|Caged in : A bear in capitivity|
There are moments in our lives that can change us forever. For a British lady called Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia Foundation, it was when she broke away from her tour group and walked right into a bear bile farm in China years ago.
She descended a flight of stairs leading to a dim basement where she saw dozens of bears kept alive,only for their bile.
They were in cages so small she called them 'CRUSH CAGES', that the bears could not stand in.
"It made me sick to my stomach" she said. The bears were moaning with their bellies punctured with crude, infected devices for farmers to extract their bile,twice a day.The bears kept in these cruel conditions over the years were reportedly driven crazy by confinement. Many of them their teeth worn down from gnawing the bars or chewing their own paws while some even suffered from brain damn age.
Bile extracted from diseased bears can result in bear-bile poisoning in humans and many are still unaware of the health risks.
Despite international pressure to stop the cruel pratice of bear farming, thousands of bears are stilll "HARVESTED" for their parts, especially the gallbladder- believed to treat liver and intestinal diseases and a "cure-all" for couples in the bedroom.
The highest demand for bear bile stem from China,Vietnam and Japan.A traditional medicine doctor told the New York Times, " A gram of bile from a bear gall bladder can sell for more than a gram of gold or cocaine".
In South Korea, a gallbladder can fetch the astronomical price of RM 30,390 (US$10,000).
According to the TRAFFIC network, a wildlife trade-monitoring group, it is so precious in certain parts of the world that back in the 1990s, a Korean businessman was killed for the 30 bear gall bladders stashed in his freezer.
Worldwide criticsm of bear farming and trading of bear parts has finally had an effect on the industry but radical change doesn't happen overnight.
According to official figures, the number of bear farms in China has dropped from 480 in the mid 1990s to 68 today.
Though envouraging, that still leaves at least 7,000 Asiatic black bears suffering in extraction cages, according to a BBC news report.
Regrettably, this figure does not include the thriving black market where thousands of bears are regularly smuggled out of Russia into China and other parts of Asia.
Sadly, where there is demand anywhere in the world, there is supply.
For instance, according to a New York Times article, it doesn't take much for a man in the sleepy village of Blagoveschensk in Russia, to track down a bear, kill it, and chop its paws off for RM150 (US$50), just for quick cash to quenceh his alcoholic thirst.
On one of my first trips to Thaildand when I was a teenager, I recalled my tour guide pointing out a place where many Korean tourists would go to consume bear meat before they were shut down.
I could not comprehend how anyone could calmly sit there and watch a bear being bludgeoned to death right in front of them.
The screaming bear was then lowered onto hot coals, still alive, to be later served on their dinner plates.
The reason for torturing these bears being tortured deeply disturbed me, as well as the people inflicting such suffering without any apparent compassion for these defenseless animals.
As for Virginia Mckenna, who heads the Born Free Foundation, she realised her life was changed forever when she was in the Phung Thuong village north of Hanoi, home to a booming black market trade in bear bile for traditional medicine smuggled out of Vietnam, often carried in the hand luggage of Asian tourists.
Mckenna saw an emaciated caged bear clawing dementedly on his bloody tongue right in front of a family home, which was 'milking' him for his bile. She described it as " absolutely one of the words things I have seen in my life. It was so evil".
Bile extracted from bears is not even required when hearbal alternatives are readily available, with the same properties present from bear bile.
More awareness is needed to educate the public on these alternatives because they are cheaper,safer, a lot cleaner and mroe effective, according to scientists and enlightened Chinese doctors alike.
It is my sincere hope you will avoid consuming bear products so that the cruelty on bear farms can come to and end.