For many the main attraction of a trip to China is typically a visit to The Great Wall, for me it is a visit to Animals Asia Foundation. Thus, my very first stop in China was to Chengdu to visit Animals Asia and their sanctuary for rescued Moon bears. Since meeting the founder at an Asia for Animals conference a few years ago I have been a huge fan of all that is Animals Asia and Jill Robinson. It was at that conference that I first learned of the horrendous act of bear bile farming occuring in China (and Vietnam). On bear bile farms bears are confined in coffin like cages for their whole lives, having the bile drained from their gall bladders through a metal catheter. The bears can exist like this for up to 30 years unable to stand or turn around. Most or the bears are riddled with injuries, disease and deformities. The bile is in turn used in traditional Asian medicine. The cruelty involved in this practice is astronomical and so is Animals Asia’s devotion to ending it. Jill founded Animals Asia in 1998 and since then has convinced 20 of main land China’s 31 provinces to become bear-farm free. She has also opened sanctuaries for bears in China and Vietnam and has rescued 361 bears from bear farms.
I was thrilled to get the opportunity to witness first hand the work of Animals Asia and to meet the amazing rescued bears who live at the sanctuary.
Each of the bears have lived through a horrendous past on bile farms. It was heartbreaking to see so many of them still showing phyiscal and mental scars but watching their graceful and forgiving manner was inspirational. What is equally as inspirational is Animals Asia Foundation’s tireless and determined work fighting Chinese bureaucracy, tradition and corruption to end the suffering and torture of these bears. Thankfully, Jill and all of those at Animals Asia are seeing results. The organization is well known throughout China and more and more people are in support of shutting down bear farming for good.
Visiting the bears in China was definitely the highlight of my travels through the country. I feel extremely privileged for the experience and am especially honoured to have had the opportunity to witness the true love and devotion that Jill Robinson feels for these bears. I have heard her speak on a couple of occasions but seeing her with the bears was truly special. It is clear that she will continue the work that she started over 20 years ago and will not give up until bear bile farming is a thing of the past. This gives me comfort.
Sadly, there are still over 10,000 bears imprisioned on farms in China today, so the fight for their freedom is far from over. Please check out Animals Asia’s website for much more information.