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After nearly two months of intensive efforts, hopes are high that the Quang Ninh provincial government will close the bear bile tourism farms in Ha Long City for once and for all, following the issuance of a directive from provincial leaders ordering the farms to be closed.
Since 2007, ENV, with support from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), have been campaigning to shut down several bear farms in Ha Long that entertain and sell bear bile to busloads of (mainly Korean) tourists that visit the farms. The provincial leadership has consistently called for action in dealing with the problem, but responsible agencies within the province have been slow to act, ineffective, and resistant in implementing the orders of their provincial leaders.
Having exhausted nearly every possible means to put an end to bear bile tourism in Ha Long City, ENV embarked on a campaign in November that involved a solid month of surveillance, seven days a week, outside the bear farms. During the 30 day period, 42 buses were observed entering the two remaining bear farms. As field teams watched the farms, the legislation and policy team at ENV prepared and sent a letter to the Prime Minister, along with copies of more than 70 correspondences produced over the last six years which document the monumental effort involved, and lack of tangible results observed, in the campaign to shut down bear bile tourism in Quang Ninh for good.
As a result of this last ditch effort to address the issue, the Prime Minister’s office called upon the province to deal with the issue decisively, and ENV received a correspondence on January 12th from the Quang Ninh People’s Committee instructing provincial agencies to shut down the bear farms permanently and prohibit any visitation to the bear farms. According to the correspondence, bear farm owners must sign a commitment not to conduct any bear bile tourism business, and only staff members of these facilities are permitted to enter the farms. Moreover, the provincial People’s Committee has ordered ENV to join an interagency inspection force, comprised of police and representatives of other agencies, to conduct inspections of the farms and ensure their compliance with the law.
This new development is encouraging and suggests that provincial leaders are more committed than ever to forcing these establishments to close. However, as we have learned time and time again in the past, it’s not over until it’s over. Celebration will come when the gates of these farms are sealed permanently. Until then, we remain cautiously optimistic, but our surveillance team is still in place at this very moment, monitoring the farms in Ha Long City.