NPR

Bears Can Face Summer Challenges In Roadside Zoos

Even when the Animal Welfare Act is followed, bears may not live in conditions that many would find reasonable for such large, intelligent animals to flourish, says anthropologist Barbara J. King.
Source: Getty Images/iStockphoto

All this summer, bears have been on my mind.

Last month, Undark Magazine published an essay I wrote about the time I thought I was a bear.

It happened one long night four years ago, immediately following extensive surgery for cancer, a night that preceded months to come of chemotherapy and radiation. Hooked up to a catheter, I felt an unexpected and profound sense of connection with bears I had been reading about for my work: the "bile bears" in Asia so cruelly confined, sometimes for decades, in impossibly tight cages and often with catheters inserted in order for their bile to be harvested. (For centuries, bile has been touted as effective in treating various human health conditions; evidence is mixed on this point, with its efficacy established for some conditions and not others.)

One point I made in that essay is that cruelty to animals isn't something that happens only in other countries, away from our own lives.

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