Animal welfarists condemn treatment
 of bears in Japanese bear parks
Action superstar Jackie Chan sends message from Toronto
Challenges Japan to stop the suffering

TORONTO, November 29th, 2001- Jackie Chan took time out of a busy shooting schedule this week to record a personal message of support for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and their Japanese bear park campaign. The videotaped message will kick off an international symposium in Tokyo tomorrow aimed at addressing animal welfare problems at the popular Japanese tourist attractions.
In his message, Chan challenges the people of Japan to end the suffering, saying: "In Japanese bear parks, a thousand bears are in pain. They must beg for food. They are made to fight. This is wrong. I challenge the people of Japan to stop the suffering. "
Adds Silia Smith, executive director of WSPA's Canadian office: "The term 'bear park' is deceiving. 'Bear prisons' would be more accurate. Japan's bear parks project a shameful image of entertainment at the expense of animal welfare. Some of the Bear Parks need to be closed down immediately. Others could remain open and continue to enthral tourists by reducing the number of bears and creating new forested parks for those that remain."
Tomorrow's symposium, hosted by WSPA and the Japanese animal welfare group All Life in a Viable Environment (ALIVE), is expected to include representatives of 16 Japanese animal welfare groups, government representatives and even bear parks managers, who have also been invited. Featured speakers include veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Barbara Maas who will present a scientific and behavioral assessment of the parks and Mr. Kenchiro Sato, a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, who will give the opening address.
Since Japan's first bear park opened in 1958, the parks have risen steadily in popularity to become Japan's most popular tourist attraction. The parks, meanwhile, have gotten larger and added more and more bears. The animal welfare groups charge that conditions in the parks are appalling and only getting worse. Hundreds of bears are housed in concrete enclosures with little or nothing to enrich the environment save the odd pool of dirty water, rock or metal climbing frames. These solitary animals are forced to live in overcrowded conditions and deprived of food to encourage them to beg for the scraps thrown by tourists.
Fights are common and the bears can sustain serious injuries which are often left untreated.  Despite being already overcrowded, parks continue to allow the bears to breed.  Some of the resulting cubs are muzzled, put into children's clothes and forced to perform circus acts in shows for visitors. Others are kept in rows of tiny cages out of view. It is not known what happens to these unwanted animals, but bear products including pelts, bear grease and tinned bear meat have been found on sale at bear park gift shops.  Bear gall bladder, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines has even been found on sale at one of the shops.
WSPA and ALIVE are calling on the Japanese government to introduce legislation to drastically improve these parks. These include an end to public feeding of bears by visitors, an end to confinement of bears in small cages, an end to overcrowded conditions and unrestricted breeding of bears, and end to the use of bears in performances and a ban on the sale of bear gall bladders and other bear parts.
The full text of Jackie Chan's message is as follows: "I'm Jackie Chan. You know me. I fight the bad guys. And today, I'm fighting against something very, very bad. In Japanese bear parks, a thousand bears are in pain. They must beg for food. They are made to fight. This is wrong. I challenge the people of Japan to stop the suffering. Help the World Society for the Protection of Animals and ALIVE. Help stop the pain."
Contact: Pat Tohill, Communications Manager,
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