Chinese pharmacists join our bear campaign!

Pinch me. Because surely I must be dreaming. This morning's event in the centre of downtown Chengdu will go down in the Animals Asia history as another turning point in our campaign to end bear farming in China.

As a new initiative in our Healing without Harm campaign, Susan had done an incredible job of convincing 33 Chinese medicine shops to throw away their entire stock of bear bile products and pledge that they would never again prescribe or sell anything to do with bears.

Coinciding with the death of our beautiful Andrew on 9th February 2006, there was no doubt who our poster boy should be – his image shining out from the pharmacy windows on posters and stickers that carried slogans in Chinese making the owners’ feelings clear:

"We don't sell bear bile products."

"More than 10,000 bears are suffering because of bile extraction. Many have chronic gall bladder disease and liver cancer."

"You don't need bear bile products. And, they threaten your health."

"Please don't buy any bear bile products!" 

Launching this initiative at Dahua Pharmacy, our staff made themselves busy from early morning putting up the posters and a huge backdrop, and placing stickers on the shop doors and on the counters selling the drugs.

Shop owner, Mdm Cui kindly let us place two large jars containing livers from the bears we have loved and lost - one "normal" and one diseased so that people could clearly see that bear farming was killing the bears – and potentially killing consumers of bear bile too. The media crowded around and took notes as Rainbow and I asked who in their right mind would take a such a substance from animals dying in agony with their organs rotting away?

Students from Chengdu Traditional Chinese Medicine University and Chengdu 9th Middle School, and volunteers from a local dog and cat shelter "Loving Homes" chanted and held slogans and placards high in front of the local media, and the crowd of interested onlookers grew. 

At one point, it seemed as if we were going to be told by the police to leave. Apparently the Mayor of Chengdu was due to do his rounds of the city in preparation for Chinese New Year and it was felt that a demonstration would be seen in a negative light. Incredibly, they relented (as we had permission to be in the street) and with smiling faces told us "we know what you do" and gave us the thumbs up!

The finale came as the shop owners and Animals Asia staff piled the bear bile products high in a round metal container – and set the whole lot alight. The flames billowed up into the Chengdu sky as the media filmed and took photographs, and the products turned to dust. One elderly lady was heard to say it was exactly what should happen to bear bile and the atmosphere was electric as everyone clapped and cheered.

Our own life-size bear, Moonie (once again superbly played by Jacky in a moon bear suit) enchanted the public and had his picture taken in front of Franzi tiny cage, which had Caesar's full-metal jacket balanced on top. 

The students proudly held high more placards, including one that featured a famous Chinese cartoonist Heibei and which announced:

Cow gallstones banned – we're still alive!
Tiger bone banned – we're still alive!
If bear bile was banned – we'd still be alive!

Mdm Cui faced the cameras and showed the intelligence and compassion of her peers when she said: "As traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and entrepreneurs, we should all do our part and stop selling bear bile products. I hope that more and more drug stores join us and help to end bear farming."

And then it was on to the next location – Chengdu Super Pharmacy – for a repeat of all the above. The walk there was memorable too – a group of dedicated, determined people with one pure motive and all shouting out slogans as we walked. The traffic stopped, people took photographs with their cell phones and I just wanted to burst with pride.

At the pharmacy, one final addition in memory of Andrew was added to the event. During the burning of the bile products we threw in a symbolic cardboard bear cage made last night by Rainbow's wife Hong Chuan and repeated our promise, together, never to give up until bear farming ends. This final act saw Andrew's beautiful face looking down at us from the posters and reminded us of the lines of our poem, Spirit of Hope:

"Please look upon the others and give them promise of hope soon, and
tell them to be patient, and proudly wear the moon."

And our dream for China 2010 – that more bears will have sanctuary where they truly belong – in the wild.

For more on our launch, and some great photos, please see here.

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