The award-winning film about the dire cruelty to over 10,000 bears in China, where the bears are kept in tiny cages for up to 30 years with a tube permanently rammed into their gallbladders (to drain their bile for so-called traditional Chinese medicine), The film features the dramatic rescue of 10 bears and the closing down of a bear farm, with the team traveling over 2,000 kilometers in a convoy. Along the way, with the convoy stuck in the world’s biggest traffic jam, one bear undergoes a spectacular in order to save its life

Narrated by Peter Coyote.  

47 minutes

I had seen for myself, on my visit to China, the devotion of all the staff in Chengdu to the rescued bears, and the high standard of care and sensitivity to the needs of all those special animals. But when I saw "Cages of Shame" my feelings of admiration rose even higher. The gruelling journey, for both animals and humans, the fear that some might not survive it and the emergency operation, the gathering exhaustion. But the unfailing calm and professionalism were inspirational to all of us privileged to watch the story unfold. Our joy, as an audience, when the convoy reached the sanctuary was overwhelming. I just want to thank you. We watch from afar but you are never forgotten.


Virginia McKenna OBE

Founder Born Free Foundation

Patron Animals Asia

Director's Statement

When I first heard about bear farms I could hardly believe that humans could treat thousands of these wonderful animals in this way  -  and not even for any necessary purpose. It was beyond my understanding. But I knew straight away that I had to try and make a film to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the bears.

However, making a documentary film and having people want to see it are two different things. That, even though the situation with the bears is awful, I also knew that an audience would be turned off by the relentless cruelty.

So, when I found out about the mission to rescue the bears, I knew that we had the makings of a fuller, rounder story. And one that people might want to see.

Of course, when Jill Robinson and her team set off to drive thousands of kilometres to rescue the bears, they really had little idea of the drama that was to unfold.  

Being able to tell this story has been one of the most satisfying achievements of my career. And I truly hope that audiences get the central message: That these bear farms are shameful and totally unacceptable. And each and every one of them needs to be closed down.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Animals Asia. Without them this film would not have been possible. They have supported me all the way, and continue to do so.

Animals Asia has been working in China for more than 13 years on this issue.  It is difficult to exaggerate the value of the work that they do (and,

in particular, Jill Robinson’s tireless endeavours). Their efforts in publicizing the situation have drawn worldwide recognition. Their hard work negotiating with the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to close bear farms have proven fruitful. They have made major inroads in educating bear farm owners and bear bile users. And, despite popular misconceptions, they are in fact the only organization to actually rescue bears in China.

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Martin Guinness


The bile from the gallbladders of bears (principally Moon bears) has been used, along with other animal products, in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. But it was only used occasionally. And then only when a wild bear could be captured and killed.

However, in the 1980s the Chinese government became concerned about the large number of bears that were being killed for their bile. So they decreed that, in order to preserve the bear population, it was acceptable to keep a bear in a cage. And, rather than kill the bear, its bile could be drained again and again.

Thus began bear ‘farms’, where a number of bears are kept permanently in cages and their bile drained and sold. And what the Chinese government didn’t count on was the utterly cruel ways that the bears are kept: often in tiny cages where a bear can hardly move; where the bottom of the cage is made of only bars, so that the bear’s feet become crippled; with never enough food and water; and with a tube permanently rammed into the bear’s gallbladder. A bear can suffer like this for up to 30 years.

In China alone it is estimated that there are over 9,000 bears kept in these horrible conditions.

All this would be bad enough. But it isn’t even necessary to use bear bile in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many TCM alternatives, both natural and synthetic, that do what bear bile is claimed to.

And, (quite literally) to add insult to injury, over-production means that people have now turned to producing non-essential products in order to utilize the surplus, such as bear bile throat lozenges, bear bile shampoo, bear bile  toothpaste, bear bile wine and bear bile tea, in. These products have absolutely no benefit to health.

PLEASE NOTE: Cages of Shame is not meant to be a criticism of Traditional Asian Medicine, but refers to the shameful practice of bile extraction initiated by bear farmers throughout Asia. There is hope - in Vietnam, the Government has now made bear farming illegal.