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Dear Mr Bear Farmer

While we were in Shandong rescuing your bears a few weeks ago, I heard that you’d told some of our Chinese staff that you felt sad seeing the bears laid out for their health-checks, because now you could see the full extent of their wounds as they were free of their cages. 

I wonder what went through your mind as you saw Oliver and his ridiculously stunted limbs, acknowledging that his cage confinement for 30 years had led to his tragic deterioration into a grotesquely unique “dwarf” bear. 

I wonder too how you felt looking at the open, bleeding wounds in the abdomens of most of the bears as they lay there sleeping on the tarpaulin, while our team were performing the necessary health-checks to determine just how sick they all were. 

Did their broken and desperate forms cause you to experience just one small pang of remorse remembering that just hours before we’d arrived, you had torn the metal corsets from their bodies and even tried to rip out the latex catheters from their gall bladders, which had been milking their bile for 10 long years. 

One of those bears we called Kylie. Our first vision of this beautiful copper-brown bear, was seeing her balancing painfully on her elbows and knees in the cage. Unable to lie on her abdomen, she knelt for hours, hardly able to breathe as the stabbing pains continued until we were finally able to reach her cage and provide her with a merciful anaesthetic to help her into oblivion and sleep – for just a few hours. 

As you saw the infected area pouring with pus, and noted the hernia surrounding it leaking purulent bile, did you also notice, as we did, the latex catheter that was jagged at the edges having been forcefully pulled and then torn from her damaged, bleeding gall bladder? Or the scars of a metal corset around her midriff and neck which had caused scabbing and skin irritation and loss of her hair? 

Did you notice the disgraceful condition of her teeth as our vets gently pulled her top and bottom lips back to reveal flattened edges of black and rotten canines, which had been hacked back to the gum? Did you see the rotten food and tissue lodged in these teeth and smell the putrid stench of her poor abused mouth, which would have seen unrelenting and searing pain as the nerves and pulp were exposed? 

How would you feel today, I wonder, if you knew that Kylie was dead. 

Weeks of tender, loving care, multiple surgeries to heal her abdominal wounds, and to remove 19 rotten teeth – even blessings by Buddhist monks – were futile in the end as her body gave up and she succumbed to those years of abuse on your farm. 

Strong words perhaps from someone who should be grateful that Kylie found herself at least in the care of those of us who were able to gently put her to sleep and allow her to put the decade of pain behind – resting at long last in merciful peace. But how sick we all are, once again, to see our surgery table doubling up as a mortuary slab – where our heartbroken team cut into the body of a dead bear, take the tissue samples so critical for our research, and cry for an animal so casually treated as a “thing” for profit and gain. 

If what you said to our staff is true, will you now join us in speaking out about this industry, admitting – as you must know in your heart – the reality of a trade that cripples and kills these stoic animals, and help us bring it more rapidly to an end? It is too late to help Kylie, but if you honestly reflect on bear farms today, August 2010, perhaps your words can still help the thousands of miserable Kylies patiently waiting for your testimony of truth. 

RIP Kylie from a team who loved you. 

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