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moonbears.org gave a presentation in Advancing Bear Care Conference, San Francisco on 08 November, 2009 to talk about sad reality of Korean farmed bears for the first time on the international stage
It was truly an eye opening and breath taking experience for us- moonbears.org to learn there are many wonderful, caring people out there sharing their life time experience with others.
Some Koreans have a seemingly endless appetite for products that promise to boost their health or sexual prowess, prompting them to eat food items that would seem unconventional by Western standards. One such product is bear bile, known in Asia for its medicinal properties. To get it, a significant number of Koreans are traveling to bear bile farms in Vietnam, where they can buy bile extracted from moon bears raised in cages. The problem is that many of these Korean travelers are unaware that such activities are illegal in Vietnam.
By Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org] From Joongang Daily
Recently, Oct 27 marks the big time for us: our petition has hit 10,000 signatures! Thank you very much for all of your support, it means so much for us. It was also signed by Ms Sue Prince from UK. As we are half way to our goal to collect 20,000 signatures, we need to celebrate this great achievement. We hope this event will circulate throughout communities and people can take the petition as an educational tool on how to protect Moon Bears. Your support is vital in order to make this petition a success.
moonbears.org would like to recognize Nicola Goddard for her tremendous work in creating the following lesson plan, to help Korean children learn about the bear bile issue and to give them a chance to have their voices heard. Nicola also arranged for her class to write letters to President Lee Myung Bak, urging him to put a stop to bear farming. Great work Nic, we feel fortunate to have your support!
Sadly she is no longer with us, thank you Kelly!
Contact information for Ministry of Environment: Minister Lee Man Ee
88 Gwanmoonro, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, 427-729, Republic of Korea
Fax : 82-2-504-9206
Contact information for Blue House: President Lee Myung Bak
1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea 110-820
This month, John Walker announced his second donation of 'Ura's World' proceeds to Shawn Morrisey, Founder and Ceo of the Korean Mountain Preservation League. moonbears.org is proud to help John succeed in his goal to continually support Korea's environmental organizations. The Korean Mountain Preservation League (KMPL) is committed to work as a non-governmental, non-profit organization to help preserve Korea's highlands. We are pleased to call them partners in our struggle to stop bear bile farming. Great work John!
On Monday, June 22, Gina paid a visit to the farm from which 'Miracle' escaped and had a conversation about the bear with her former keeper. We now know that our amazing bear is approximately 3 years old. She is not necessarily a Malay bear but POSSIBLY a Korean moon bear, though the farmer used the term Himalayan bear. Further research must be conducted to find the truth."
Miracle was born in a breeding farm in 2006 May.
The farm is a small scale operation, run by a Korean couple in their mid to late 60s, and time is running out for them. The industry made the farm owners rich but they are getting old and have medical issues. Farm owner Lee claims he doesn't care to continue his business and wishes for someone to buy all his bears from him.
The farm is small, filthy and dry, and lacks any indication of cleaning or preservation efforts. The bears are fed pig�s food, though in the past, they have been given bear meat when available. This sort of diet is extremely unhealthy and inadequate for the animals. Not a drop of water in sight!
All resident moon bears can be seen sitting in their own feces, looking utterly lifeless. The Farms 4 bear cubs live in separate cages from their parents and are 5 months old. Also present is one 3-legged moon bear that is kept isolated in a small cage- obviously traumatized, and moving endlessly, showing his temper. He is a young bear cub of approximately one year.
The facilities look old and unkempt and the farm is not locked, but is secured by a wire, which tells us these bears were never let outside.
The farmer Lee said he told the officials clearly from the beginning that he doesn't want Miracle returned to his farm when she is captured. Therefore, we can assume the words we had previously heard from Wonju Representatives were empty as officials claimed that they must return Miracle because of the private property laws in Korea.
It is obvious that there have been no efforts by the environmental Ministry to regulate the farm, or to enforce the law by authority of the Environment Ministry.
Lee's registration documents showed no pictures of the individual bears, making it impossible to distinguish one bear from another.
He started this breeding business in 1990 with the purchase of moon bear pairs; now he owns a total of 16 bears- 12 males and 4 females.
According to Farmer Lee, Miracle seems to be a Korean moon bear, though she was previously assumed to be of Malaysian breed as is often the case with farm bears.
She escaped from her terrible fate through a hole in fencing when she was 16 months old in September 2007 and have lived in wild ever since. She swam across a river, which is at least 400 meters wide with a strong current and finally found her freedom.
The damage reported from the nearby farms is minor; it includes a couple of honey pots and some chicken food on 2 separate occasions. This proves that she has been living on her own, adapting to her surroundings with no external aid; an amazing feat from an ecological point of view.
Farmer Lee is quite a gentle guy, and seemed very pleasant, though it is obvious he's been a little inconsistent in his information. Aside from his bear business, he runs a deer farm, which located out in the front of his property while the bear farm is hidden in his back yard.
Despite his background, Farmer Lee is quite likable - but he creates pure Purgatory for all of us including himself, because he has admittedly been selling the bears, regardless of age, to anyone who asks (for their gal, for their meat, for their paws.. or even for bile milking farms) and his sole interest is financial gain.
He doesn�t contemplate their pain or death; he feels free of moral responsibilities.
The Environment Ministry of Wonju showed sensitivity toward the issue- they want to keep it quiet so the stories remain out of the public eye.
The plan of capturing the bear and warning the public involved 5 separate attempts. Traps had been used along with warning signs being distributed to public. A dart gun was not considered simply because they didn�t have one and lacked expertise.
Instead, professional hunters and hunting dogs were used - 30 hunters with 10 dogs in their first trial and recently, 110 people with 40 hunting dogs in May this year for a 10 day period. The Jirisan Moon bear population restoration center also participated in this project at some point but with no success.
Plans to capture Miracle have been suspended until this autumn when food supply gets low and the forest becomes thinner.
However, the Wonju office has prepared them to act more swiftly when the report comes in from the villages by creating a communication and emergency contact network.
Despite these efforts, we can't deny the feeling that in their documents, there is an absence of scientific involvement.
Now it is very important to us that Miracle is captured and saved.
She belongs to wild as she earned her life by living it. A sanctuary plan is now urgently needed. We have options, but we must take initiative to see that Miracle is found and placed in a safe environment.
Miracle is indeed a miracle- our first hope for saving the entire population of farmed bears in Korea and for the rest of the world.
The fate of �Miracle,?a female Asiatic Black Bear (Moon Bear) that escaped from a Whacheun Province bear bile farm in September, 2007, is currently being deliberated by Wonju District officials.
Unless officials decide otherwise, Miracle will be returned upon capture to a body-sized metal cage like the one from which she escaped, at the same bile farm where she spent her life before escaping. Environmental and animal welfare groups are working to see that this does not occur.
Poorly adapted to living in the wild, Miracle has so far managed to survive while wandering the Chuncheun border region by feeding from farmers?crops.
Miracle had been deemed a potential threat to tourists, and orders had been given to kill her on sight until June 1st, 2009, when the �kill-on-sight?order was retracted and Wonju Office Officials began debating how to manage the bear.
Citizens of Wonju argue that the bear ought to be captured and re-introduced into the Wonju wilderness after research concerning her health status, behaviour, and genealogy are conducted. As a captivity-bred individual, Miracle is significant in that she has successfully introduced herself into a wilderness despite a lack of survival skills education, which would have occurred had she been raised by her mother in the wild.
At this time, it is uncertain whether Miracle can be thus reintroduced into Korea�s Jirisan National Park because the presence of hybrids is seen as dangerous to the preservation of pure breeds. Until the appropriate research is completed, it is unknown whether Miracle is a hybrid or a pure Asiatic Black Bear.
Unfortunately, at this time there is no suitable sanctuary or rescue centre for mixed-breed bears in Korea. Options for Miracle may include: granting the wish of the Wonju Villagers to release her deeper in the wild, a temporary placement in a zoo or a private location on farmland where she would be protected from hunters.
The Asiatic Black Bear, or �Moon Bear?named for its distinctive crescent-shaped marking on the chest, is a protected species in Korea. Only eleven (11) moon bears reside in the Korean wild, while an astounding 1600 are barely living under the torturous conditions of bear bile farms in Korea, where they are kept in body-sized metal cages from an early age in support of the bear bile industry.
Ursodeoxycholic acid, or �UDCA,?is the prized ingredient in bear bile and is believed to treat numerous health ailments. There are 54 known herbal alternatives to UDCA, all of which are acknowledged by the scientific community. Nevertheless, bear bile farming continues in Korea, China, and Vietnam.
www.moonbears.org, a group of people campaigning in Korea for the freedom of moon bears, urges friends of animals and the environment worldwide to show their support for �Miracle?and other Moon Bears by writing letters to the following officials:
1. The Minister of the Environment -
Mr. Lee Maan-ee
KyungGi-do, GwaCheun-si, KwanMun-ro 88
JungAng-dong 1, GwaCheeun complex, (427-729)
For all those who have been looking for the contact details of South Korea's president here they are:
President Lee Myungbok
1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea 110-820
Seoul, South Korea 110-050
Milking the Moon Bears: Bear Farming in South Korea
By Carly Nugent
You�ve probably seen the bus stop billboards around Seoul ?big furry faces and wide, brown eyes. But apart from such advertising on behalf of groups like Green Korea, the issue of bear farming in this country receives little publicity. It is rarely discussed among the Korean community, and most expats are surprised to learn that the slaughter of bears even occurs here. Even the minister for environment was recently rumoured to have said, in response to questioning about bear farming, �is that still going on??/p>
It is going on, and it is legal. There are an estimated 1600 bears on 110 farms, most of them around Daegu ?South Korea�s medicinal capital. Bears are farmed for their gall bladders and bile ?used in traditional Asian medicine to cure numerous ailments such as fever, liver disease, poor eyesight, gallstones and even heart disease. While it is true that the extract from bear bile ?ursodeoxycholic acid or UDCA ?has proven to be an effective treatment for such illnesses, there are at least 54 readily available herbal alternatives. Herbal medicine is just as effective as bear products, not to mention cheaper and safer. Draining bears for their bile can be a risky process, especially if, as often happens due to unsanitary conditions, the bears are sick or the draining site is infected. For consumers seeking to get well, taking bear bile could have the opposite effect.
The selling of bear products is a lucrative trade ?which could explain the reluctance of bear farmers to recognise the benefits of alternative medicine. A kilogram of bear bile can fetch up to USD $500, while a single gall bladder can be worth USD $10,000. Statistics indicate that 38% of oriental medicine shops in Korea carry these products ?discreetly ?in the form of pills, plaster or raw bear bile. Another common practice is the choosing of your own bear, directly from a farm, for slaughter.
While slaughtering bears for medicine is legal in Korea, milking them for bile is not. Animal rights groups, however, believe that a lack of government regulation or inspection of bear farms allows this practice to happen frequently. The process of milking a bear for its bile requires the insertion of a catheter into its gall bladder. When the bear is not being milked the catheter is removed and the site is covered by a steel lock and plate, designed to prevent tampering by the bear. This is not only uncomfortable for the animal, but can cause serious infection. Reports of the general treatment of farmed bears are also not positive. Bears are often kept in small, dog-sized cages, or sometimes crammed into larger cages with up to ten other bears. Their teeth are filed, and they are fed pig slop ?far removed from their usual diet of vegetables and insects. Because of their living conditions bears are unable to hibernate, a fundamental instinct that, when repressed, results in depressive behaviour such as turning in circles, chewing the bars of cages, and self-harm. While the legal age for the slaughter of bears has recently been reduced to 10 years old from 24 years old, farmers are pushing for it to be lowered further, and there is no regulation on how bears are killed. Animal rights groups believe slaughtering practices, as a result, are often inhumane.
The majority of farmed bears (85.3%) are Asiatic Black Bears ?also known as Moon Bears due to the crescent moon shaped pattern on their chests. Moon Bears are native to Korea, and are hailed as Korean National Monument Number 329. Since 1982 Moon Bears have been a protected species, and legend has it that Korea�s first king, Tan-gun, was born to a bear. Korea�s respect for its bears, however, is at odds with its penchant for farming them. Today, there are only about 11 bears left in the Korean wild as part of Jirisan National Park�s Moon Bear restoration work, and even these bears face the threat of poaching. Even more contradictory was the Korean government�s decision to join CITES (The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) in 1993. CITES bans the international trade of bear parts, however it does not regulate domestic trade. As a result, Korea can no longer import bears from countries such as North America, nor can it export bear products. The domestic market, however, remains active. Joining CITES has also done nothing to discourage tourists from Korea travelling to China and Vietnam to purchase bear products. According to Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), Koreans make up the majority of visitors on organized tours to bear farms in China and Vietnam. Bear farming in Vietnam is illegal - however an estimated 700 tourists visit undercover farms every week. Smuggling bear parts to Korea from Vietnam is a violation of the CITES agreement, but little is being done to stop this from happening.
The Union of Korean Bear Farms is currently pushing for further deregulation of bear farming practices. The Union Chairman Kim Mu-ung ?whose name in Chinese ironically means �no bear??farms over 200 bears. He has petitioned the Korean government to legalize the sale of bear meat, and is rumoured to be planning the opening of a bear theme park. Kim argues that deregulation of bear farming will allow Korean farms to compete with China, discouraging the purchase of foreign products and improving local trade. Such an argument, however, does not address the treatment of the bears themselves ?seeing them as valuable only for their commercial use. It has also been argued that the farming of bears protects the animals in the wild ?however, this does not take into account the fact that poachers are selling wild bears to farms.
There are a number of groups that are working towards the protection of Korea�s farmed bears. moonbears.org is a non-profit organization that was founded by Gina Moon in 2007. The moonbears.org website has a link to a petition against bear farming, as well as up to date information about the issue. moonbears.org is working towards the development of a bear sanctuary, in conjunction with the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) ?a Hong Kong based animal welfare charity founded by Jill Robinson in 1998. John Walker, a supporter of moonbears.org, recently published a children�s book about the plight of Korean Moon Bears. The book ?�Ura�s World??is set in South Korea and aims to remind readers of the importance of protecting flora and fauna.
moonbears.org works with Green Korea United ?an NGO focused on the preservation of Korea�s natural environment. Green Korea, apart from being responsible for Seoul�s Moon Bear bus stops, has investigated numerous pharmaceutical markets in Korea to expose the illegal international trade of bear parts. Green Korea has called on the minister for environment to restore the population and preservation of bears in the wild. They also meet with WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) each year. WSPA are an international organization working to eliminate the illegal trade of bear parts. WSPA believes that the farming of bears is cruel, unnecessary and must end, and they are working with Asian governments as well as practitioners of traditional medicine to make this happen. They have had some success elsewhere in Asia - Vietnam committed to phase out bear farming in 2005 - and their goal is to achieve similar results in Korea.
Although there are reports that the market for bear gall is rising in Korea, there are indications that a lot of farmers would be more than happy to give up their trade. While around 30 farms house fifty or more bears, a 2007 survey carried out by moonbears.org indicates that the majority of bear farms are small, backyard operations with less than 4 animals. The cost of keeping so few bears in most cases outweighs the profits, and many farmers see the animals as a burden rather than a financial asset. The question is - how much resistance would the closing down of the bear farming industry really face? If groups like moonbears.org are well supported and continue to petition the Korean government, it seems a real possibility that the farming of this protected and revered species could soon be a practice of the past.
|This month, John Walker is proud to announce his first donation of KRW 2 M to Green Korea United. John's goals include the continual funding of Korea's environmental organizations. Green Korea United, one of the largest environmental organizations in Korea remains our proud partner in ending the bear bile trade. We are grateful for their on-going support. Great work John! Onward Ura!|
(April 30, 2009) John Walker, Chairman of the Macquarie Group of Companies (Korea) wrote the children�s book �Ura�s World? Korean and English versions have been simultaneously published.
Its setting is the beautiful country of South Korea, where there were once many moon bears in the wild. In fact a bear woman, �Ung Nyeo? is, by folk lore from the story of Dangun Shinwha, the mother of Korea. This book is the tale of Ura and his friends in the Korean mountains.
Mr. John Walker came to Korea in year 2000 to establish this business. Macquarie is the largest foreign investment bank in Korea and has made investments into assets with a total value of 18 trillion won. Prior to being an investment banker, Mr. Walker was a very senior Government official in Australia. He wrote this book while on business trips as he was thinking about the beauty of Korea�s nature.
John Walker said, �I have a strong interest in Korean culture and nature. I would love two things to be achieved by those who read the book. Firstly I hope that young Koreans who are studying the English language will find it helpful through identifying with their own animals and mountains. Secondly I hope that all readers will be reminded of the beauty of Korean nature and the importance of protecting its flora and fauna. Also, this little book is dedicated to all those tireless people who give their lives to improving and protecting our natural environment.?
Sohn, Hee-Jung in charge of the illustrations in the book previously worked in the movie industry. Her interest in children�s books has motivated her to participate as an illustrator for the first time.
Published by Design EUM, 40 pages - 8,000 won per copy.
Read about Gina's trip to the Chengdu Sanctuary here.
This is in response to the Korea Times Article found here: NGOs Angry Over Bear-Meat Sale by Bae Ji-SookDownload the MS Doc format here. or Download the PDF format here.
Dear Mr President,
SALE OF BEAR MEAT IN KOREA
We are writing to strongly protest against reported plans to legalise the sale of bear meat in Korea.
We understand that the Korean Government has ambitions to show the world that it is a modern, clean and industrialized nation. However, the debate on the sale of bear meat certainly challenges any such perceptions.
Korean bear farmers, who already treat these bears with unspeakable cruelty, are arguing that the Government should permit them to legally sell bear meat as it is then the Government who in 1981 fostered the barbaric bear farming industry in Korea.
We urge that your Government move swiftly to reach arrangements with the farmers to relocate their bears to a number of sanctuaries and to compensate the farmers appropriately. Korea has huge resources of cash and this would be a fine investment in your wonderful country¡¯s future and reputation.
Organizations such as moonbears.org, animalsasia.org, etc., would be more than willing to assist in advising your Government and its officials on the technical requirements for transportation, sanctuaries, and etc.
Mr Lee, we are confident from your reputation as a dynamic leader that you can respond proactively to address this issue and to show the world that Korea has truly modernised.
Moon Bears dot Org