Bear bile farms

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/laos/7950161/Inside-a-bear-bile-farm-in-Laos.html
Inside a bear bile farm in Laos
Despite increasing international outrage, extracting bile from endangered black bears is still rife in south-east Asia

On a post outside a nondescript property on the outskirts of the historic city of Luang Prabang, there is a small, handwritten notice. It declares in simple Laotian: place where bears are kept.


The bears are confined in 15 sq ft cages Entering the family home behind the sign, I am greeted by a scene of comfortable domesticity. A baby crawls on the dark teak floorboards; a teapot sits on a table in the front room; a dog pants in a shady corner, sweltering in the exhausting summer heat. Through an open door, down a short corridor and out through the rear of the house, the scene is rather different. Trapped in tiny, cramped cages above urine-soaked floors there are eight large Asiatic black bears.

Bear-farming is a relatively new business in Laos. The practice involves keeping Asiatic black bears in battery-farm conditions where they have their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, regularly extracted.

This small Vietnamese-run farm, an offshoot of a larger one in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is one of at least eight such farms &#8211; one of which holds about 100 bears &#8211; known to have opened across the country in the past decade. Welfare organisations believe other smaller farms exist in Laos, although they do not appear on government records.

Bear bile has been used in Asian medicine for thousands of years. The bitter yellow fluid is made in the liver, then stored in the gall bladder until it is released to help break down fats during digestion. Traditionally it is believed to 'relieve internal heat&#8217;, but its supposed powers are myriad and it is prescribed for everything from hangovers to cancer and is found in products from edible powders to shower gels. :(

While scientific studies have found a substance contained in bear bile &#8211; ursodeoxycholic acid &#8211; can help in the treatment of gallstones, it can be produced synthetically or taken from the gall bladders of domesticated animals slaughtered for the meat trade. There is little or no scientific evidence that bear bile is effective in treating other conditions.

Until about 30 years ago, the only way to acquire bear bile was by killing a wild animal and removing its gall bladder (itself a popular ingredient in Chinese medicine). Then, in the early 1980s, bear farms began appearing in North Korea, before spreading to China, where the practice gained popularity, and south into Vietnam.

The Chinese government supported bear farming, claiming that the farms promoted captive breeding and helped to reduce the need to hunt wild bears. But the difficulty of breeding captive bears means hunting has continued, with adult females killed and their cubs taken to farms. There are now some restrictions on how farms operate, but the Chinese government estimates that there are currently between 7,000 and 10,000 bears kept for their bile in China.

In the face of international pressure Vietnam banned bile farming five years ago, since when the number of farms in Laos is said to have grown steadily, many run by Vietnamese bear farmers who have taken their operations across the border.

Politicians in Laos, in response to international pressure, recently reviewed legislation, revoking the licences of all wildlife farms pending inspection by national authorities, but major loopholes remain. While it is illegal to capture a wild bear and keep it in captivity in Laos, bear farmers are allowed to keep bears as long as they claim the animals have been bred from bears born in captivity &#8211; and there has been little legal pressure on them to prove where the bears come from.

With a population of only six million and a traditional, impoverished rural lifestyle, Laos provides easy pickings for entrepreneurs and traders from its powerful neighbours. The bear bile industry is highly lucrative. With a seemingly in*satiable demand for the product in China, Korea and beyond, and these countries facing diminished supplies as other nations clamp down on farming and hunting, unless the Lao government tightens its laws it seems inevitable that bear farming there will keep growing.

Mary Hutton, the English-born founder of the Australian animal welfare charity Free the Bears, is one of the most vocal critics of bear farming, and has grown increasingly concerned about the situation in Laos. 'The farming of Asiatic black bears for their bile is an incredibly cruel and unnecessary industry,&#8217; she says. 'What&#8217;s more, it can easily be replaced in traditional Chinese medicine by synthetic and herbal alternatives. Bile farming has no proven conservation benefit for this magnificent, globally threatened species. Bears in bile farms suffer terrible physical and psychological pain and suffering, something that is expressly forbidden under Laos laws for wildlife.&#8217;

Statistics on wildlife populations in Laos, one of the world&#8217;s least developed countries, remain scant. Researchers are only now beginning to study wild black bears there. It is no easy task given the reclusive nature of the species, which spends much of its life high in the trees of shrinking forest regions. Black bears are omnivorous and will eat anything from small mammals to whatever crops farmers plant, a habit that leads to conflicts with villagers that can be fatal for bears and humans. In rural Laos, the ferociousness with which an angry bear will attack is legendary.

Even globally, details on Asiatic black bears are unclear. Also known as moon bears, after the cream-coloured crescents on their chests, they are found in Eastern countries from Afghanistan to Vietnam, yet only a few nations have population estimates, and figures from those that do &#8211; particularly China &#8211; are questioned by conservationists. Worst-case figures suggest there could be as few as 25,000 left in the world; even the higher estimates put the number below 100,000.

What is known is that a combination of habitat destruction through deforestation and hunting, either for body parts or to quell crop raiding, has led to the Asiatic black bear being categorised as globally vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Mammals, meaning that the population is believed to have declined by more than 30 per cent in the past 30 years.

In the wild an adult black bear would roam across a territory 100 square miles in size, but here, in the Luang Prabang farm, they are confined in barred enclosures measuring 15 sq ft. Some of the animals cannot stand fully upright and some display the repetitive swaying movements of severe stress. Most also have mange, and scratch incessantly at their patchy fur. Despite the 100F heat outside, there is no water in any of the cages.

Disturbing as all this is to witness, these bears are luckier than others. In some bile farms the bears live with a catheter inserted into their gall bladder. To enable farmers to extract the bile without risk of attack, the animals are often confined in 'crush cages&#8217; so tight that they can hardly move at all. A bear in a well-run zoo or safari park can live for up to 35 years. Most bile-farm bears are unlikely to survive much beyond eight years, according to Free the Bears.

The manager of the Luang Prabang farm, a 28-year-old Vietnamese man who lives here with his wife and baby, and whose family runs the bigger operation in Vientiane, says he started this farm five years ago. Bear protection organisations in the area learnt about it only a year ago when, in a spirit of entrepreneurship, the manager approached Western shopkeepers and restaurateurs in Luang Prabang to see if they might like to offer the bile to tourists. He received a cool reception, and campaigners have been trying to persuade the local authorities to close the farm ever since.

Sitting in his wood-panelled front room, he produces four photocopied pages, written in English, of what appears to be a government licence for the farm, and a 'scientific report&#8217; promoting the health benefits of bear bile. (He tells me that bear bile can be good for a lot of things, but I should never take it if I am pregnant.) Then, after preparing the injections that the bear will need for the procedure to extract its bile, he leads me to the back of the house where the bears, aged between three and seven, are kept. I am told to watch out for a small, sharp-toothed monkey in the corner because it 'doesn&#8217;t like women&#8217;.

Near the cages there stands a dirty green operating table and, next to it &#8211; incongruously, in the dirty, gloomy surroundings &#8211; a Chinese-made ultrasound machine, of the same kind used for pre-natal scans in humans.

Earlier, I had watched as one of the bears allowed the farmer to scratch it playfully on the head through the bars. Now, the animals seem agitated as he approaches the cages, carrying a large stick and a medical box. The farmer pushes the stick into one of the cages and prods the animal head-first towards a lasso-like tether. The bear growls as it is pulled forwards and swiftly injected with an anaesthetic. It throws itself at the bars, snarling. (Poachers recount graphic stories of fellow hunters whose faces have been ripped off by angry black bears, but they say that in captivity the animals are comparatively docile.) Within a few minutes the anaesthetic begins to take effect.

Once the creature is unconscious, the farmer struggles to lift it on to the operating table (male black bears can weigh more than 440lb, and although the undernourished farm bear appears considerably lighter, it is still a large animal). There it is tied to each corner by its paws, exposing its abdomen and chest. Squirting a clear gel on to the bear&#8217;s belly, the farmer then uses the ultrasound machine to locate its gall bladder. With his wife&#8217;s assistance he inserts the draining apparatus, a simple set-up involving a needle attached to a narrow plastic tube and a small suction machine.

Soon a dirty brown liquid begins trickling down the clear pipe that snakes across the bear&#8217;s body and into a glass bottle of the sort you would see in many family larders. A lurid yellow foam forms on top. After about 20 minutes, the procedure is over. The tube is withdrawn, the bear is injected with 'vitamins&#8217; to help it recover, and then manhandled back into its cage.

Back in the front room, where the bottle of freshly drained, still-frothy bile sits on the table, the farmer shows us a price list, helpfully laid out in Lao kip and US dollars for the customers who visit his home. It states that 1ml (less than a third of a teaspoon) of bear bile costs $15. But there&#8217;s a promotional deal on just now: buy 5ml get 1ml free reads a notice on the wall. In Laos, where the average monthly wage is $30, such sums are beyond most people&#8217;s budgets. The farmer tells us the majority of his customers are private clients from Vietnam, Korea and China.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in south-east Asia and its inhabitants make a living however they can. Over the past 10 years it has modernised significantly, but its improved infrastructure has come at a considerable cost to the nation&#8217;s wildlife. The country&#8217;s animals have become easy targets for experienced Vietnamese wildlife traders who, having all but wiped out many of their own nation&#8217;s species, now smuggle animals dead and alive (anything from lizards to elephant parts) across the border.

A sinewy man in his early forties, Aye Wong Phet is among the growing number of former poachers who have turned gamekeeper in Laos. He was recruited from his village to work for a wildlife protection agency, and the skills he once used to track and kill animals are now used to help conserve them. 'There is much more hunting in Laos than there was 10 years ago,&#8217; he says.

Phet is one of three former hunters who has been working with Lorraine Scotson, a biologist from the University of Bristol, to help monitor bear populations in Laos, the first such survey of its kind. Scotson says his knowledge of bears and their habitat is remarkable and invaluable.

'In the past we would go and kill a bear if someone was sick,&#8217; Phet recalls. 'It was the only medicine we had. [Even today modern medicine is scarce in rural Laos.] We only killed them for their gall bladder, but we would eat the meat too. Now people from Vietnam want all the different parts for medicine.&#8217;

Phet doesn&#8217;t know what they want the parts for &#8211; it is not a Lao tradition, he says &#8211; but as long as the hunters are being paid well, they will continue to deliver the goods. 'A few years ago nobody took the paws, but now they want them too,&#8217; he says. Bear paw soup is considered a delicacy in Vietnam, Cambodia, China and other parts of Asia.

Phet joins me on a visit to a rescue centre at Tat Kuang Si, just outside Luang Prabang, run by Free the Bears, and he is full of delight seeing the bears there, helping to hide food in the large enclosure where the bears will have to forage for it as they might in the wild.

There are 23 adult bears here, either confiscated by the authorities or handed over by individuals after the sanctuary was set up in 2003. Jude Osbourne, from Hastings, East Sussex, who runs the centre, has just taken delivery of five orphaned cubs, whose mothers are believed to have been killed by poachers and who would otherwise have almost certainly ended up on a bile farm. A bear cub can sell for up to $600 &#8211; enough to keep a family in Laos for more than a year.

So far, prosecution against hunters is rare and as there is no pressure for farmers to prove that the bears on their farms did not come from the wild, the risks are low. Osbourne believes this means bear farming will become more widespread.

'We&#8217;re not yet at the stage it reached in Vietnam,&#8217; he says, 'where there are still more than 4,000 bears held in farms&#8217; &#8211; even five years after the ban on bear bile farming came into force. 'It is illegal to take bile from them, but they can&#8217;t be released back into the wild either.&#8217;

Osbourne and others believe that many farmers defy the law and continue to take bile from these bears. 'The danger is that bile farming will expand to similar levels very rapidly in Laos if a full ban on the farming of bears is not enacted soon.&#8217;

At the bile farm in Luang Prabang, the owner is busy sealing lids on several tiny bottles of the precious liquid that he has just extracted from the bear. Once that task is completed, he mixes the dregs in the jar with vodka and, with a toast to the good health he promises it will deliver, downs the bitter mixture in a single gulp.
 
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Ministry of Defence issues eviction order



Animals Asia&#8217;s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre faces eviction from Tam Dao National Park, following an aggressive campaign by the park director, Do Dinh Tien.

On Friday 5 October, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) informed Animals Asia that the Ministry of Defence has issued an order to evict the sanctuary operation and its 104 rescued bears. This follows Mr Tien lobbying the Ministry of Defence to declare the sanctuary to be an area of &#8220;national defence significance&#8221;.

Mr Tien has been pressuring Animals Asia to relinquish the land since April 2011. It is believed that he intends to hand it over to the Truong Giang Tam Dao Joint Stock Company, in which his daughter has an investment. This company has submitted an application for development of an &#8220;eco-tourism park&#8221; and hotels on the site.

The closure of the rescue centre would have a severe impact:

&#9632;104 bears, rescued from Vietnam bear bile farms and smugglers - evicted


&#9632;77 local Vietnamese staff &#8211; unemployed


&#9632;US$2 million &#8211; investment in building and development by Animals Asia - lost
The local economy that depends on the centre would also be severely impacted, and the Vietnamese government&#8217;s commitment to ending bear bile farming would be called into question.


&#8220;We are desperate to ensure that the rescue centre is not closed down and relocated. The welfare of 104 bears, who have already suffered enough, would be seriously compromised, and the rescue centre and US$2 million in donations would be lost. We&#8217;re calling on the public, and the media, both in Vietnam and overseas to urgently appeal to the Prime Minister of Vietnam for justice, and to let him know their feelings on this terrible threat to the bears&#8217; welfare.&#8221;


--Jill Robinson MBE, Dr.med.vet. h.c, Founder and CEO of Animals Asia:

Campaign against the rescue centre

&#9632;Mr Tien and the Truong Giang Tam Dao Joint Stock Company have been lobbying the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, within MARD, to approve the real estate development.


&#9632;Mr Tien&#8217;s daughter is one of four founding members of the Truong Giang Tam Dao Joint Stock Company and holds 10 percent of the company&#8217;s shares. Mr Tien has not publicly disclosed this information.


&#9632;Following interventions by local embassies, international organisations and European Ministers, as well as significant media attention, MARD intervened to issue a directive on 26 April 2012 ordering the park director to allocate the land to the bear rescue centre in line with the original agreement with Animals Asia.


&#9632;Mr Tien then spread misinformation, in an attempt to block construction of the third outdoor bear enclosure, that waste pollution from the rescue centre was damaging the environment and health of the local community. He requested that the Ministry of Agriculture close down the rescue centre and relocate the bears. Following an exhaustive investigation by the Vinh Phuc environmental department, the bear centre was cleared of all allegations.


&#9632;Mr Tien then began lobbying the Ministry of Defence to apply pressure on the Ministry of Agriculture to stop the rescue centre&#8217;s planned development.
The claim that the land in question is an area of national defence significance is questionable, given that the centre has been in operation since 2005 and that the Chat Dau Valley, where it is located, has been used for tourism and other private purposes since the park opened in 1996.

It is believed that once the bear centre is forced to close, the land will be declared to no longer be of national defence significance, allowing the Truong Giang Joint Stock Company to take it over for private development.

Mr Tien does an About Face.
The eviction is in direct violation of the Vietnam government&#8217;s 2005 agreement with Animals Asia to fund and develop a facility on 12 hectares of the park that would permanently rehabilitate and house 200 endangered bears rescued from the illegal bear bile industry. Based on this agreement, Animals Asia has invested more than US$2 million in building and infrastructure.

Currently 104 bears are living at the rescue centre, being rehabilitated after years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and painfully drained of their bile. These bears will be forced to return to cages to be relocated, which will have a major negative impact on their mental and physical well-being. It is likely to take at least two years to establish a new centre with outdoor enclosures, forcing the bears back into cages on a long-term basis.

The case will now go to the Prime Minister of Vietnam for a final decision. Due to the powerful status of the Ministry of Defence, it is feared that the Prime Minister will be forced to agree with the recommendation to close the centre.


&#8220;We hope the Prime Minister is made aware that the directive he issued in 2008 is being undermined by a park director and his undue influence over the Ministry of Defence. This is not a defence issue; it's an issue of profit. We believe Mr Tien seeks to benefit from land that the Prime Minister promised for the bears that have suffered in Vietnam&#8217;s bile trade for too long.&#8221;

&#8220;This one man, whose daughter stands to directly profit from the relocation of the centre, should not be allowed this much power.&#8221;


Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam Director, Animals Asia:

Animals Asia is calling on the public in Vietnam and worldwide to appeal to the Prime Minister to allow the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre that he previously approved and endorsed to continue operations and expand in line with the government&#8217;s original agreement.

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=HNL6E4VTP0D
 

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These bears are also called moonbears
 

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This is so tragic and it is hard to imagine the cruelty. I know a lot of great organizations are trying to protect bears from this and other cruelty, such as WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), ADI (Animal Defense International). I used to support PETA as well but then I found out Bill Maher is on the Board of Directors and I so object to his comments about Michael, so that I had to stop supporting them. There are also organizations just to support bears. I think one is called PAWS.
 

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There are organisations who want to help and if the bearfarms were banned and had to close it would be easier.
now they just can´t go to a bearfarm and take the bears, they have to negotiate about it and pay for them.
It´s the same as with puppymills, don´t buy puppies, don´t buy products with bearbile

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Just like puppy mills many people don´t know where the bearbile come from.
People buy a little puppy in the petstore without thinking about where is the mother,is she ok
People buy products with bearbile without thinking where it comes from.
They don´t know what the bears are exposed to in the farm
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Bear bile is not needed in medicin,there are alternatives.
You can practise medicine and don´t use it.
For thosands of years diseases have been cured without bearbile

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The last parts of this journey
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If we unite in a single voice..
There´s nothing that can´t be done, if we raise our voice as one
 

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Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Sichuan Province, China.
 

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I can see Vietnam has a beautiful nature.
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It´s so nice when he gives the name Dream to one of the bears.
Could they dream about a better future when they were prisoners in small cages at the farm
 

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Happy news!!

"Vietnam bear sanctuary saved from eviction


Animals Asia’s Vietnam bear rescue centre has been saved from the eviction threat that has been hanging over it since 5 October 2012. A communiqué issued by the Vietnamese government confirms that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has concluded that the rescue centre’s operation should be maintained, and that construction on the project’s second phase should continue.

This decision ensures that the 104 bears living at the centre that have been rescued from the bile industry will stay, 77 local Vietnamese staff keep their jobs, and Animals Asia who fund and operate the centre will not suffer the financial losses of US $2 million as previously feared.

Animals Asia is a charity that is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam. The Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, located in Tam Dao National Park, is dedicated solely to the rescue of previously farmed bears in Vietnam.

Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam Director, Animals Asia commented:
“We are very grateful to the Prime Minister for his commitment to the bear rescue centre. We look forward to working with the government to end bear bile farming and help conserve the bear species..”

Jill Robinson MBE, Founder and CEO, Animals Asia commented:
“Our priority has been to rehabilitate these bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and milked for their bile. If we had been forced to relocate it would have had a terrible impact on their wellbeing. We want to sincerely thank the tens of thousands of supporters from around the world who wrote letters, sent e-mails and signed petitions calling for the eviction to be stopped.”

The rescue centre was established based on the Vietnam government’s 2005 agreement with Animals Asia to fund and develop a facility on 12 hectares of the park that would permanently rehabilitate and house 200 endangered bears rescued from the illegal bear bile industry. Based on this agreement, Animals Asia has invested more than US$2 million in building and infrastructure."

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=NQZKBOA5KJ9
 

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New Year Rescue: Two Weeks On

Two weeks on from the rescue of six bears on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from an illegal bear farm by the Sichuan Forestry Department and Animals Asia, four have now completed initial surgery to remove damaged and infected gall bladders.

On arrival at Animals Asia’s sanctuary from the illegal farm in Sichuan province, which has been closed down by Sichuan Forestry, the bears were initially assessed and prioritised for health checks taking place over the following two days. Each bear was then individually anaesthetised, examined, scheduled for surgery and transferred to a recovery cage.

Of most concern was the bear initially nicknamed Sun Li, after the Chinese actress. The bear was suffering multiple problems ranging from dehydrated paws, rotten teeth, malnutrition and arthritis right through to serious gall bladder complications – all of which meant she was prioritised for immediate surgery.

Publicity surrounding the plight of the bear even meant that Sun Li, the actress, was soon en-route to the sanctuary – arriving in time to see the bear enter recovery following a five-hour operation to remove her gall bladder. Her visit caused such a stir in China that Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, saw the sanctuary’s news of her arrival shared over 13,000 times reaching a potential audience of many millions.

Sun Li renamed her bear Xuan Xuan after one of her award-winning roles. The bears nicknamed Buddha, Toby and Shamrock followed Xuan Xuan into surgery over the following days. Each also had gall bladders removed with Buddha’s reported to be three times natural size and Toby’s staggering vet staff who described the “water-melon-sized” gall bladder as the largest they’d ever seen.

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson commented:
“The bears arrived in a desperate state, frightened and aggressive and with wounds common to bears rescued from bile farms. We saw facial scarring on the bears, obviously caused by repetitive behavior of banging themselves against bars – teeth were almost universally damaged from literally trying to chew their way out. The paws were all in a terrible state due to poor diet and dehydration and having to walk day-in, day-out on the bars of their cages.

“It’s hard to imagine, not just the confinement, but also the sheer pain they were living with day by day. Each of their ailments alone would have been near unbearable. As each bear recovered from surgery and was thoroughly spoilt by staff you could see them slowly recovering from living with that pain and see their personalities starting to shine through.”

With each bear in turn requiring their gall bladder to be removed, due to the damage caused by bile farming, the bears were introduced to recovery cages one by one to start their period of recovery and quarantine typically lasting 45 days.

While the bears remained in the recovery cages, staff ensured that a process of “enrichment” ensured the bears were stimulated. Each bear was introduced to new foods, toys, even sounds with music played on a regular basis.

In the meantime, also moved by the plight of the bears was British actor Peter Egan. As with Sun Li, also an Animals Asia ambassador, a bear had been named in his honour. The actor was keen to meet the bear and also arrived in time to witness Buddha’s operation.

Peter Egan said:
“As well as this being the first visit to a sanctuary of this kind, it's the first time I've been close to a bear - particularly a moon bear - and I am stunned by the forgiveness that you can feel from these dreadfully abused animals, their inquisitiveness and their appetite for life. The whole experience really confirms to me how disgusting the bear bile farm business is and how wonderful it is for these bears to find something similar to the life of a free bear.”

Three of the bears now have the permanent names of Shamrock, Peter, and Xuan Xuan, and the remaining three have been temporarily nicknamed Toby, Katie, and Buddha.

Dubbed the “New Year Rescue” by Animals Asia staff, the bears rescued shortly after the start of the western New Year, are likely to finish their quarantine shortly after China’s Lunar New Year celebrations the following month. In the meantime the two remaining bears will have their gall bladders removed and further surgery will be planned as required.

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=OKB2UYM7YYU
 

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CELEBRITY ANIMAL ACTIVISM) Retired NBA basketball player Yao Ming has done great work for animals in Asia, including a campaign against shark fin soup. He is now speaking out against bear-bile farming, joining the Animals Asia Foundation and meeting rescued bile bears. With recent protests against the horrific practice of bear-bile farms in China, Ming&#8217;s activism adds to the growing awareness of this atrocious and inhumane act. Read on to find out more about Ming&#8217;s touching visit with the animal survivors. &#8212; Global Animal
Former NBA star Yao Ming has been dedicated to advocating for animals in Asia. He has helped launch a billboard campaign in China against shark fin soup and joined Richard Branson in asking the country to ban shark fins. Ming has also spoken out against bear bile farming and recently joined the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) to meet rescued bile bears.

This month, Ming and his wife Ye Lispent a day at Animal Asia&#8217;s moon bear sanctuary in Chengdu, where founder Jill Robinson introduced them to some of her rescued friends. According to an AAF press release, &#8220;Across Asia, an estimated 14,000 moon bears are being held in captivity on farms and milked for their bile because its believed to be effective in the practice of traditional Asian medicine despite the availability of inexpensive and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives.&#8221;

The bears are kept in small cages, and their bile is extracted through catheters or open holes in their abdoments, says AAF.

Ming&#8217;s visit was an emotional one, including a visit to the sanctuary&#8217;s cemetery and with the vet who was performing a health check on Belton Kleberg, a bear who was illegally trapped in the wild before being sent to a bile farm. Ming even helped clip his claws. Robinson writes on her AAF blog, &#8220;As Yao Ming ran his fingers over Belton&#8217;s scar tissue you could have heard a pin drop, before this thoughtful, gentle man looked at the pictures and pathology of other victims of bile extraction and pondered the reality of the bear farming trade.&#8221;

The former NBA star said, &#8220;Moon bears are beautiful animals in nature; let&#8217;s love and care for moon bears together. Support Animals Asia and help the moon bears.&#8221;

Robinson adds, &#8220;Yao Ming is a lovely guy and it was such an honour to have him visit the bears at our China sanctuary. He made some very thoughtful comments and was really encouraging to the whole team. It was a pleasure to have him visit, and we are very proud that he is a friend to the moon bears.&#8221;

AAF says that many of their rescues spent 10-30 years in tiny cages being milked for their bile. You can see more of their amazing work here in photographs taken by Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals of an AAF moon bear rescue and sanctuary.

http://www.globalanimal.org/2012/03/03/yao-ming-visits-bear-bile-farm-survivors/68317/
 

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Animal Emotions
Do animals think and feel?
by Marc Bekoff
Jasper Bear and Jethro Dog: Ambassadors for Peace and Hope
We should look to animals for lessons in forgiveness, generosity, and hope
Published on December 26, 2012 by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. in Animal Emotions


I wrote about Jasper's and Jethro's story a few years back, but in the past few weeks I've had a number of people ask me to write something about how to maintain hope and how to keep our dreams for a more peaceful planet for all animals, nonhuman and human. All of what I wrote a few years ago still holds, and since I wrote this essay an incredible amount of new research has shown that our relationships with other animals are very good for them and also for us, and that nonhumans truly are compassionate and empathic beings. We've also learned a lot about how other animals, domesticated, captive, and wild, also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (see also and PTSD)
and more!
Jasper is an Asiatic moon bear. I continue to try to practice what he teaches after many years of knowing him. Jethro was my long-time companion dog, and I also try to incorporate his lessons about compassion and love into my life. Jasper, Jethro, and many other amazing animal beings teach us numerous and very important lessons about forgiveness, generosity, dignity, peace, trust, and love. We must listen to them carefully and incorporate their gifts into our lives.

Jasper's story

Jasper's story is an incredibly inspirational lesson about forgiveness, generosity, peace, trust, and love. Jasper arrived at the Moon Bear Rescue Centre outside of Chengdu, China, in 2000 and given the name he proudly carries. Jill Robinson MBE (founder of Animals Asia) and the wonderful humans who work with her receive bears from bear farms after the bears are no longer useful to the farmers. Bears usually arrive in horrible condition, suffering from serious physical and psychological trauma. Each bear is given a complete physical and a psychological evaluation. Many need surgery because of their physical condition (missing paws, worn down teeth, or liver cancer). After they've acclimated to the center some bears have to be kept alone, whereas others can be introduced to other bears (for details about bear farming and bear rescue see).

Here's why Jasper is such an inspiring bear being. He's a true survivor. I'm sure he and his friends remind of us the dogs, cats, and other animals to whom we give care. For fifteen years Jasper's home was a tiny, filthy "crush cage" in which he couldn't move on a bear farm in China. Jasper was continually squashed to the bottom of his filthy cage to squeeze out his bile. Imagine being pinned in a phone booth for even fifteen minutes and all you could do was turn your head to drink water and eat. As if this wasn't enough, Jasper also had a rusty metal catheter inserted into his gall bladder so that his bile could be collected to treat various ailments in the spurious name of traditional Chinese medicine. Despite it all, Jasper survived and his story must be told and shared widely.

Jethro and Jasper: Exemplars of Compassion and Empathy

I met Jethro in June 1989 at the Boulder (Colorado) Humane Society. When I first met Jasper he immediately reminded me of Jethro - kind and gentle with big brown eyes that stared right into my heart. Each had a tan stripe across his chest; for Jasper the tan crescent is the reason he's called a moon bear. I'm sure it was Jasper's and Jethro's optimistic spirit and trust that allowed them to thrive.

At the humane society Jethro had the reputation for liking all the other animals, including the ducks, geese, and goats he occasionally met in the outdoor run. Jethro came home with me, kept me happy and healthy, rescued injured birds and bunnies around my mountain home, and taught me many important life lessons. One day Jethro came to my front door, stared into my eyes, and dropped a small furry saliva-covered ball at my feet. The wet ball was a very young rabbit. Jethro stared unwaveringly into my eyes, commanding me to do something, so I picked up the tiny rabbit, placed her in a box, gave her water and celery, and figured that despite Jethro and me working together to keep her alive, she was unlikely to survive the night. I also wondered whether Jethro would, at some point, decide she’d be a tasty meal.

I was wrong on both counts. Jethro remained by her side, and refused walks and meals, until I pulled him away so he could heed Nature’s call. Finally, when I released the rabbit, Jethro followed her trail and continued to do so for months. Over the years to come Jethro approached many rabbits as if they should be his friends. He also rescued a few birds who had flown into windows and even, on one occasion, a bird who had been caught by a local red fox.

Jasper's and Jethro's stories and spiritual paths are inspirational lessons for how we can all be healthy, alive, and connected, and recover from untold and unimaginable trauma with forgiveness, dignity, and grace. Each of these individuals also displayed unbounded compassion and empathy for others.

When I first met Jasper I could feel his gentle kindness. The same for Jethro. Their omniscient eyes say, "All's well, the past is past, let go and move on". Jasper's gait was slow and smooth as he approached me as I fed him peaches out of a bucket. I then gave Jasper peanut butter and his long and wiry tongue glided out of his mouth and he gently lapped the tasty treat from my fingers. Jill Robinson best describes Jasper's softness, his kind disposition: "Touching the back of his paw one day I saw his head turn towards me, soft brown eyes blinking with trust and I knew that Jasper was going to be a special friend."

Jasper knew that things were going to get better and that he would recover. Jasper tells people and other bears "All will be okay, trust me." Likewise, when I was having a bad day, Jethro also reminded me to look on the bright side of things. When Jasper was finally released from his recovery cage at the rescue centre he was delighted to be free. Jill watched him approach a bear on the other side of the bars separating them and reach out as if to shake paws with the stranger who was to become his best friend. The other bear, Delaney, AKA Aussie, sniffed Jasper's paw and then put his paws through the bars so that Jasper could return the favor. Jasper and Aussie remain close friends and I've had the pleasure -- I might say a delightful treat and honor -- of watching them play, rest together, and perhaps share stories of the their horrible pasts and the wonderful humans with whom they're lucky to live with now.
 
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Jasper Bear and Jethro Dog: Ambassadors for Peace and Hope
Many of the bears love to play, and this is an indication that they've substantially recovered from their trauma. When I visited the Moon Bear Rescue center in October 2008 I saw Aussie and Frank frolicking on a hammock. They were having a great time and it was incredibly inspiring to see these bears enjoying life. Jill and I shared their joy as we laughed at their silly antics. When Aussie saw Jasper ambling over he jumped off the hammock, approached Jasper, and they began roughhousing - caressing one another, biting one another's scruff and ears, and falling to the ground embracing and rolling around. After a while Jasper went over to a water hole and invited Aussie in but Aussie decided to stay on the shore and watch Jasper play in the water.

Tears came to my eyes. Not only were these bears telling one another that the day was going just fine but they were also telling Jill and me that all was okay. Much of the deep trauma that they'd experienced was in the past and whatever lingered wasn't stopping them from enjoying themselves and spreading joy to other bears. Traumatized animals don't play and surely aren't as out-going as these awesome bears.

Jasper remains the peacemaker. He makes other bears feel at ease and that's how I felt when I first met him. Perhaps Jasper knows what the other bears have experienced and wants to reassure them that everything will be okay now that they've been rescued. Jasper truly opens up his heart to everyone he meets. And, I think Jasper knows the effect he has on others. Jill told me that at a social function in 2009 to celebrate their book Freedom Moon Jasper stole the show. He always does - and he knows it. But there's no arrogance at all - just trust and confidence that all is well and will continue to be so.

If one didn't know what Jasper had experienced they'd never guess for it isn't apparent from his behavior and spirit. Are Jasper and a few others special, and if so, why? Why did they recover and others do not? Bears, like dogs and other animals, display different personalities. Big Aussie still runs back into his den when he hears a strange noise or even when he sees a caterpillar in the grass. As an ethologist, I always want to learn more about each being as an individual, what they feel, how they travel through life, and how they keep their dreams alive.

I often wonder what Jasper, Aussie, and other moon bears carry in their heads - what remnants of unspeakable abuse and trauma remain. Perhaps they also talk about how lucky they are to have been rescued and that not all humans are bad, that they can trust some of us. Many of the bears have been able to get over a lot of what they experienced, at least overtly, and depend on the trust, loyalty, and love that they've developed over time with the same mammalian species - human beings - who couldn't care less about their well-being.

Jasper is the spokes-bear for forgiveness, peace, trust, and hope. I can't thank Jasper enough for sharing his journey and his dreams. Jasper, like the dogs and cats who also need us, makes us more humane and thus more human. The true spirit of humans, our inborn nature, is to help rather than to harm.

Expanding our compassion footprint and rewilding our hearts

How Jasper and other moon bears recover from their unspeakable trauma is a lesson to us all for expanding our compassion footprint - for spreading compassion throughout the world - and for rewilding our hearts and for keeping our dreams alive. Jasper, Jethro, and other animals are constantly telling us their stories in moon bear, dog, cat, elephant, chimpanzee, mouse, and other species-sorts of ways. It behooves us to be mindful and to listen to their tales very carefully for we will learn a lot about them and also a lot about ourselves. The gifts that Jasper, Jethro, and many other animals have shared with me are priceless. I can't put into words how indebted I am to Jasper and Jethro for letting me into their lives. I like to think I'm a better human being for gaining their generosity and trust. I also thank Jill Robinson and all the fine people at Animals Asia for their tireless commitment to rescue and rehabilitate abused moon bears and occasional dogs and cats. Thousands of bears still await rescue.

Henry, Stevie, Lobster, Matilde, and Butch: Five very lucky dogs

A most memorable part of one of my trips to China is also worth sharing. I accompanied the moon bear team to the Qiming Animal Rescue Centre outside of Chengdu, China where I met dogs and cats who were rescued after the terrible earthquake that devastated large parts of the Sichuan Province in May 2008. I had already met two awesome dogs aptly named Richter and Tremor (AKA Rambo because as a small dog Tremor carried himself with the confidence of Sylvester Stallone) who had somehow survived the earthquake and were living at the rescue center. At Qiming there were many dogs who needed care and Heather Bacon, the chief veterinarian at the moon bear centre, performed some minor surgeries and gave shots and medications when needed.


Henry, after surgery

We brought five dogs back to the bear centre for further care, as if the fine people working with the bears needed more work. I was asked to name the dogs so I did: Henry, Stevie, Lobster, Matilde, and Butch. I was especially attracted to Henry because he reminded me of Jethro, minus about 70 pounds. Henry had been caught stealing meat from a butcher and in turn had his most of his right front leg lopped off by the butcher. Somehow Henry survived and wound up at Qiming. Stevie was blind and had to have his eyes removed because they were terribly infected, Lobster also had a broken leg that healed and looked like a lobster claw, and Matilde weighed in at about ten pounds and should have weighed around forty. Butch had lost an eye in a fight with another dog and needed to have it removed. When I last inquired all were doing well and I was told that Matilde now weighs about 40 pounds and that Henry was jumping around like a kangaroo on his remaining three legs.

Compassion begets compassion, through pain comes hope

We can all make more humane and compassionate choices to expand our compassion footprint, and we can all do better. We must all try as hard as we can to keep thinking positively and proactively. Never say never, ever. Perhaps a good resolution as we welcome in a new year is that we will all try to do better for animals - both non-human and human - and earth and work for more peace and justice for all. We can and must keep our hopes and dreams alive.

There is no doubt that these dogs and the moon bears are incredibly lucky for having the attention of all the fine people at the rescue centre. The animals who I meet around the world and the amazing people who selflessly help them are all amazing beings. We can all be inspired by them (see, for example) and know that we must always keep our hopes and dreams alive. The good, the bad, the ugly, and our deep, enduring, and heartfelt commitment to help those in need make us better humans. Compassion begets compassion. Through pain comes hope.
 

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<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Ws3jGfsdAqw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The six New Year Rescue bears have all made the successful switch to bear &#8220;dens&#8221; - the last step in their rehabilitation before they enjoy the freedom of going outside for the first time.

The bears arrived on January 9th, 2013 at Animals Asia&#8217;s sanctuary in Chengdu, China from an illegal bear bile farm in Sichuan province. Since then, Animals Asia&#8217;s Bear and Vet Team have been working hard to aid their rehabilitation and prepare them for the open spaces of the sanctuary&#8217;s enclosures.

On arrival the bears had been health checked so vets could gauge their strength and any immediate concerns. Due to bear bile extraction methods, all bears have had to undergo operations to have their gall bladders removed. In addition all bears were suffering severe dental problems due to years of bar biting. Further problems also included being severely underweight and muscle wastage and arthritis caused by years of confinement.

Now, following a 45-day quarantine process and a further period of post-surgery &#8220;bed rest&#8221; in recovery cages, the bears have been allocated dens. Each den is adjacent to an open enclosure that will eventually be open to them.

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson explained:

&#8220;The first step was out of their tiny, rusty farm cages that had constricted them for so many years. After their operations they were confined to our larger recovery cages that allowed them to stretch but also ensured they didn&#8217;t hurt themselves as they built their strength once more.

&#8220;For the last couple of weeks, with their strength returning, we monitored them from a behavioural point of view. Working out which bears were suitable for which bear houses. It&#8217;s easy to think of the bears as being desperate for open spaces but each step is a major readjustment for them.

&#8220;Now they&#8217;re in dens and the next step is going outside. Their nervousness in leaving their recovery cages was evident but the process went very well. A few initial nerves aside, knowing the bears are enjoying space to move around in and hard ground beneath their feet for the first in many years, is a wonderful feeling. Knowing what&#8217;s coming next makes it even more incredible.&#8221;

Animals Asia Bear and Vet Team Director Nicola Field added:

Watching new bears make the transition from cage to dens is among the most poignant and memorable moments in their rehabilitation. Their journey is a long one from arrival at the sanctuary to eventually being on grass and this step is always very moving and very special.

&#8220;The team comes into its own when we have new bears and Friday&#8217;s movements was no exception. It&#8217;s hard to put into words the enormous pride I feel working with this wonderful bunch of people. They diligently, compassionately and carefully give so much to ensure these bears learn to be bears, learn how to trust and to ensure they have all that they deserve.&#8221;

In the coming days and weeks the bears will have time to settle in their new environment. They will get to know their new caretakers and become familiar with the routines and other bears in their new dens. During this time they will have the opportunity to stretch, climb and adjust to space.

The next step to enclosures and integration will depend on their individual progress during this period.

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=3GNECAY13HX
 

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these bears have lived under terrible conditions , but now they can enjoy a peaceful life,maybe play a little
 

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A moon bear kept for bile extraction by a farmer in Ung Hoa District, near Hanoi, Vietnam, then later as a pet, has been handed over to Animals Asia.

The family of the farmer contacted Animals Asia after researching its Vietnam sanctuary and rehabilitation of bears formerly farmed for their bile. The family had come to the decision that the bear deserved a comfortable &#8220;retirement&#8221; away from the cage that had restricted her for over a decade.

Animals Asia was advised that the bear, they are calling Ung Hoa after the district, had not suffered extractions for two years. The family were so keen to do the right thing that they turned down money for the bear and instead handed it over to Animals Asia for no return.

Vietnam director Tuan Bendixsen said:

&#8220;The rescue of this bear is a reflection of changing attitudes not just to the farming of bears for their bile but of animal welfare in general. The farmer has put the welfare of the animal above personal gain - the bear had gone from being a source of income to a pet and part of the family. &#8220;

A health check under anaesthetic, showed her teeth to be in bad condition with many broken and others rotting away. There were also some fibrous changes in her liver as a result of damage caused by the extraction process. Earlier, during the drive back to the sanctuary, she had been so weak she slept the entire way.

Animals Asia announced earlier this year that it had managed to win the battle to avoid having the sanctuary evicted from its Tam Dao location. The rescue centre had been living with the possibility of having to close or relocate since September 2011. This had meant delays in plans to build further enclosures for rehabilitated bears.

As a result, a number of bears - including 14 rescued in November 2011 - are still awaiting access to open enclosures. With eviction fears now behind the Vietnam team, plans are now at an advanced stage with the new enclosures likely to be completed in early 2014.

Jill Robinson Animals Asia founder said:

&#8220;We&#8217;re delighted to welcome our latest addition to the family. She has already received an immediate health check at the start of the rescue, and requires extensive medical care in the days and weeks ahead. Following a period of quarantine and rehabilitation she will be transferred to a den where the rehabilitation will continue with an eventual move to a newly constructed enclosure.

&#8220;With each adult bear rescued since delays caused by the proposed eviction, they have been housed in dens without outside enclosure access. The vet care, rehabilitation and enrichment that Animals Asia offers still provides an environment that far exceeds that on any farm in Vietnam. We look forward to the opening of a new enclosure in 2014 - the day when we finally put the nightmare of that threatened eviction behind us.&#8221;

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=HOIBM5028X1
It´s nice to read that the family changed their mind and wanted to do the best for the bear.
 

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Three Down - Three to Go as Shamrock steps outside
14 May 2013

Shamrock is the latest bear to follow moon bears Manuka and Peter out the den doors for their first glimpse of sunshine in many years.

The three bears, of the six that were rescued from an illegal bear bile farm, had previously suffered agonising daily bile extractions in tiny cages for up to a decade.

The six arrived at the sanctuary on January 9, 2013 - undergoing medicals and subsequent operations to remove gall bladders damaged by repeated bile extractions. Following 45 days quarantine plus additional time for rest and recuperation they were moved to dens. There, once they’d settled in, staff opened the doors and the bears were given the opportunity to venture out for the very first time. Some instinctively stepped out onto the grass whilst other needed to be enticed.

Manuka, previously called Buddha bear, was given the first opportunity to step outside and led the way nervously blinking in the sunlight. She was followed by Peter bear who having suffered, arguably the worst torment as a large bear in the tiniest of cages, found the transition a huge mental step - stepping outside only briefly before retiring back to his den.

This week, the bear and vet team have been delighted that Peter has continued to progress - finding the strength to venture a little further afield.

Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field explained:

“After his tentative first steps Peter’s courage has grown with each passing day and he is now enjoying the whole area and what it has to offer. He’s moving log and rock piles and learning to forage for the goodies hidden by staff as he follows their scent around the enclosure.

“He enjoys stretching to retrieve food hidden by the team in log walls or on the firehose hammock. His steady character has served him well through the whole process of rehabilitation. His long body is also beginning to fill out and we are now getting a glimpse of a magnificent adult male bear he was born to be. He had his monthly weigh-in this week and is now a healthier 124 kg opposed to the 107 kg he was in January shortly after arriving. This gentle giant of a bear really is learning and experiencing that life can be good.”

Meanwhile it’s been Shamrock’s love of food that saw her step outside with little hesitation following her nose - and stomach - as she worked her way through the enclosure looking for food.

Nic added:

“Since moving into the dens Shamrock has been extremely driven by food and her appetite has always been very apparent although she has become calmer in recent weeks. As with Peter and Buddha, on the morning of her being given access to the enclosure, a trail of food was left leading out from the den door. Shamrock very boldly stepped out into the enclosure and without any hesitation systematically moved around the enclosure following her food trail and the scent of hidden goodies.

“Even when growling could be heard close by in neighbouring enclosures, this beautiful, steady young female was not going to be driven from her food and she calmly sat eating her carrot between her fore paws. Watching Shamrock stepping forward into a new and happy world, it was as if she had been enjoying this world for years in contrast to the fact that only five months ago she was incarcerated in a small cage where all she knew was fear and pain.”

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson said:

“The lesson for us all, as ever, is celebrating the emerging characters and personalities of these bears. They are all individuals - not bile producing machines whose daily torture is justified by those who exploit them on the farms. For years they have been locked away suffering incomprehensible mental anguish and physical pain.
“Today we celebrate them as sentient - as animals with emotions, thoughts and needs and implore the farmers to recognise that too. All six bears are recovering at their own pace and being cared for depending on their needs. These beautiful individuals are learning to enjoy their lives again and we’re learning the characters of them all as we marvel at their strength and bravery.”

http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=7JM0ABSHC91
 

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20 May 2013


To mark 20 years since our founder Jill Robinson first visited a bear bile farm we are selling 100 copies of "Jasper's Story" through our website, with all proceeds going to our work. The book is also available through regular retailers, with 90% of royalties from sales going to Animals Asia.



Jill Robinson MBE, founder and CEO of animal welfare organisation Animals Asia, has written a children’s book about Jasper, one of the bears she helped rescue from China’s horrific bear bile industry.

The book, which is being published in the US, and is available on the Animals Asia website here, has been co-written by Jill and renowned animal behaviour expert, Professor Marc Bekoff, of the University of Colorado.



For years Jasper, an Asiatic black bear (better known as a moon bear because of the crescent-shaped moon on their chests), lived a miserable existence, held captive in a cage by bear bile farmers in rural China. The farmers extracted the bile from Jasper's body and sold it to be used in traditional medicines. The horrific practice is conducted on thousands of moon bears each year.

In 2000, Jasper was rescued and he and other bears were taken to Animals Asia’s China bear rescue centre. Here vets attended to the bears' wounds, hoping to give them some chance of a peaceful existence in the animal sanctuary. The book explores whether, after so many years of abuse, Jasper's wounds, both physical and mental, can be mended so he can finally enjoy the life he was meant to live.

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http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=N19LG28T5MH

Jasper´s story...HIS (s)tory
 

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What did Downton Abbey cook Lesley Nicol do in the downtime between series? She went to China to save bears from a fate worse than death

By Katherinehassell


Downton Abbey’s Mrs Patmore has been doing what she does best... preparing a delicious spread for the rumbling tummies of the great and the good.

Except in this case, the great and the good are less VIPs, more VIBs – very important bears. That’s right, bears. Lesley Nicol, the actress best known as Lord and Lady Grantham’s cook, is in China – at the Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, beaming with happiness as she offers her furry friend a spoonful of honey. Asia the bear seems happy too, as she gently licks and slurps.

Yet it’s a miracle this beautiful creature is here at all. What Asia has endured is unimaginable. As Lesley, 59, shows me a video of their emotional encounter and begins the story of her three-day visit to Chengdu, she has tears in her eyes.



Asia is one of 165 bears at the sanctuary, rescued from the country’s horrific bear bile industry. Around 10,000 mainly moon bears, named after the lemon crescent on their ebony chests, are kept on farms in cramped cages.
Metal tubes are inserted into their gall bladders so bile can be extracted daily for use in traditional medicines, and products such as toothpaste or face cream. Starving, diseased bears remain imprisoned for up to 30 years. It’s such a vile existence some bears self-mutilate or simply go ‘cage crazy’.

Death would be their only escape if it wasn’t for the Animals Asia charity, which has rescued and rehabilitated more than 400 bears since 2000. Having seen its work first-hand, Lesley is passionately committed to the cause.


Downton Abbey is so popular in China that her visit created quite a stir among the charity’s staff. Lesley soon found herself in a kitchen – ironically, not her natural habitat. ‘The bears love watermelon, apple and carrots, so we chopped up chunks with a hatchet,’ she laughs as we chat at her London home.

The food was then hidden around the enclosures, which encourages the animals to forage as they would in the wild. ‘When they’re rescued, they don’t know what it is to be a bear,’ Lesley says. ‘They have hammocks, tunnels, pools and climbing frames; it’s a giant playground. Disneyland for bears,’ she smiles.
‘These bears have been in a dark hole all their lives and Jill has switched on the light.’
Jill is Jill Robinson MBE, the British animal welfare pioneer who saw her first bile farm in 1993 while working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
When a bear put its paw through the bars and touched Jill’s shoulder, it touched her heart too, and she founded Animals Asia in 1998. Virginia McKenna, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley are all supporters and Lesley became involved after Ever Decreasing Circles star Peter Egan, the charity’s ambassador, tweeted videos of its work.

She was soon flying over to China for ‘utterly mind-blowing’ close encounters of the furry kind. ‘When you see them engage with you after all they’ve suffered, it’s the biggest lesson of forgiveness. I felt ashamed to be the species that did this to them. It’s a joy to give them pleasure.’

Rehabilitation is gradual. Diseased gall bladders are removed; infected wounds treated and stitched. The bear is then moved to a cage that’s slightly larger than the farm crush cages. Too much space too soon would frighten them. When they’re stronger, they go to a larger enclosure.

‘The staff don’t push them to go out,’ says Lesley. ‘It’s like agoraphobia – space is terrifying.’ They learn how to put one paw in front of the other; muscles have atrophied through lack of use and many need arth- ritis medication. Recently, a bear called Peter took his first steps on grass. ‘He kept sniffing the air and looking at the sky,’ says Lesley. ‘They’ve never seen the sky.’


Lesley had to return to finish filming series four of Downton Abbey
She admits you can’t help but anthropomorphise the bears. ‘They have personalities; you get a distinct sense of who they are. Oliver was in a cage for 30 years, unable to stretch, stand or turn…’ she shakes her head.

‘If you’d gone through such horror, there’d be times you’d want to just sit in the corner and curl up. That’s what Oliver does. He wraps himself around the water bowl.’

Quantock was so upset in captivity, he hit his head against the bars until he’d rubbed away fur, skin, ear tips and nose cartilage. ‘He’s disfigured,’ Lesley sighs, ‘but gentle. Every day the staff tell him he’s beautiful.’

The actress got even closer when Mani had an annual health check. Farmed bears often develop cancer. Thankfully, Mani’s only problem was a broken tooth.
‘She was sedated on the table with socks on her paws to keep her temperature up. I can’t tell you how moving it was to stroke her fur,’ Lesley wells up. ‘I could feel her heartbeat and clipped what claws she had. Next day, she was leaping around.’

Frodo, who’d been to the local hospital for a scan, wasn’t so lucky. Her spine was fusing together causing paralysis, a direct result of being crushed in a cage. The vet decided to put her down. ‘It was done with such love,’ says Lesley. ‘Lots of people came into the room. I helped give her a last meal – chocolate milk…’ Tears fall down Lesley’s cheeks and she takes a deep breath.
‘And we gave her a pot of honey. The most difficult bit was her funeral. Each grave has a crescent-shaped name marker so they’re never forgotten.’

The ugly truth is there’s no reason to farm bears, since there are herbal and synthetic alternatives to bile. Realising there’s no future, some farmers allow Animals Asia to buy their bears and help them create alternative incomes.
‘The majority of Chinese are disgusted by the industry,’ emphasises Lesley. ‘They consider it a stain on their country. But as it’s the farmers’ livelihood, it’s a struggle to get them to stop.

‘Not everyone will become involved in the charity. That’s fine. But I’d do anything for Jill and Animals Asia,’ she adds. ‘You see their utter commitment. I had a rare experience and I’m desperate to go back. I didn’t want to leave.’



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/a...ave-bears-fate-worse-death.html#ixzz2Yuc5XIM8
 

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Animals Asia UK poetry competition


Thanks to everyone that took part in our first UK national poetry competition. We were amazed and surprised by the number of entries with 70 poems submitted by adults and 63 by young people.

Wow, with so many poems it was incredibly hard to shortlist, let alone judge ... and Peter Egan, Rula Lenska, William Hartson and Jill had a very difficult job whittling down the shortlists to find two very worthy winners.

The standard of entries was extremely high, with poems speaking about the horrendous and senseless cruelty of life on a bear farm to those celebrating the happy lives the bears now live at our sanctuaries.

So it was after much discussion and debate that the final winners and two runners up in both categories were decided and are as follows:

Adult
Winner: Reaching Out by Gill West
Second place: Until the Cruelty Ends by Angela Davies
Third place: Bear by Carol Mary Fraser

Young people
Winner: Unless by Helena Radmann
Second place: Happy Healthy Lives by Max Luard
Third place: Moon Bear by Virginia Koch

The Animals Asia Gala evening at the London Rowing Club, overlooking the sunlit Thames at Putney on 13 July, provided a spectacular setting for the announcement of the winners.

The poetic content of the evening was introduced by our wonderful Patron, Virginia McKenna, who very movingly read out her poem 'Sanctuary', written on the occasion of her first visit to the Chengdu sanctuary several years ago. This provided a very fitting start to the announcement of the winners themselves.

Three of the four judges of the competition, Rula Lenska, Peter Egan and Jill Robinson were there to congratulate the winners and runners-up of both the adult and young person’s categories. Peter and Rula then read out the wonderful, emotive words of these poems, leaving not a dry eye in the house and presented the winners with their prizes. Plus Jill read out her personal favourite poem about Dick bear by Caroline Herd. Keep an eye on Jill's blog to read this wonderful poem in the near future.

The judges then informed the audience that there would be another opportunity to hear not only these poems but also a further selection on a CD, which will soon be recorded by Rula and Peter, and available in time for a fantastic Christmas gift.

We would like to extend our congratulations to the winners and very grateful thanks for the many people who entered the competition both individually and through their schools. We hope to run another such competition in the future so please do keep your creative juices flowing!

The two winning poems are below:

Adult category winner

Reaching Out
by Gill West

Crouched in her tiny cage the Moon Bear waits.
Hidden in darkness, days defined only by pain and hunger she endures
the endless “Now” of her existence.
Last night she dreamt of freedom – rusty bars dissolved to shades of dappled green and
Sunlight.
Beaming from the bright water as she ran towards it, rainbow droplets dancing on her back,
filling her with joy as she swam.
She returns again to the “Now”
A glimmer of light – what’s this?
Sensing something the bear reaches out towards the woman.
She turns, they connect …. they touch.

The bear regards the woman,
The woman regards the bear.
No words are spoken – some things are beyond meaning,
then she is gone.

Nothing has changed.
Everything has changed.

Some say that evil flourishes when good men turn away,
But I say change will happen, it must,
Where hope shines pure as the moon,
And love flows sweet as honey,
Heart to heart,
One to another,
Reaching out.

Young people category winner
Unless
by Helena Radmann

Pain for Profit,
Cruelty for Cash.
Death for Desire.
No more, no more.

Born for Bile
Fur for Flash
Claws for Cuisine
No more, no more.

Caught, Crushed, Confined, Caged,
Whimpers, Whines, Longing for Love
Pride, Dignity, Ripped away
Questioning, Innocent, Wondering eyes
Tube injected, Painful surprise ..?

Enduring Daily Whimpers of Pain,
Slowly slipping.
Given up.
No Hope
Unless …


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