If the Sarah Mclachlan ASPCA ad for abused animals makes your heart sink, the idea of caged bears kept under inhumane conditions to have their gall bladders milked daily for use as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) might bring you to tears. Even more heart wrenching is a recent report of a mother bear killing her cub and herself to stop a life of continued torture and pain.
A bile farm worker in North-West China witnessed a mother bear break free from her cage and attempt to rescue her cub after hearing it cry out in fear, as a worker prepared to puncture its abdomen. Unable to free the cub from its restraints, the mother hugged the cub and eventually strangled it. It then dropped the cub and ran headfirst into a wall, killing itself.
Farm bears receive a permanent hole cut into their abdomens for their gall bladders to be milked regularly. The holes are never closed and the bears are often fitted with iron vests to prevent them from maiming or killing themselves in an attempt to stop their suffering. What’s more, the bears are kept in so-called “crush cages” which are the size of telephone booths with iron-bar floors. The bears often succumb to various infections and diseases including tumors, cancers and death from peritonitis.
Bear bile is used to treat high fever, liver ailments and sore eyes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been reported that many TCM practitioners denounce the use of bear bile as there are cheaper herbs and synthetics that can be used in its place; yet, bile farms still thrive under little or no regulatory control.
Bears have been long known for intelligence comparable with that of higher primates and possess the largest brains relative to their size of any North American land mammal. They are highly evolved social animals, form hierarchies and structured relationships, use tools like sticks for scratching and throw rocks during play, and have been known to show self-awareness by covering their tracks when pursued by hunters and poachers.
I am no card-carrying member of PETA and realize humans are at the top of the food chain, and will by default use “lesser creatures” for our own selfish purposes, but as the more advanced and intelligent species, we have a moral obligation to treat these animals with compassion.
Chinese actor, martial artist, and filmmaker Jackie Chan is a passionate animal advocate and in collaboration with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, is working towards creating awareness for Asian bear farming. Lending support for WSPA or at least signing a petition is a small step towards preventing further cruelty, but even just a tiny bit of awareness can go a long way.
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