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).
Eleven of the 28 bears rescued by the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) from brutal bile farms are now dead, just 10 days after they were saved on March 31.
One emaciated bear brought to the AAFs rescue centre in Chengdu was dead on arrival, his body still warm. One died of prior injuries and eight more have been euthanized – the last one today (7 April). Each was riddled with chronic, liver cancer, as well as a litany of other agonising ailments.
This latest rescue brings to 247 the total number of bears Animals Asia has saved from lives of torture on bile farms in China.
AAF founder and CEO, Jill Robinson, said she the number of bears in such atrocious condition was unprecedented, but that these bears had not died in vain. “Each bear that dies as a result of the barbaric conditions in which they were kept on the farms leaves behind a legacy of vital information, which will help to bring this industry down,” she said.
Robinson, who has witnessed countless cases of severe animal cruelty over the years, said she was totally shocked by the condition of the 28 bears when they arrived at the sanctuary from a farm in Ziyang, Sichuan Province on Monday night (31 March 2008). “All were in impossibly small cages, all skeletal, wounded in various ways, and terrified of what would happen in this next stage of their lives,” she said.
“Some are blind, some have shattered teeth and grotesquely ulcerated gums, some have shocking necrotic wounds – their flesh literally rotting down to the bones – and all out of their minds with fear. Most had open wounds in their abdomens from the free-drip method of bile-extraction, with some leaking bile, blood and pus,” Robinson said.
In July 2000, AAF signed a landmark agreement with the Sichuan authorities to rescue 500 bears in the province, to work towards the elimination of bear farming in China and to promote the herbal alternatives to bear bile.
The farmers are compensated financially so they can either retire or set up in another business. Their licences are taken away permanently.
But many farmers claim that a new catheter-free, free-drip method of bile extraction – involving the creation of a permanent hole in the abdomen – is painless for the bears and that the industry, therefore, is now “humane”.
Robinson, however, disputes this claim as flying in the face of common sense – “this is something that a 10-year-old would understand – a hole gouged into the abdomen and gall bladder of a sentient mammal is neither sanitary nor humane. The farmers and those who believe them should be ashamed.”
She says the latest batch of tormented, disfigured bears provides further proof that the trade is as brutal as ever.
Consumers in China, Japan and Korea have the highest demand for bear bile. Bear parts, bile powder and bile products are also found in Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the US and Canada. It is illegal for bear products to be exported from China, but the black market trade is thriving. The bile is used in traditional medicine for a range of complaints including fever, liver disease and sore eyes. Synthetic and herbal alternatives are readily available.
Two years ago, the European Parliament in Brussels launched a campaign to urge the Chinese government to end bear farming by 2008.
More than 7,000 bears are still trapped in farms throughout China. Some have been incarcerated for more than 20 years.