Bears have been persecuted for centuries for their body parts, which are used in some Chinese quack medicines. Their bile is especially in demand, as it is the only mammalian source of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA).
In order to satisfy this demand, and following its usual disregard for human and animal rights, the Chinese government has encouraged the setting up of bear bile factories, in which bears are kept in metal coffins, with permanent open wounds, and are “milked” of their bile.
Today, there are around 480 bear factories, housing 9,000 bears.
Because of the crudity of the surgery, the animals are often in constant pain. Many bears have lived for twenty years in cages so small they can barely raise their heads. In some cases, a metal bar permanently holds them down.
The animals spend their lives biting the iron grills, or else banging their heads against them. In the most extreme cases, the animals cannot even see out, since they are kept in metal boxes with holes punched in them.
Here is an eyewitness account of a typical bear factory by a Chinese businessman, Youn Show Lee:
“Suddenly four huge men showed up and the bears suddenly started screaming fearfully and rocking their cages hard as if they had seen a ghost. The caretaker told me that every morning at eight o’clock liquid is drawn from their gallbladders.
Around seven-forty-five, the bears become agitated and have no appetite to eat and they start screaming and crying desperately for help.
In white uniforms, and without any emotion on their faces, the four men went into one of the cages. They quickly used a steel wire to snatch the bear by the neck, at which point the bear’s eyes bulged out and she started gnashing her teeth and crying. They are so scared to death that this trauma causes them to defecate at the same time.
In the bear’s stomach there is a hole with a steel tube inserted directly into the gallbladder. Outside the area there is a plastic tube connected to the steel tube for drawing the liquid. The area is covered tightly with surgical tape.
When the time comes, the tape and cover are removed and a syringe is used to withdraw the green liquid from the gallbladder. Three big men went in, and pressed the bear’s four legs with force and inserted a syringe into the plastic tube. When the dark green gallbladder juice was sucked from the bear’s body, the poor bear opened her mouth so big that her two eyes were bulging. Her entire body was trembling hard throughout the whole procedure.
After this unthinkable torture, the bears used their paws to hold their stomachs. They curled up and shivered and I could see tears in their bright little eyes. Around 10:30, someone cried out that there had been an accident in cage number five. We followed the owner to rush into the bear farm and were shocked at what we saw.
A brown bear had managed to pull out his own intestines and was holding them up in the air, roaring and screaming, as if he were madly “protesting” the cruelty and insanity of the humans. There was blood all over the cage.
The owner shouted: “Hurry, ‘rescue’ the bear paws!” The man in the cage was reluctant to continue to go forward. But the owner stamped his feet and kept yelling: “You have to cut them off while the bear is alive.
That is the only way they are saleable!” Right after that, I saw the sharp axe swung and the number five bear’s paws were immediately chopped off with blood gushing out.”
However, there is some good news. There are now 54 different herbal alternatives to bear bile, and UDCA can also be synthesized from cattle bile. Because of this, the price has dropped, and farmers are starting to go out of business.
In addition, the Chinese government has recently freed 500 of the bears, and claims it is planning to phase out all the farms eventually. Perhaps you would like to write a personal message to the Chinese President. Tell him how pleased you are that his government is finally doing something to help the bears, and ask him to carry on until all the bear farms have been closed down.
Write and let your feelings be known:
Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, 9 Xihuang – Chenggen Beijie, Beijing 100032, People’s Republic of China