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In this Clued Up section, young people discuss what worries them most in their daily lives and in the world around them. Their perspective and preoccupations are often quite different from world–weary adults and offer an insight into what issues actually make an impact on their lives. In this issue, Georgina Terry, aged 13, discusses her concerns about the mistreatment of animals

As a thirteen year old, one of the things that concerns me is the mistreatment and possible extinction of some of the world’s most extraordinary species of animals. Take the plight of the moon bears.

Moon bears are black bears, found in Southern Asia. They are called “moon bears” because of the crescent moon shaped patch of cream fur on their chest. They live in families and the baby bears stay with their mothers until they are over three years old. They are highly intelligent animals and have a very keen sense of hearing and smell. It is said that moon bears can smell honey from a distance of over three miles. They mostly live in mountain forests where they sleep in nests in tree branches or caves. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? It was, until man came along and spoilt it for them.

Now imagine a cage. A cage with metal bars that is hardly any bigger than a bear. Picture a mother bear being torn from her baby and put in one of these cages. A metal tube called a catheter is then implanted into the bear’s gall bladder. Through this tube the bear’s bile is drained twice a day and stored in a container. You may wonder why somebody would do such a cruel thing. As extraordinary as it may sound, the bile of moon bears is used in Chinese medicine.

The Chinese have many weird and wonderful remedies. The medicine for which the bile of the moon bear is used has resulted in over 10,000 bears in China being kept in cages on so called “farms.” In their tiny metal cages the bears have no room to lie down, to stretch or even to move. Their bodies are pressed against the bars of the cage continuously. Boredom and frustration drives them to bite the bars of the cages. This often breaks their teeth, giving them toothache. Some are in pain from severe infections caused by the catheters inserted into their gall bladders; and some have head wounds caused by banging their heads against the bars in desperation.

There is a campaign called China Bear Rescue which is trying to help the moon bears reclaim their natural life. When the moon bears are rescued they need a lot of care and attention. They are bone thin, desperately ill and terrified. A vet is needed to take the catheter out and to treat their wounds and infections. Then they need to have physiotherapy to build up their muscles so they can walk again.

I have no idea if the bile of moon bears is of any medical value. Even if it is, there is no way that such barbaric treatment of the bears could be justified. It disturbs me to think that there are people in this world who have such vastly different ideas of how animals should be treated.

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