By Jill Robinson MBE, Animals Asia founder and CEO
If you want to know what the beginning of the end of bear bile farming looks like - this is it.
This year a bear bile farmer turned to us, renounced his industry, calling it cruel and hopeless, and is working with us to provide a future for the animals he previously farmed.
In China, the major pharmaceutical buyer of bear bile is now investing heavily in finding a replacement, backed by government funding.
This year, in Vietnam, the figures for bears caged by the bile industry dropped below 2,000 for the first time.
All of the above were down to the same reason. The demand for bear bile is collapsing.
And this is where it gets really hard for us. And yes, we are feeling it.
Taking over Nanning Bear Farm and turning it into sanctuary has been a huge undertaking. It has been a stressful year that has stretched staff and finances to the absolute limit. We did it because we believed then, and now, that it was the right thing to do.
Likewise in Vietnam we opened four new enclosures as part of our agreement with the Government to rescue more bears. We now have the capacity to do just that. Those spaces will fill quickly and we're committed to two more enclosures beyond this.
The bear bile industry is crumbling. It will not happen overnight. There are years of work and challenges ahead of us but the tipping point has been reached.
This industry will fold and we need to redouble our efforts to find solutions – and sanctuary – for the victims, the bears. We won't fail them.
We are blessed with a supportive public in China and Vietnam, and with supporters across the world that have shared our vision and have worked hard to help us reach this position. Now we all need to work harder to reach our goal.
The challenges will continue to get tougher, but cages are opening and eyes that were once dull and hopeless are bright and curious. It's becoming easier to believe the bears will find the sanctuary they deserve.