click here.

What Can You Do To Help End The Bear Bile Trade?

(i) Boycott bear bile products (no matter how low the percentage of authentic bile in the product) and advise your friends to do the same.

(ii) If you are recommended bear bile products while on tour abroad, decline firmly and politely. THEN send an email to the travel agency upon your return, expressing your displeasure and disappointment and expressing the hope that they will take that particular destination out of their future tour itinerary.

(iii) Do you know of any traditional Chinese medicine shops offering bear bile products? Then please report it to the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019 356 4194 or Send them a text message or e-mail with particulars on the product sold, the location and address of the shop, and your contact information.

Together, we can put an end to cruelty.


Cali said...

You will be happy to know that possession of bear gall bladders is a felony in the US. The only legal possession is by bear hunters with legal tags for each bear and gall bladder. It is illegal to sell them to anyone, ever!

Recently the Department of Fish and Game has been so rabid in their apprehension of gall bladder traders that they have participated in entrapping Chinese nationals. One Professor that I know of at our local university was harassed by the DF&G under cover officers trying to sell him a gall bladder. He told them he was not interested REPEATEDLY for MONTHS until they eventually wore him down. As soon as he agreed to buy one (just to get them off his back,) they sold it to him and then immediately arrested him. I know this because my mother is a bail agent and he told her what had happened.

I am unsure of the disposition of the case. He told my mother he was going back to China as soon as his case was completed. I sincerely hope he was able to prove entrapment.

Pat said...

It was painful to read this, and even more painful to see those pictures of those bears in tiny cages. How much more painful it must be for the bears themselves - I cannot even begin to imagine.

I cannot understand how we can be so unthinkingly cruel to our fellow-creatures.

Pak Zawi said...

How could human do such an inhumane things towards such beautiful animals as this bears? Well for some money they could do even worse things to fellow human beings.

A Big Kid with an Old Soul... said...

Fantastic & Educational Post Ee Lynn!!! Good stuff! Poor little Bear! The pictures are very painful to look at :( I remember the amount of tears streaming down when Jill was showing the Bear bile raid in 2009. Selfish humans - exploiting voiceless animals. Even Dancing Bears its just goddamn awful and cruel so that their keeper could earn some income whipping the Bears to dance and perform degrading tricks! :(

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Cali, Pat, Pak Zawi and Nic,

Thank you all for your kind comments. I can feel your love for the bears despite the pain you must feel at the sight of the bears' suffering.

We were all very sad when we were first brought to the education centre to view the exhibits on bear bile farming. It caused us so much pain to view the photos, and so much shame too that our fellow humans could do this to these beautiful, intelligent and magnificient fellow Earthlings. We felt much better after visiting the rescued bears in their enclosures, and seeing for ourselves that they were not so traumatised that they hated us. I think animals can tell who means them harm and who doesn't, and they respond accordingly. This makes them far wiser and more intelligent than humans, in my eyes at least.

Ultimately, our sorrow and fear can't help our animal friends. When my brother visited the SPCA last year, I told him that his tears cannot help the animals find homes. Our hands-on efforts and direct contributions are the only things that can help to end animal suffering.

So let's work together to educate others on the cruelty of bear bile farming. My mother did the right thing when she went on tour and was urged to purchase bear bile products. She spoke out to everyone -- the tour operator, the bus driver, the other tour group participants -- about the cruelty of bear bile farming, and refused to enter the facility. When we returned, we emailed the travel agency and complained about the fact that they had included the bear bile sales facility in their travel itinerary without informing the clients in advance, and asserted that if we had known, we would not have engaged the services of their tour company.

I hope more people do the same thing and voice out. It's not the voice of the activists that we should fear, it's the silence of the silent majority.

Ellen Whyte said...

When I become ruler of the universe, bear bile products will be banned. Good post Ee Lynn.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks, Ellen! I know you will! Let me know when the Universal Elections will be held, I will make sure I vote for you. On the plus side, more and more countries are banning bear bile products and more and more people are speaking out. The young people in China, on their own initiative, started The Big Wave, a nationwide protest against the public listing of a pharmaceutical company offering bear bile products and funding bear bile farms, and calling for an end to bear bile farming. We believe the tipping point isn't far away. For more heartening news, see here:

Cat-from-Sydney said...

I must thank my lucky stars for my being born as a cat, and not as a bear. At least, no one will farm me for my bile. Humans are indeed weird. Bear's bile, tiger's milk, monkey's brain...when there are so many herbs and plants available out there. har har har *angry laughs*

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-From-Sydney,
Humans are not weird. Humans are foolish, gullible, exploitative and/or cruel. But humans can also be just, brave, ethical, selfless and compassionate. It's a matter of choice.

Unknown said...

Sad to hear about the horrifying treatment of the moon bears.The same fate goes to the tigers for TCM.


Dear Adik Lynn ,

As usual am very proud of you. Hopefully this China Trip will add more knowledge to you in continuing your noble effort protctong the animals. Keep it up.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Keats and Abang Rizal,

The bears need all the help they can get. The rescue centre can house only 500, but there are thousands out there in bear bile farms. The solution is not in expanding the rescue centre, it is in keeping bears OUT of bear bile farms and keeping them safe in the wild. So do talk to others about it whenever the issue crops up, whenever anyone talks about eating wildlife parts, or watching roadside wildlife shows while on tour, or going to circuses and tiger/bear farms or resorting to traditional medicine. Education is key. If we can talk to 10 people each, and even if only one out of 10 listens, that means one less bear would have to die.