Although the Vietnamese government has banned bear-bile farming since 2005, hundreds of small bear farms exist, with one or two bears each, says Tuan Bendixsen. He’s the director of Animals Asia, a charity that’s working to end the illegal practice. On farms, the bears are kept in appalling conditions.
“Many of the bears are in the dark, with no access to natural light. They don’t have access to water and are often fed watery gruel that undoubtedly leaves them feeling constantly hungry,” says Weng Yan Ng, a veterinarian at Animals Asia who was on the rescue mission. “When we find them, they’re often sitting amongst rusting metal and feces on the cage floor.”
Bazan’s 5-by-5-foot cage, although barren, wasn’t the worst that Ng
and Bendixsen have seen. Their organization works with the Vietnamese
government to negotiate the release of bears from illegal farms. Quoc
Viet Le, the owner of a timber construction company, had purchased Bazan
and Wendles more than a decade ago from local indigenous people. But as
we stood in Le’s warehouse, he told me how he now wanted to give the
bears up for compassionate reasons, out of respect for his elder son who
was training to become a Buddhist monk.