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).
On 22 February, Guizhentang held an open day for media, NGOs and other interested parties to visit their premises and witness the conditions and bile extraction.
Animals Asia was originally offered transparent and unrestricted access along with the media. We flew to Fujian province to attend and at the last minute we were denied access – as were all foreign media.
We held a press briefing away from the bear farm to give our point of view on the open day, addressing the issue of the free drip method of bile extraction:
From our experience of rescuing bears that have been farmed using this method, what can look from the outside to be a healthy bear, can be seriously sick and diseased internally.
The free drip fistula is a piece of skin that has to be re-pierced each time the bile is drained, because the wound tries to heal itself after the extraction. The fistula may look like an innocuous hole in the bear's abdomen, but can disguise a mass of disease and infection on the inside.
In order to drain bile through the free drip method, the gall bladder is stretched from its normal position, pulled against the abdominal wall, and attached to the skin.
From our experience, symptoms of disease often don't show themselves externally until they're into an advanced stage. Bears are particularly stoic creatures that tend to hide their pain and discomfort well.
Bears displayed outside at bear farms are often either younger bears not yet being used for bile extraction, or breeding bears, kept to breed more bears for bile extraction.
What can supporters do to help?
The practice of bear farming will end only by change coming from within China, and not because of pressure from overseas. Indeed, foreign pressure could even be counter-productive and cause the bears' suffering to continue.
We have seen an unprecedented outcry from the Chinese public and media over the last few days. It's heartening to see so many people in China coming out against this awful industry and there is growing hope that the bear farming industry may soon come to an end.
We appeal to our supporters to be patient and have faith in the groundswell of opposition to bear farming within China, and the approach that Animals Asia has taken. We have worked with the permission of the Chinese government to open and operate our sanctuary and to rescue bears from the bear farming industry. We've collected scientific evidence based on studying the bears in our care, and we've presented that evidence to the public.