Just when you think you’ve heard it all, that there is no story about the cruelty humans inflict upon non-human animals that could possibly shock you, you learn something new. Today, I learned about Chinese bear farms from Please Do Not Tap On the Glass, which is a great blog resource for anyone interested in animals, especially wildlife or species originating in Asia. I’ve learned a lot over there!
Anyway, apparently a number of species of bears are being farmed for their bile, which is highly prized in Chinese traditional medicine (despite the fact that herbal substitutes are widely available). This business is incredibly profitable and therefore an attractive venture to impoverished people in rural China. As a consequence, these bears are seen as mere money making machines (no different than how we treat factory farmed animals, by the way) and their care and comfort are not taken into consideration.
Asiatic black bears, known as Moon Bears because of the golden crescents on their chests, can end up spending up to 25 years in coffin-sized cages where they are ‘milked’ daily for their bile, often through crude and filthy catheters causing the animals intense pain.
It is just awful what humans can do.
BUT, on a more positive note, it is also amazing what humans can do. Since 1993, Jill Robinson, CEO and Founder of the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), has been working to rescue and rehabilitate these beautiful animals. She has also been working with the Chinese government to end bile farming, focusing on the welfare of the bears, but with an understanding of the economic issues faced by the people who operate these farms. In exchange for releasing the bears to AAF, these individuals are given compensation to either retire or start up a new business that doesn’t harm non-human animals. Attacking this issue from both sides, and understanding the human aspects of this problem, seems to me to be a powerful and effective way to go about this. So far AAF has rescued 247 bears. You can read more about their rescue efforts here.
Despite my intense disgust at learning about this, I am so happy to see someone like Jill fighting for these animals, and giving them a voice. Lately I have been trying to focus more on all of the wonderful things humans have been doing in fighting cruelty against animals. We might not be as big of a voice as I would like, but we ARE a voice, and people like Jill just prove how much can be accomplished if only we try.