This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series Bear Medicine


Based on a blog post by Jill Robinson of Animals Asia.

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.


Donate to Animals Asia to help stop bear bile farming in China and Vietnam and support sanctuaries for rescued bears.

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