CHINESE GOVERNMENT ATTENDS OFFICIAL OPENING OF ANIMALS ASIA'S MOON BEAR RESCUE
On Monday 16th December 2002, the Chinese Government Departments of Beijing and Sichuan joined with non-government Hong Kong based organisation Animals Asia Foundation in opening the largest Moon Bear Sanctuary in the world.
Prior to the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, the parties hosted a press briefing of national and international media, where officials emphasised that it was the intention of the Chinese Central Government to end the cruel practice of bear farming country wide.
Mr. Chen Run Shen, Secretary General of the Beijing based China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), a Government Department of the State Forestry Administration, publicly announced several crucial statements from the Central Government:
"1. Currently the number of bear farms in China has greatly reduced and the number of bears on farms has not increased. The international reports of the 9000 figure is pure speculation and has no grounding at all.
2. The CWCA confirms that the China Central Government has no plans or intentions to commercialise the usage of bear bile on the international market.
3. The CWCA, on behalf of the Chinese Central Government, fully supports and recognises the efforts of the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) in the rescue of Moon bears in China. We will continue to support the work of the AAF and together with the AAF we will achieve our final objective of terminating bear farming in China."
Mr. Chen added: "We humans have only one planet - however the planet does not belong to us, it belongs to the animals as well. We should treat animals better." Mr. Chen and other government officials were later filmed assisting the Animals Asia Veterinary team in cutting open a cage and freeing a previously farmed Moon Bear.
Mr. Peng Huang Shi, Deputy Head of the Sichuan Forestry Department, formally stated that the number of farms and bears in Sichuan Province had also decreased and paid tribute to the tripartite cooperation of the relevant Government Departments and Animals Asia in rescuing bears from farms in that Province.
During the briefing, officials and media were updated on the progress of the China Bear Rescue by Jill Robinson MBE, Founder & CEO of Animals Asia, who advised that, since the rescue began in October 2000, 35 farms had closed and 97 bears had been confiscated into the care of the Animals Asia's Moon Bear Sanctuary in Chengdu. The farms licenses were confiscated, farmers were compensated to enable them to enter new employment outside of bear farming, and the government was issuing no new licenses countrywide. She emphasised that all bear farming in Asia was an unnecessary and inhumane practice.
Professor Liu Zhen Cai, a Chinese Traditional Medicine Practitioner, gave a formal statement on behalf of his medical colleagues: "I have been a practitioner of Chinese medicine for over 40 years and have never used bear bile." he said. "Today we have over 50 herbal alternatives and synthetic medicines which have the same efficacy as bear bile - and there is no need for bears to suffer any longer."
Whilst Robinson paid tribute to the help of the Government in the rescue, she also emphasised the need for addressing the issue of breeding on the current farms and called on the relevant Government departments to issue a country wide breeding ban in order to address one of the root problems in the industry.
Mr. David Bleyle, US Consul General in Sichuan also joined the press briefing and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and pledged his support for the rescue and for ending bear farming in China: "Today marks an important step in the Government's commitment to working with Animals Asia to end a cruel and unnecessary trade in China" he said. "We encourage the ongoing closure of the farms and urgent attention towards the end of bear farming once and for all."
As the first phase of the enclosed bamboo forest sanctuary was formally opened, the first group of farmed bears rescued in October 2000 took hesitant steps into the forest watched by local and international media and over twenty Central and local government officials. As the den doors opened, bears Jasper and Aussie cautiously raised their noses to the air and breathed in the smell of a natural environment which was far removed from their lives on a farm.
As the bears slowly disappeared into the forest, Robinson said she was cautiously optimistic that the announcements by the Government in China were a sincere endeavour to end the trade in bile extraction and bear farming and hoped this could happen by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. "We can never forget that thousands of bears are still suffering on farms for a practice which is outdated and cruel. However, today, the China Bear Rescue is now becoming a symbol for animal protection and conservation and we have reason to believe that there is progress - and hope - for farmed bears in China."