The Moon Bear Rescue
In farms across China, there are officially 6,764 Asiatic Black Bears, imprisoned for up to 22 years in tiny metal cages no bigger than their own bodies. Known as Moon Bears because of the beautiful golden crescents on their chests, these bears are milked daily for their bile through rusting metal catheters implanted deep into their gallbladders. The bears live a life of torture before dying agonisingly slowly as a result of chronic infection. Following her horrific discovery of bear farming in 1993, Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, began tireless work within China, resolutely building relationships and negotiating with government departments to bring an end to this cruel practice. Jill's dedication and skill in handling culturally sensitive matters led to the signing of a landmark agreement in July 2000 with the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Sichuan Forestry Department. The agreement pledges to free 500 suffering Moon Bears in Sichuan and to work towards the total elimination of bear farming. Sanctioned by the Central Government Department in Beijing, this historic agreement was the first accord between the Chinese Government and any outside animal welfare organisation.
Here, in Jill's own words, is the story to the Moon Bear Rescue...
"Sometimes we receive a message in life which is hard to ignore. For me, that message came in 1993 when I walked onto a bear farm in China for the very first time. Nothing prepared me for that moment and it was with utter disbelief that I witnessed a scene which would subsequently change my life and which would start the dream of the Moon Bear Rescue.
"Bear farming was virtually unknown in the West and it was only when I heard rumours of a bear farm operation across the border in southern China, that I joined a tour group from Hong Kong to witness the practice at first hand. Whilst the bear farmer and his wife proudly demonstrated their bile preparations, I stole away from the group and found some stairs leading to a room below. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, it was as if a horror story was unfolding itself frame by frame. Row after row of tiny wire cages held living, breathing bears as prisoners - bears, I was later to discover, which had spent 13 years of their life behind bars. Resembling victims of medieval torture, these pitiful animals turned around to reveal infected, gaping wounds in their stomachs, from which protruded rusting, metal catheters. At one point I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a female moon bear reaching out through the cage. Without thinking, I took her paw and, whilst gazing into sad, dark, unblinking eyes, made a pledge that one day I'd be back to set her free.
"From that moment, negotiations with the Chinese government began and I found myself in the middle of a complex, emotional issue which, not only concerned the welfare of the bears but, surprisingly that of the people who raised them. As meetings with officials and practitioners and consumers of oriental medicine took place, a greater understanding was evolving on both sides, with growing recognition that, although bear bile had held a significant place in Chinese medicine, there was no doubt that it could now easily, and cheaply, be replaced with herbs. For many of the bears, this conclusion came too late, but for those who are finally seeing their freedom, the original pledge made in 1993 has now become a reality.
"Please join us as the Moon Bear Rescue unfolds and rejoice with us that animals who were destined to die, caged and alone, are at last living a life close to that for which they were born."
More detailed information can be found on the Animals Asia website. Click on their logo below for the link to their site.