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AAF statement in response to report on bear farming in China

6 December 2007

AAF statement in response to report on bear farming in China

http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/2007/12/05/133603/China-closes.htm

Animals Asia Foundation Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said in response to an Agence France Presse (AFP) news report issued yesterday that while the number of bear farms in China may have decreased, the total number of incarcerated bears had probably increased.

Ms Robinson said the industry had become increasingly large-scale, with smaller farms consolidating into highly lucrative intensive-farming operations.

She said other claims in the report - that new surgical technologies had been adopted to reduce the pain felt by the bears during bile extraction and that bears were no longer confined in small cages or in iron jackets - were simply untrue.

When the farmers claim that the latest method of bile extraction - the free-drip method - is humane, they are not telling the truth.

The technique, which is permitted by government regulations, involves the farmer carving a hole into the bear's abdomen and gall bladder for the bile to drip out. "The farmer keeps the weeping wound open by poking unsterilised instruments into it and often has to perform further crude surgery to open a hole that is obviously trying to heal," Ms Robinson said.

"Clearly this is agonising for the bears. We have lost count of the number of rescued bears that arrive at our hospital with bile, blood and pus pouring from infected wounds. It is a fact of medical science that a 10-year-old would understand - a hole gouged into the abdomen and gall bladder of a wild and warm-blooded mammal can never be classed as humane."

Only this week we euthanised yet another rescued bear on our surgery table after discovering she was riddled with liver tumours - including one weighing over 5.5kgs," Ms Robinson said.

She invited officials to visit Animals Asia's Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province to learn the truth about the farmers' claims.

She said thousands of highly endangered Moon Bears - one of China's flagship species - were still being kept in tiny "coffin-sized" cages without access to water and deliberately starved of food to increase the amount of bile they produced.

"Bear bile is a highly corrosive acid and the impact of leakage from the gall bladder is that hundreds of Moon Bears are dying on the farms, their body parts quietly sold off on the black market and more then entering the trade via dubious routes."

Ms Robinson said wild bears were still being trapped illegally and captive-bred cubs were taken from their mothers at just three months of age. In the wild, they remained together until the cubs were two to three years old.

"Thousands of visitors to the Animals Asia sanctuary in China are horrified with the cruelty inflicted upon their country's charismatic Moon Bears - particularly given the fact that bear bile is not an essential medicine and can easily be replaced with synthetics or herbs.

This industry is driven by the dollar and those making money from the suffering of these majestic mammals are denying the wishes of the majority who want it to end.

"Bear farming kills bears; it does nothing to save their lives in captivity or their species in the wild," Ms Robinson said.

Ends

To learn more about Animals Asia Foundation, please visit www.animalsasia.org .

For more information and for high-resolution photos, please contact:

Angela Leary - AAF Media Manager at aleary@animalsasia.org ; tel: 9042-7740

Animals Asia's Moon Bear Rescue - Background

Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) is a Hong Kong-headquartered charity that runs a number of projects aimed at finding long-term solutions to problems of animal cruelty, including the rescue of 10,000 Moon Bears from cruel bile farms in China and Vietnam.

AAF's Moon Bear Rescue project involves rescuing suffering and endangered Asiatic black bears from cruel bile farms in China and bringing them to its sanctuary in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The bears (known as Moon Bears because of the golden crescents on their chests) can spend up to 20 years in coffin-sized cages where they are milked daily for their bile, often through crude, filthy catheters. They are also milked through permanently open holes in their abdomens. This is the so-called "humane" free-dripping technique. It is the only legal method of bile extraction in China, but still causes constant pain and the slow death of the bears.

The bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, even though cheap and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives are readily available.

The ambitious bear rescue project was hatched in 1993 when Animals Asia's Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson, a Briton working in animal welfare in Asia, walked onto a bear bile farm in China. "It was a torture chamber, a hell hole for animals. They literally couldn't move, they couldn't stand up, they couldn't turn around," she says.

In July 2000 after years of lobbying and negotiating, Robinson signed a landmark agreement with the Chinese authorities to rescue 500 Moon Bears and work towards ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming. To date, more than 215 farmed Moon Bears have been rescued and brought to AAF's Moon Bear Rescue Centre.

The farmers are compensated financially so they can either retire or set up in another business. Their licences are taken away permanently.

Animals Asia has also signed an agreement with the Vietnamese authorities to rescue 200 bears there and is currently completing construction of a sanctuary near Hanoi.

The foundation is working towards an eventual ban on bear farming throughout Asia.

For more information, please visit www.animalsasia.org

ORIGINAL AFP NEWS REPORT PUBLISHED IN THE CHINA POST (Taiwan)

China closes hundreds of bear farms: government

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

BEIJING -- China has closed more than 400 bear breeding farms as it steps up efforts to protect animal rights, the government said Tuesday. The number of bear breeding farms, which typically raise the animals to collect their bile for medicine, has decreased to 68 from more than 480 in the 1990s, said Zhu Lieke, vice minister of the State Forestry Administration.

New surgical technologies have been adopted to reduce the pain felt by the bears during the process of extracting the bile, replacing such traditional practices as confining the bear in a small iron cage or iron jacket, he said.

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