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No sweetness for “Treacle”

After the heartache of “Peace”, we so much wanted to have some good news to lift everyone’s hearts here in Chengdu. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be. With so many sick and injured bears, we knew that our prioritisation of these poor creatures was imperative in order to bring the suffering of the worst to an end. Depressingly, we knew too that, by doing this job well, we would of course be ending our day with yet another post mortem.

“Treacle” was a bear so, so sick it is hard to write this message without resorting to violent accusation of the people responsible for his despair. As our boys offloaded him from the truck the night before, he didn’t seem so bad; tucking into a cocktail of fruit and guzzling down water like an animal that had obviously never experienced the simple choice of eating and drinking at will.

But early the next morning, Treacle (we gave him this name because his blood was thick from dehydration) was lying almost prone in his cage with blood gushing from the “fistula” in his abdomen that had previously drained his bile. 

Prioritising him first for a health check – ahead of other sick bears we were desperate to reach – Treacle (pictured below with Senior Vet Heather on the right) was anaesthetised and laid out on the poly-tunnel floor as the examination began. The silence conveyed the shock of everyone in the team as we saw a bear that had been butchered by men on the farms who had not given a jot for the sentient, intelligent animal in their violent clutches.

His canine teeth had been hacked away – with pulp and nerves exposed. A black hole of infection had gouged its way into his upper jaw and sinuses, causing excruciating pain. His paw tips were chopped away, ensuring claws would never grow again and cause damage to the brutal human extractors of his bile. And the bristle-like crude and smelly scrubbing brushes on his paw pads, showed that this poor bear had not walked on solid ground for years.

Most shocking of all was the giant mass on his liver that immediately showed up on the ultrasound – revealing the “norm” we have come to know for bear farmed bears – inoperable tumours. As Treacle was euthanised on the floor, never to have romped in the spring, and surrounded by the only friends he had ever known, the team wept unashamedly together.

The post-mortem, which we’d expected would end late in the day, was finished in record time. As Senior Vet Heather put down her instruments, she turned to me and said, “We’re getting too good at this.” How sad it is to admit that she’s right.

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