Until recently there was little sign that the Chinese public had any awareness of issues such as this. Perhaps, in time, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species will also gain the public awareness needed to change the government’s official stance on these matters – which, up to now – has been one of “China is not doing anything to endanger any of these animals”.
NY Times: “It was, at first glance, a rather modest initial public offering by a small Chinese company seeking to expand production of the key ingredient used in traditional remedies said to shrink gallstones, reduce fevers and sooth the after effects of excessive drinking.
Guizhentang Pharmaceutical uses bears to produce a traditional remedy it markets for a variety of ailments. A worker, above, drained bile from a bear’s gallbladder in Fujian Province.
But Guizhentang Pharmaceutical, the country’s largest producer of bear bile extract, apparently overlooked one important factor before submitting its application to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange: China’s increasingly audacious animal rights movement.
Guizhentang’s proposal to triple the company’s stock of captive bears, to 1,200 from 400, provoked a firestorm from those opposed to bear bile farming, a process that involves inserting tubes into the abdomens of bears and “milking” them, sometimes for years.
Protesters in bear suits picketed drugstores, hackers briefly brought down Guizhentang’s Web site and more than 70 Chinese celebrities, including the basketball star Yao Ming and the pop diva Han Hong, circulated a petition calling on the stock exchange to reject the I.P.O.
After some of China’s biggest news media outlets posted harrowing undercover footage revealing cages so tight the bears could barely move, Guizhentang last month withdrew its application, saying it needed more time to put together its filing.
For China’s animal welfare advocates, the victory signaled the growing clout of a movement that is frequently derided as bourgeois, frivolous or worse. Its most vociferous opponents paint animal advocates as foreign-financed traitors who would do away with such hallowed Chinese traditions as dog meat hot pot, ivory carving and dried deer penis, consumed to increase virility.
Deborah Cao, a lawyer who frequently writes about animal rights in China, said campaigns like the one that defeated Guizhentang showed how social media brought together the generation of educated Chinese urbanites who grew up with household pets and anthropomorphic Disney characters. “It’s a bottom-up, grass-roots movement, one that is contributing to an emerging civil society increasingly aware of individual rights and obligations, be it to humans or animals,” she said.
Such activism is even more notable given the constraints the Communist Party typically imposes on public lobbying, street protests or any unsanctioned organizing.
Advocates have not yet persuaded the government to enact animal welfare legislation. But optimists say they have started to chip away at the long-held notion that animals exist to satisfy the medicinal and gastronomical needs of humans.
Activists point to the growing visibility of public awareness campaigns targeting the consumption of shark fins as well as a recent spate of vigilante rescue efforts that have blocked trucks laden with cats and dogs from reaching the slaughterhouse. In December, the state-run broadcaster CCTV ran a series of exposés highlighting the illegal consumption of monitor lizards, rhesus monkeys, barking deer and other wildlife, and the police crackdown on black market dealers that followed.
- Bear bile farm puts off stock market launch (thestar.blogs.com)