On Saturday July 4th we went to the moon bear (asiatic bear) center in Chengdu. It is run by the organization, Animals Asia. The moon bear center is a place for bears who have been rescued from bear bile farms to heal, be rehabilitated and live out the rest of their lives in peace and comfort. Bear bile farming is an extremely hurtful and inhuman industry. They keep the Bears in what is called a crush cage and metal jacket for most of their lives (~ 30 years).
The crush cage is a cage that is just, big enough for the bear to fit in but not move around. The jacket is strapped around their body with a large metal pole going up their neck preventing their head from barely moving. This is done because to get the bile from the Bears a catheter is placed in their gallbladder. The farmers do not want the Bears to lick the open wounds to close up where the bile comes out. Sometimes the canines and claws are also extracted for the farmers safety, but harming the bear and causing them much pain. A lot of the times the Bears will have sores on their bodies and bite the bars causing them to loss or damage the rest of their teeth. Many of the Bears also have ptsd from all the trauma that has been brought on them. Bear bile does have medicinal properties such as helping ailments of the liver and gallbladder but their are cruelty free medicines that can alleviate the same ailments. in China farming Bears is still legal but there are laws to decrease the cruelty towards the animals such as no longer allowing crush cages or metal jackets. These laws are not enforced so these practices still continue.
Animals Asia works from many aspects to stop bear bile farming. They work with Traditional practitioners to find other sources of the same medicinal property that would not harm another animal. They also work with the farmers to help them find other sources of income because sometimes this is their only form of livelihood. Public awareness campaigns are also part of their strategy. They teach the public about the harms of bear bile farming as well as teaching tourists from South Korea that it is illegal to take back to their country. It is very great that the organization is coming at this problem from all the different angles. It is very important that they are not just taking the Bears from the farmers but that they realize that this is their livelihood and maybe all they know for work. They are also not just putting a band aid on the problem by rescuing the Bears but teaching the public about the bear bile farms and finding alternative solutions to using bear bile and trying to create policy around this subject. To rescue the Bears from the farms the farmers have to relinquish them over to animals Asia since it is still legal. Animals Asia just needs to keep teaching the public about alternatives as well as the cruelty that comes out of this practice.
The bears that have been rescued are now living a happy life. The center does any needed surgery on the Bears to make sure they are healthy. A lot of the Bears will always be on medicine to make sure they live a healthy life. Since there is not much room at the center the Bears have to join groups. Their are about 12 – 20 Bears living in one group in one yard. It can take time for the Bears to warm up to each other and have a safe living environment but when it works it is well worth it both for these bears and future bears. Their yards are full of enrichment toys, water, and swings. They hide food in different toys so it simulates how they would really forage for food in the wild. Their is one yard especially for Bears who are disabled in some way, either physically or mentally. Their is also a grave yard and a memory garden for the Bears who have passed away while at the center. They use to put crosses in front of the grave plots but Jill Robinson the CEO said that we don’t know what religion the Bears are so they decided to place the crescent moon shape by their graves. We were not allowed to go into the graveyard so as not to disturb them but we did walk around the memory garden. Each of the Bears at the center is given a name and is loved and cared for. Their are wooden blocks with each Bears name in English and in Chinese. It tells the date they were rescued, the date they passed away and the reason.
The center was a very emotional place, both happy and sad. It was wonderful to see the amazing life that these Bears are now given because of the wonderful things animals Asia is doing. it is sad to see and know that this cruelty is still happening.