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).
Discovered by Jill in 1993, this bear had been trapped in this small cage for years.
Jill with one of the first bears, subsequently rescued in 1995.
Finally rescued: the first five bears arrive at the rescue centre in Pan Yu.
In 1993, Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE walked onto a bear bile farm in China: this was her horrified reaction at what she saw:
"It's a torture chamber, it's a hell hole for animals. As you can see, they literally can't move, they can't stand up, they can't turn around, they can just about put their paws out of the cage to feed themselves." Hear Jill's voice
Jill was witnessing Asiatic black bears (also known as moon bears because of the yellow crescent of fur splashed on their chests) incarcerated in tiny wire cages, with rusting metal catheters implanted in their abdomens through which bile was being extracted for use in traditional medicine – medicine that, she later discovered, was completely replaceable by cheaper herbs and synthetics.
Jill began her tireless work in China, resolutely building relationships and negotiating with government departments to bring an end to this cruel practice.
In 1995, the Guangdong Ministry of Forestry closed down the original farm, which Jill had exposed and handed the bears to Jill and the AAF bear rescue team. Surgery and rehabilitation followed and in December 1996, seven of these bears were released into a sanctuary in Pan Yu, southern China. Today, four of them still survive and are safe, content, and free, having being moved to our Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu in 2009.
Throughout 1997 and 1998, intensive negotiations progressed with the Chinese authorities and we continued to promote the herbal alternatives for bear bile in traditional medicine.
In 1999, Animals Asia investigators accepted an invitation from Chinese authorities in Beijing to accompany them to 11 bear farms in Sichuan Province.
Negotiations commenced in relation to a new bear farming agreement and a major bear rescue.
Agreement signed in 2000
In June 2000, an unprecedented agreement was signed in Beijing, Sichuan and Hong Kong between Chinese officials and Animals Asia to co-operate on a major rescue of 500 bears in Sichuan Province with the long-term goal of ending bear farming.
In July 2000, an official signing ceremony with all parties present took place publicly in Hong Kong where the China Bear Rescue was announced to the world press.
The agreement summary
Short-term goal – To close down the worst farms in Sichuan and rescue 500 bears.
Medium-term goal – To expand this programme across China and continually reduce the number of bears on farms.
Long-Term Goal – End bear farming and provide care and refuge for the remaining number of bears.
Within this whole agreement, we are united in supporting the research into the manufacture and use of herbal and synthetic substitutes to bear bile and, together, will encourage all consumers to refuse the use of any products containing bear bile.
The parties will also continue to support the government policy of prohibiting the export of bile internationally and will launch public education programmes on the protection of wildlife and to preserve and protect the natural habitat of bears.
The Animals Asia Foundation has agreed to pay a level of compensation to the farmers in an effort to ensure that none of these bears are slaughtered for their parts and to help impoverished farmers move into alternative areas of employment. The Sichuan Government passes the original confiscated licences to Animals Asia and a countrywide policy in China ensures that no new bear farm licences are being issued.
You can follow the progress of the China Bear Rescue through our Rescue Diaries.