I first saw Suki seven years ago during a visit to Bear Rescue Center Vietnam at Tam Dao National Park in Vinh Phuc Province.
The patch where he was pacing had reached a point where the grass was no longer growing.
In most cases, bears that have been held captive in small cages and whose bile has been extracted by humans remain depressed and stressed for some time after being rescued. It took much longer for Suki to return to a normal life.
Today, 12 years after her rescue and rehabilitation, Suki has made progress. He walks around more and has started climbing trees.
A bear’s life descends into dire misery when humans begin to believe that their bile offers miraculous benefits.
Many people believe that bear bile is a perfect painkiller and that their claws are very nutritious, even when there is no scientific evidence to support such beliefs. Also, there are many other solutions to the problems that bile and other parts are supposed to solve.
Instead of being summarily killed to serve any human purpose, the bears were horribly tortured. They had their hands cut off and their stomachs pierced. From the wound on their stomach, people continuously extracted bile. This mutilation, confinement and extraction is one of the most extreme forms of animal abuse in the world, according to World Animal Protection, an international nonprofit animal rights organization established in 1981.
Vietnam banned all forms of bear bile extraction in 2006 as it tried to align its animal rights protections with global practice.
The ban was not just a moral imperative to free a creature from extreme pain and misery; such actions are survival imperatives for humans. Without protecting species diversity and biodiversity, we cannot protect ourselves.
Thanks to the active advocacy of bear rescue centers, the farming of bears for bile collection has decreased significantly in Vietnam. Many bear owners have realized the cruelty involved and have voluntarily turned the bears over to rescue centers.
Rescuing bears in captivity is one of the most successful animal welfare activities Vietnam has undertaken.
A common definition of animal welfare is a state in which they no longer have to suffer unnecessary pain and fear for any reason. In a broader context, it can be said that any activity related to animals, from pets to wild animals, should fall under animal welfare.
That said, it’s easy enough for us to advocate for the welfare of pets and wildlife, but not animals that are killed or tamed to feed and entertain humans.
If animal welfare policies were applied to the breeding and slaughter of livestock, it is not only the helpless creatures who would benefit from not being subjected to avoidable pain and fear, but also us , meat eaters.
Scientists have pointed out that fear and stress at the time of killing cause animals to release cortisol, a major stress hormone, which will affect the quality of meat humans eat.
A 2016 study by scientists from the Vietnam National University of Agriculture showed that keeping pigs under harsh conditions also causes them to release more cortisol than normal.
The main barrier preventing the livestock sector from engaging in livestock welfare is economic benefit. Few people are willing to move from a low-cost breeding and slaughter model in which animals are kept in small cages and killed inhumanely to one where they are kept on a farm and able to engage in normal activities such as walking and running before being shot with methods that inflict the least amount of pain and fear.
However, farmers, butchers and consumers should keep in mind that the humanitarian changes will bring great long-term benefits to businesses, as they will be able to produce and consume healthier products.
Consumers are more and more demanding these days. Products must be beautiful and of high quality. If the producers can guarantee that they have created this product through a human process, they can surely win the hearts of consumers without having to spend on expensive marketing campaigns.
The use of animals in circuses and other activities to entertain humans must also be stopped. More and more parents and children have decided to stop watching animals perform in circuses after learning about the torture and pain inflicted on them to make them do things that are unnatural to them.
Late last year, the central highlands province of Dak Lak, home to the country’s largest elephant population, signed an agreement with Hong Kong-based Animals Asia to phase out elephant walks. elephant riding and several other activities that seriously affect the welfare of domesticated pachyderms.
These are small steps that need to be taken to ensure animal welfare, but the most essential step is to ask yourself: has the product I am about to buy caused any other sentient beings unnecessary pain and suffering?
*Minh Thu is a journalist. The opinions expressed are his own.