years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
More than half of China now bear-farm free after pledges from 18 provinces
22 Dec 2009
Eighteen of mainland China’s 31 provinces and districts have committed to remaining bear-farm free and rooting out any hidden bile farms. This means that more than half of China is now free of the bile industry and committed to saying that way.
Together with the district of Shanghai, which is also bear-farm free but declined to take part in the pledge, these 18 areas represent 52 per cent of China’s population and 71 per cent of its land mass.
Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE said: “This is a very significant step forward for the welfare and conservation of endangered bears in China. In 2006, 15 provinces had bear farms – today, only 12 have farms.” According to official figures, the number of bear farms in China has dropped from 480 in the mid-1990s to 68 today, however Animals Asia and many officials believe that the total number of bears continues to grow.
“Sadly because of breeding on the farms and continued illegal trapping in the wild, the number of bears on farms in China has probably increased. But the action of the progressive leaders of these 18 regions in standing up publicly against this terrible industry is groundbreaking,” Ms Robinson said.
“We cannot commend these provinces highly enough for their courage and commitment – and we’re grateful for the leadership role shown by the CWCA in Beijing in saying a very powerful ‘no’ to the exploitation of one of China’s endangered flagship species.
“We have never been more hopeful of seeing the last bear farm close as this vision spreads into other provinces of China – one by one – until bear bile usage is a distant memory, and moon bears are accorded the same protection and respect as their endangered cousins, the pandas.”
Animals Asia’s China Director of External Affairs, Toby Zhang, said the development had come at a crucial time in the campaign to end bear farming. “Just a few days ago, the Anti-Poison Centre at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam revealed it had treated a number of people who had been rushed to the centre with acute inflammation of the wall of the stomach after consuming bear bile.
“We too have been warning about the obvious health risks of consuming a product that is contaminated with filth – and that is extracted from bears that are dying from liver cancer and pumped with antibiotics to keep them alive,” Mr Zhang said. “Animals Asia’s veterinary team has gathered shocking evidence of contamination in bile during its treatment of chronically ill bears rescued from farms.
“We have given this evidence – along with reports and warnings from independent pathologists in China and Vietnam – to our government partners in the Moon Bear Rescue, the CWCA. This information has been passed on to the relevant departments, and together with the CWCA, we’re waiting to hear back,” he said.
Mr Zhang said the growing awareness of the health implications of consuming bear bile was one of the reasons he was hopeful that more provinces would soon sign on as bear-farm free.
“Recently, we co-sponsored a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) conference in Beijing that was attended by 250 practitioners and specialists, all committed to finding ways to end the use of endangered species in TCM. A number of speakers warned about the health effects of consuming bear bile, so the message is definitely getting out there,” he said.
The leaders of the 18 provinces are also keen to advance conservation, research and public education programmes that will benefit wildlife in their provinces. Animals Asia has pledged to support such initiatives and has created a “Wildlife Welfare and Conservation Fund” to help protect and foster respect for wild and endangered species, such as China’s moon bears.
Leaders of 16 of the 18 provinces (or provincial-level autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the Central Government) came together at a gathering hosted by the CWCA and Animals Asia Foundation in Tianjin, northern China last week.
The meeting was attended by Madam Yang Baijin, Secretary General of the CWCA, her deputy, Li Qing Wen, and Cao Liang, head of the Industry Department of the CWCA. Ms Yang praised Animals Asia as the only international NGO working in China to have made a lasting commitment backed by major capital expenditure. (Our moon bear sanctuary in Chengdu has taken in 266 bile farm bears and employs more than 150 people.)
Bear farming is still legal in China, however it has been illegal to set up a new farm since 2000, when Animals Asia signed an agreement with the CWCA and Sichuan Forestry to rescue 500 bears from the worst farms and to work towards ending the industry. To date, Animals Asia has rescued 266 bears from farms in China and 31 bears in Vietnam. Those that survive, live out their lives at our sanctuaries.
The 18 provinces or districts to commit to staying bear-farm free are:
Anhui, Beijing, Chongqing, Gansu, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shanxi, Tianjin, Tibet and Xinjiang.