The slight young woman slips away from her tour group, which has stopped at a remote farmhouse in Guangdong Province to shop for a rare & valuable alleged medicine: bile harvested from the gall bladders of living bears. She has heard such farms exist. Down an unlit staircase she creeps & into a basement filled with foul smells, large dark shapes & the popping of teeth. As her eyes adjust to the darkness, the hair stands up on the back of her neck. She is surrounded by bears, each crammed into a cage so small it can hardly move. There’s a dripping sound. The bears seem to have an extra appendage, a straight cylinder protruding from the abdomen through the bottom of the cage — an iron teat where no teat should be. She feels their eyes on her, smells the fear mingled with feces & disease. Then something taps her right shoulder. She turns & sees a bear’s paw, thrust through the front of the closest cage. Fear surges through her, quickly followed by sorrow. What can she do? A crescent on the bear’s chest glows golden in the midnight of its fur: a moon bear. She grasps the proffered paw & feels a gentle squeeze in response; they lock eyes. She speaks softly: Hello, Bear. Hello. I promise to help. After several long seconds she backs away & storms out, possessed by fury. Moon bears are small but powerful. They & she will eventually become too much for the largest nation on earth to stomach.
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