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The truth of bear farming

Hours later, we were health-checking Lotus, whom we’d also called “Chengdu Truth” in Chinese. There are no words to describe our boiling rage at witnessing this skeleton sitting in a cage with a body so wasted that he couldn’t even lift his head.

Many of you reading this will remember another bear I named “Truth” on a farm years ago in Yunnan. We didn’t manage to save her, but I swore her death would not be in vain. Now here in Chengdu, we now had our own Truth, even more wasted than his namesake.

His badly abscessed shoulders exposed the brutality of callous injection attempts by the butchers on the farms. This poor bear had obviously been so sick that the so-called doctors had decided to punch inappropriate antibiotics into his muscle, delivering it by unsterile needles, which had ultimately caused painful open wounds now pouring with pus.

Under anaesthetic, the ultrasound images once again caused our hearts to sink...and, on the surgery table minutes later we saw a liver that had begun a cycle of cancer which had then “seeded” through his poor depleted body.

Truth lay there after death; tiny and vulnerable, with naked front limbs, paws that looked strangely human, and sunken hopeless eyes.

Hours earlier, these were the same eyes that had suspiciously followed our every move as we offered water he occasionally sipped, fruit he ignored and words of comfort that fell on deaf ears.

Here was an animal that made us turn away in shame knowing that our words of apology and sorrow were meaningless to a bear born of hope, but so utterly let down by a species that has shown it simply doesn’t care. That he died with this in his heart is almost too much to bear.

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