Animals Asia rescues 33 bears to end bear bile farming in Vietnam hotspot

04 November 2015

Animal welfare charity Animals Asia has ended bear bile farming in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam after rescuing an unprecedented 33 bears in 6 months.

The final bear, named Hercules by Animals Asia, was rescued last week.

Quang Ninh had previously been a hotspot for bile farming – welcoming domestic and international tourists to its farms.

The rescue on 29 October is the culmination of more than eight years of campaigning in the province by Animals Asia.

Vietnam still has over 1,200 bears caged and facing regular bile extraction. The bears – mostly moon bears – suffer from tiny cages, inadequate diets, little or no veterinary care and painful bile extractions. The bile is used in traditional medicine.

Victoria during the health check 1

The rescues followed a decree from Vietnam’s Prime Minister that the province must end bear bile farming. The Quang Ninh Forestry Protection Department (FPD) was also instrumental in the rescues, working with bile farmers and clearing the way for Animals Asia’s rescue teams.

L to R: Animals Asia's Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen, founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE, and FPD staff are meeting Hercules

The decree was prompted by an international campaign by Animals Asia that saw nearly 120,000 signatures from animal lovers across the globe added to an open letter to the Prime Minister. They were joined by 12 Hanoi-based diplomats – and celebrities Ricky Gervais, Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Olivia Newton John and Ali MacGraw.

The fact that the last bear was picked up from the local FPD office – rather than from the bile farm itself – is indicative of the fight it has taken to ensure all bears were handed over. Many of the bear owners had become rich and powerful from bile farming. Months of pressure meant this owner eventually gave up the bear, but refused to allow Animals Asia to pick him up from his property.

Song Sot in the transport cage (1)

The 33 bears rescued from the province have all been relocated to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park, where they’ve joined 115 other moon and sun bears being rehabilitated and cared for by Animals Asia’s expert bear and vet teams.

Bears being loaded onto the transport truck

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, said:

“That we could help bring an end to bile farming in a place previously known as the worst bear bile farming province in Vietnam is something to celebrate, and also a reason to look to the future with optimism. Vietnam has shown that it wants this situation to end, and that it’s capable of taking the steps to put an end to it once and for all. 

“Now that we’ve helped put an end to bear bile farming in Quang Ninh, we have a template to apply to the rest of the country. Together with the cooperation of the Vietnam Traditional Medicine Association – who wants to eliminate the usage of bear bile in traditional medicine – we now have a realistic plan for eliminating bear bile farming in Vietnam by the target year of 2020."

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson said:

“Once again in Vietnam, we were allowed to put our message across – with the backing of tens of thousands of animal lovers here and across the world. That message was heard, and the authorities took action and did the right thing. We are so grateful for that.

“Now 33 bears have started new lives after decades in cages, and Vietnam is closer to ending bear bile farming once and for all. This has been a Herculean effort by all in the Animals Asia team to see the province of Quang Ninh bear farm-free – and we are thankful, grateful and determined to keep pushing for countrywide closure of all bile farms soon.”

Animals Asia has rescued over 570 bears from the bile industry in China and Vietnam.


A photo posted by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Oct 30, 2015 at 6:40am PDT