Oliver The Broken Bear:
Oliver was one of 10 bears rescued from a bear bile farm in Shandong province, China. 33 years old, he had spent 30 of those in this cage, with a heavy metal jacket and daily painful bile extractions…
Oliver the brown bear have a stunted body, arthritis and mobility problems. His stiff old limbs can never extend normally like a healthy bear. He has compressed lungs from wearing a full metal jacket so tightly around his chest for decades on the farm, and an enlarged heart as a result of it working harder throughout these years. His teeth are broken , and an eye with lens luxation which made him blind and causing him pain, so it had to be removed by surgery.
When Animal Asia rescued him they were very concerned about the state of him. His long, misshapen body was flat to the bottom of his cage and his barely open eyes showed nothing but pain and despair. This old, old bear had simply given up. After 30 years trapped in a tiny cage, as his bile and his life were systematically drained from his body, his rescue was also dramatic for him. Mid-way through a four-day journey back to the sanctuary in Chengdu, he underwent life-saving surgery to remove his gall bladder on the back of a truck, parked in a hospital car-park, amid freezing temperatures and driving rain.
When Oliver’s gall bladder was revealed to the vets they were shocked by its condition. Thickened walls, inflamed tissue and a fully intact, double metal ring completely enveloped in the tissue that had grown around it over the years. Jill Robinson, (MBE, Dr med vet hc, founder and CEO of Animals Asia ) who has witnessed hundreds of bears undergo the same surgery and seen all types of horrific objects used to secure the illegal catheters, was shocked by this latest find: “This is an instrument of torture showing just why this poor bear had been in so much pain”. She snipped away at the tissue to eventually reveal the large, spiral metal disc with a wire hook, previously seen protruding from Oliver’s stomach, attached. The rescue team believes that before they reached the farm, the owners had ripped out the catheters on the bears, causing terrible pain.
These jackets are designed to restrain the bears, with sharp metal spikes poking into their necks to stop them bending their heads, and straps and strips of metal restricting their limb movements. They also have a permanent catheter running from the bear’s abdomen to a pouch under the jacket to make bile removal easy for the farmer. To attach a permanent catheter to the bear’s gall bladder, metal pins, hooks, disks and all makeshift devices are crudely inserted right into the gall bladder to hold the catheter in place. This is almost always done by unqualified people in conditions ripe for infection. This crude and dangerous practice resulted in emergency surgery for Oliver, one of the brown bears rescued on 19 April, in the back of the rescue truck as the catheter had simply been ripped from his stomach, setting off a near-lethal infection. His gall bladder was removed, revealing a double metal ring with hook attached completely embedded in the organ’s tissue.
Bile is a digestive juice produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder and has historically been used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Bear bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is believed to reduce fever, protect the liver, improve eyesight, break down gallstones, and act as an anti-inflammatory. In recent years, there has been a dramatic growth in the production of bear bile products, which has spawned a market for a whole new range of items far removed from the formulations of traditional Chinese medicine. Today, bile is used as an ingredient in shampoo, wine, eye drops and all manner of pre-prepared ointments. In 1999, bottles of bear bile wine were even handed out as gifts for passengers on internal flights. Bear bile can cost up to 4,000 yuan (USD 295) per kg in China, so no wonder the life of a bear means nothing.
The active ingredient in bear bile, UDCA, was first synthesised in 1954 in Japan from dead chickens and is proven to be effective in treating liver disease. A report by the Chinese Association of Medicine and Philosophy and Earth Care has established that there are at least 54 herbal alternatives to bear bile, including Chinese ivy stem, dandelion, chrysanthemum, common sage and rhubarb. The alternatives are both cheap and effective.Synthesised UDCA is a safe medicine with no side effects. It has been successfully used worldwide to treat gallstones, primary cirrhosis, auto-immune hepatitis and colon cancer. Clinical studies are currently being conducted on the use of UDCA in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C and cancer.
And a research made by ‘The Journal Of Chinese medicine‘ show that there are several much cheaper ways to make synthetic bear bile. Another study (here) also shows that synthetic UDCA also have benefits can prevent abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia, both following a heart attack and also in foetuses.
Oliver’s life today
Today this old beautiful bear lives peacefully and free at Animal Asia’s rescue centre in Chengdu, China. He can now spend his last days free from pain, smell fresh air, feel the grass under his feet and spend hours in the pool…
To keep updated about Oliver and all the other bears rescued please visit Animal Asia or read Jill ‘s blog. Please share and tell the world about these bile bears and the so-called life they have. They need and deserve to live a normal life as any bear does. Thank you…
- Torture Chamber For China’s Bile Bears (ciccib.wordpress.com)
- Help us end bear bile farming in China (our-compass.org)
- Horrifying Look Inside A Bear Bile Farm In Vietnam (buzzfeed.com)
- Medicine trade condemns bears to a life in pain (scotsman.com)