Twenty years ago in April, 1993, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could.
Animals Asia is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam. They promote compassion and respect for all animals and work to bring about long-term change.
The Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears since 1994 and is the only organisation with a bear sanctuary in China. Their founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, Dr.med.vet. h.c., is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993.
Animals Asia’s work focuses on three major programmes:
End Bear Bile Farming
Animals Asia works to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees over 10,000 bears – mainly moon bears but also sun bears and brown bears – kept on bile farms in China, and around 2,400 in Vietnam.
Cat and Dog Welfare
Animals Asia works to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China, and lobbies to improve the welfare of companion animals and promote humane population management.
Zoos and Safari Parks
Animals Asia campaigns for an end to abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in China, and works closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive animals.
More than 10,000 bears – mainly moon bears, but also sun bears and brown bears – are kept on bile farms in China, and around 2,400 in Vietnam. The bears are milked regularly for their bile which is used in traditional medicine.
Bile is extracted using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infections in the bears. This cruel practice continues despite the availability of a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives.
Most farmed bears are kept in tiny cages. In China, the cages are sometimes so small that the bears are unable to turn around or stand on all fours. Some bears are put into cages as cubs and never released. Bears may be kept caged like this for us to 30 years. Most farmed bears are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them.
Animals Asia’s work to end bear bile farming focuses on five key areas:-
Animals Asia operate bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam where bears are rehabilitated and cared for and where their bear teams gather vital evidence of the effects of bile extraction.
Their world-class bear rescue centres in Chengdu, China and Tam Dao, Vietnam provide the bears with comfortable dens and semi-natural enclosures where they are able to recover in safety and spend the remaining years of their lives in the company of other bears. To date, around 400 farmed bears have been received into their care.
During their rehabilitation at the rescue centres, the bears’ behaviour and well-being are closely monitored by Animals Asia’s bear teams through regular health checks and daily observations. This not only ensures that the bears receive the best care possible, but also enables their staff to gather vital scientific evidence on the physical and psychological effects of bile extraction. Reports and papers published by their teams have helped to raise the profile of the moon bear within the scientific community and to increase public awareness of the terrible cruelty involved in the bear bile farming industry.
Animals Asia sanctuaries also provide direct employment for over 200 Chinese and Vietnamese people in areas such as bear care, horticulture, food preparation and security. Several hundred local people are employed indirectly through services and construction.
Animals Asia engages with the traditional medicine community and other users of bile to promote herbal and synthetic alternatives and reduce demand.
Their ‘Healing without Harm’ campaign targets practitioners of traditional medicine, independent pharmacists and pharmacy chains. They also work with pathologists and liver specialists in China and Vietnam to gather evidence on the implications for human health of consuming contaminated bile from diseased farm bears.
They regularly attend conferences to engage with doctors and encourage them to sign a pledge not to prescribe bear bile, and to advocate the alternatives. Animals Asia also conducts surveys among doctors to determine attitudes to bear bile and find out how many have prescribed it in the past.
As much demand for bear bile comes from South Korea, they work with travel agencies and animal welfare groups to raise awareness among tourists that taking bear bile bought in Vietnam or China back to South Korea is illegal. In Vietnam they also work with law enforcement authorities at key tourist sites to inform visitors that it is illegal to pay for bile to be extracted at a bear farm.
The bile trade
Animals Asia monitors the changing trends in the trade of bear bile and parts, keeping track of the producers, sellers and end consumers of bear products and working to maintain up-to-date intelligence on the location, size and workings of the bear bile industry.
They work with government authorities and conservation groups to track the sale of bile and bear parts within China and Vietnam and monitor the illegal export of these products.
Their field officers visit traditional medicine shops, pharmacies and hospitals in both countries, gathering vital information on the distribution of bear products and the fluctuations in demand and price. They work with local and national authorities to run awareness-raising campaigns on the existing laws regarding buying and exporting bear bile, and to encourage and assist with the enforcement of these laws.
They also fund research into the bile trade, as well as studies on its effects on the wild moon bear population in China.
Animals Asia runs extensive public awareness campaigns in China and Vietnam to highlight the cruelty of the industry and build support for an end to bear bile farming. They also run extensive billboard advertising campaigns, and deliver presentations in community centres, schools and traditional medicine universities.
They engage with the media in China and Vietnam, as well as internationally, to ensure wide coverage of the cruelty of the bear bile industry – and committed celebrities help us to bring this message to the public. The internet and social media have become vital means of reaching the public, enabling us to galvanise support.
They also work with dozens of animal welfare groups and over 20 university student groups around China to help us bring the message to the public through street displays, photo exhibitions, plays, poster art and social media.
Government and policy
Animals Asia’s engages with government authorities, public representatives and policy-makers in China, Vietnam and internationally to build support for an end to bear bile farming.
Their senior staff lobby political, business, legal and cultural leaders in Beijing and Hanoi, gathering support for the bears’ cause. They also engage support from celebrities, scientific experts and other influential individuals.
They stay aware of the changing dynamics of China and Vietnam’s political and policy-making environments. This is essential to ensure Animals Asia pursues the best avenues for building a consensus towards an end to bear bile farming. Their work involves much behind-the-scenes activity to build relationships and establish dialogues with a variety of official departments, groups and individuals who can assist in bringing bear bile farming to an end.
They also work with local and national authorities to run awareness-raising campaigns on the existing laws on buying and exporting bear bile, and to encourage and assist with enforcement of these laws.
There are many ways in which you can get involved to help end bear bile farming. Go to Animals Asia’s website and then click on ‘Get Involved’ (see link below.
Get Involved: http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=N0T6KCLNJ9X8
You can sponsor a bear for just £1.00 a day; the monthly commitment will help to provide lifelong care for your special bear in their rescue centres in China or Vietnam.
For an in-depth look at what milking a bear for bile entails, please click on the link below.
These images will show you the level of cruelty involved that these beautiful moon bears endure in their cages.