When did humans become anthropocentric?
Anthropocentrism is the idea that humans are the final aim and end of the universe, that everything is viewed and interpreted in terms of the human experience and values. The idea that humans are not only above animals, but also above the environment and are on earth to be served by all other species and the planet itself. This theme became apparent in our recent experience at the Moon Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu, which is run by the Animals Asia Foundation. As social workers working in communities that are not our own, we understand the importance and vigilance we must take in understanding the cultural and historical perspectives we find ourselves in.
In China, bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as everyday products such as toothpaste, tonics, and wine. Bear bile farming is the practice in which the bile is extracted from the bears gall bladder, it is a surgical procedure done without anesthesia or sterile equipment, and results in major infections and a permanent hole in their abdomen in order to have continual access to the bile. The bears are kept in small cages that are very narrow, in which they’re unable to stand up, turn around, or move in any real way. As a result of these conditions, the bears get very sick and the bile can consist of blood, pus, urine, feces, and cancer cells (see photo below).
At this point you may be thinking, how can this happen and how can people do this to bears, however, this is comparable to how we treat animals considered livestock in the U.S. through factory farming. There are proven herbal alternatives to bear bile, however, popular culture dictates the consumption of bear bile. There are also alternatives to factory farming in the U.S. such as small scale local farms, open pastures, and the consumption of plant based protein, but similarly to the consumption of bear bile, meat-based protein (from factory farms) continues to be the standard.
In both China and the U.S, regulations that would protect the welfare of animals are limited.However, there are organizations such as Animals Asia working alongside the Chinese government towards positive change. Animals Asia operates with the help of public donations, with donors worldwide. As of today, they have rescued over 400 bears and are continuously working hard to educate the public about the human health and animal welfare issues associated with bear bile farming.
On Friday June 13th, we were given the opportunity to visit The Moon Bear Rescue Center, run by Animals Asia and we were exposed to the urgency in their work. We got to meet some of the bears that were rescued and despite the trauma that they had experienced, many of them were thriving under the loving care of the staff. We learned that each bear has a different personality and that they have different needs. Susie, our Moon Bear Guide, informed us that food is hidden as a form of enrichment because although the bears are living in a paradise compared to where they came from, they ideally belong in the wild. In addition to hiding food, staff at the rescue make “ice cream” out of fruits and veggies for the bears on hot days in Chengdu.
Our experience at The Moon Bear Rescue was both educational and very emotional. We were glad to know that Animals Asia is stepping in to rescue Moon Bears and to also provide education, however, this experience also left us with heavy hearts. The fact that places like the Moon Bear Rescue Center have to exist is unfortunate and also begs many questions that do not have easy answers. We hope that this post will prompt questions and encourage further research in others. If you are interested in learning more about bear bile farming and how you can help visit the Animals Asia Website or the Animals Asia Facebook page!
This is where we leave you for today but be on the look-out for our second blog from China!
This is table for 3 signing off…
Whitney, Stephanie and Skye