With the recent uproar about the inhumane practices of harvesting bear bile, celebrities, such as Yao Ming, have begun to speak out against animal cruelty. Animal welfare groups claim that this support from celebrities represents a growing concern for animal rights in China. The Washington Post reports:
Jill Robinson, who established the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation in 1998, said she’s seen interest in animal rights snowball in China over the last few years, spurred by support from celebrities and shifting attitudes among ordinary people.
On Saturday, Yao visited one of Robinson’s bear sanctuaries in Sichuan province. The 7-foot-6 (2.29-meter) former NBA center clipped the nails of an anesthetized bear and shook its paw, then strolled around the facility with his wife, looking at the bear enclosures and a bear graveyard.
Yao has also campaigned against the weekly slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million sharks to make shark fin soup. The practice is taking some of the species close to extinction.
The change reflects both a growing environmental awareness and the increasing affluence of ordinary Chinese, who keep pets, travel overseas and are changing attitudes toward traditions they may not have questioned in the past.
Update: In a recent statement, the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine defended the practice of harvesting bear bile by saying, “Removing the organs from live bears is natural and painless; the bears are very comfortable.” In a recent online poll on QQ, participants were asked to choose which statement they believed to be true. The results do perhaps show growing awareness of animal rights. (Poll results in parentheses):
“Bears feel no pain” (30,913 votes, or 5％） or
“Whoever says that should try it on themselves” (544,495 votes or 94%)