Bear Farming

Bear Farming is a huge animal rights issue in China and something that has been on my mind for a while now. I was completely unaware of this cruel industry before I came to China, but lately I’ve been doing research on the practice and it actually makes me sick to my stomach. I was in tears as I read articles on the subject and watched documentaries based on the practice of bear farming and the treatment of the captured bears. It shocked me enough to actually want to do something about this; to raise awareness, volunteer, donate…something! So here’s a bit of information about an unsettling issue that I simply can’t ignore:

Near to 250 bear farms exist in China, the main provinces being Heilongjiang and Jilin in the north and Sichuan and Yunan in the southeast, housing up to 10 000 bears. The mission of bear farming is to extract bear bile, which is used in an ancient medicine that the Chinese believe cures illness and improves eye sight. Infuriatingly enough, modern doctors agree that it’s more practical to use recently developed pill-substitutes, which are cheaper and work better than bear bile ever could.

The horrific bile extraction method goes as follows: workers drill a permanent hole into the bear’s abdomen and gull bladder. During the “milking” process, a large, metal tube is poked into the hole and breaks the membrane, allowing the bile to flow out and be collected. Naturally, the open hole becomes infected quickly, causing disease to spread and (eventually) a slow, agonizing death for the bear. The videos I saw of the milking process show the bears in small, confining cages that they can’t turn around in or sit up, with large metal contraptions fastened around their bodies. This happens up to 2 times a day, and at some farms, 3 or 4 times a day. The bears not only have to suffer this torturous milking treatment, but are also physically abused by their handlers. Many bears are found with missing limbs, open wounds, or have gone blind from their unethical treatment. In one case, a bear was in such pain from the milking that it gnawed it’s on paw off.

Recently, a huge wave of awareness about the cruelty of bear farms have been spread throughout China. Since the early 21st century, bear rescue shelters have opened up in not only China, but Japan, Vietnam and Korea as well. These shelters rehabilitate the mental and physical conditions of the few fortunate bears that escape death on bear farms. Veterinarians from all over the world are coming to China to perform life saving surgeries and assist in their rehabilitation. Once the bears are able to walk and eat on their own again, they are sent to bear sanctuaries located in a few cities throughout China, where they are granted privileges they never experienced for most of their lives: freedom, good food, cool water to swim in, nature, and peace. Through a huge amount of donations and the Chinese Government stepping in and confiscated bears from their prisons, these rescue shelters have been able to rehabilitate up to 350 bears successfully, while raising awareness and educating locals on how to take better care of their natural wildlife. It’s only the beginning to a long journey of fighting for bear rights, but at least it’s a happy ending for a few victims of this disgusting industry.

There is one prominent bear sanctuary in Chengdu, and I will definitely be visiting it when I go in April. Here’s a link to the website if you want to take a look, but I’ll be taking a lot of pictures once I’m there as well:

This issue has affected me to the point where I’m actually considering volunteering for a few months next winter, once my contract in Hohhot is finished and after I’ve been home for a while. This is something I’ve become deeply passionate about, enough to dedicate some of my time to do what I can for these unfortunate creatures. Right now, raising awareness and donating is the best I can do, but this is not an issue I’m going to forget anytime soon. Here’s another link to the Animals Asia website, if you want to read more about it or want to donate:

Thanks for reading, the more aware we are of this issue the better chance these bears have of avoiding extinction and torture at the hands of bear farms.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lois Christianson
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 02:04:41

    Hi Stephoph
    What a sad story, those poor bears. Glad you are helping in your own way. It’s hard to picture . When we go to Keewatin we see them walking the streets or climbing trees by Aunty Marilyn’s.
    I. too saw War Horse. It was just great.
    Its snowing here to-day Your next chapter sounds absolutely exciting. Har to believe a year is almost up.
    Miss and Love you


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