Architects of a New Dawn

We’d like to show the side of the world you don’t normally see on television.

Posing as buyers and suppliers in the illegal wildlife trade, eco warriors have taken hidden cameras where some of the most heinous crimes against nature are taking place: on bear bile farms in China. Other Earth saviors have packed unhidden cameras when they've gone on rescue missions to record the conditions of the bears they save and the ones they have to tragically leave behind. These are their photos, their stories, and the history of bear bile farming.

Eco Warriors Undercover: Bear bile farming
By Jeanette McDermott

As many as 10,000 Asiatic black bears in China are locked in cages the size of their own bodies, and their bile is drained through an excruciatingly painful procedure and sold for use in traditional medicine. So they can approach the bears without fear of injury, the farmers often mutilate the bears by breaking their teeth and pulling out their claws, sometimes brutally removing whole digits.

Milking and selling the bile is not the farmers' only source of profit from the bears. Some farmers amputate one or two paws from live bears to sell to restaurants. When bears are no longer able to secrete bile, they are left to die from sickness or starvation. Bears perceive terror and despair and feel pain the same as we do, and they endure this torture for up to 25 years. Try to imagine it.

Many of the bears in bile farms are captured illegally in the wild as cubs. Poachers wait until the mother leaves the den in search of food to capture new-born cubs. Sometimes she is killed to get the babies. Other times cubs are born in captivity from pregnant bears that were poached from the wild. In either case, the bear cubs rarely survive the ordeal. Any surviving cubs are removed from their mothers too early and put into cages, where they sometimes grow into the bars as their bodies mature. 


The bears show their distress and suffering by banging their heads against the cage bars, gnawing on the bars, and at times tearing the flesh from their paws and arms in a futile attempt to deflect their thoughts from the main source of pain. The sores bleed, resulting in further serious infection. The bears are usually milked twice a day, before feeding, when more bile is produced. They moan and writhe in pain and clutch their stomachs as the bile drains from their bodies. Sometimes the bears try to pull out the catheters. Those that do, are immobilized in an iron corset. Under-nourished and highly stressed from horrific pain and unnatural confinement, the bears lie in agony, in their own filth.

This is Willow. He was 10 years old when he arrived at the Animals Asia sanctuary in 2004. He died last year from a massive liver tumor -- a result of his treatment on the bile farm.

"Bear bile farming is the worst animal welfare scenario I have ever encountered," said Swiss born conservation media activist Karl Ammann.

Amman has been named by Time magazine and CNN as a "Hero of the Environment." He is credited with almost single-handedly raising awareness about the issue of bush meat, the slaughter and consumption of wild -- and often protected -- animals. He has reported on and photographed the likes of hog-tied crocodiles, charbroiled monkeys and severed gorilla heads draining into saucepans, but these don’t compare to bear bile farming he says. Read more.

Workers extract bear bile from the gall bladder of a bear in Myanmar.

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Comment by Jerry Jaspar on August 26, 2009 at 4:57pm
I'll check on starting up a 'cause' on Facebook and will blog about this on my site www.peacemonger.org, and MySpace... get viral about this instead of planning one big event... just keep priming the pumps... I knew nothing about this horrific practice before now. Thank you for bringing it to my attention! How could I become one of the filmmakers myself???
Comment by Jeanne on March 9, 2009 at 1:21pm
Who buys the bile? Couldn't we also work from the other end and boycott products made from bear bile?
Comment by James Murff on February 9, 2009 at 9:32am
The people who do this type of blatant torture need to be hanged, or shot. How sick is that? We have zooed up animals for too long ourselves, for our own amusement.
Comment by Jeanette McDermott on February 5, 2009 at 11:02pm
I am planning a global project to raise awareness about bear bile farming and could use some help from others who care deeply about suffering and endangered animals facing the threat of extinction.

The idea is to create a global awareness day, tied into the occurrence of Ursa Major moving into the constellation. It's got to be something B-I-G that will draw tens of thousands of people around the world all on the same day to focus on bile bears and set an intention to free them from torture and suffering.

I'm thinking of an event on the scale of the Lysistrata reading that occurred around the world on 03.03.03 to oppose the U.S. Iraqi invasion. We want to bring massive awareness to the bear farming practice to end it once and for all.

I am just beginning to plan the event. Will you help me end bear bile farming?

        

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