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The Night I Was a Bear: Reflections on Cruelty to Animals

Barbara J. King: ‘For one long night, tethered to medical equipment after a grueling more-than-six-hour cancer surgery performed by a human-robot team, I felt this as a strange and overwhelming certainty. I wasn’t one of the wild bears I’d observed loping through the hills in Yellowstone National Park, or even a bear in a zoo. I was a caged bear held in a bile farm somewhere in Southeast Asia… Unlike the [caged] bears, I was in a safe place as a post-surgical patient… My distress was acute, but it was temporary and inflicted without cruelty. The bears, turned into harvestable commodities year after year and decade after decade without relief, do experience cruelty. Only by focusing on this central difference can we begin to understand and to address what is happening to them…

A lesson of the Asian bear bile farm — in addition to the primary one, that the bears need our attention and our rescue — is that it acts as a pointer to what we may not so readily want to see. Despite intense and often successful rescue efforts by organizations like Animals Asia, bear bile farms still aren’t very widely known. It’s tempting to exoticize them as “Asian,” as something that supposedly civilized Westerners wouldn’t do. But in a very real way, they mirror the factory farms that underpin our food system in North America and the West. Unlike the prolonged suffering of the bears, the crowded, uncomfortable, and wholly unnatural lives of pigs and chickens raised for food are drastically short: They are chemically fattened and slaughtered within months’. SOURCE…

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