Animal Cruelty

Remember This Heartwarming Photo? It Turns Out It’s Anything But Adorable

Their conception, birth, and lives are all unnatural and laced with cruelty.

Credit: ABC News

Credit: ABC News

Recently, a short video of 23 baby pandas (one of which adorably [but sadly] face planted off of the stage) went viral and still shots of the babies were circulated everywhere. The response as an overwhelming “Awww!” But what is the truth behind the image?

Since giant pandas were endangered up until recently, it’s very curious that suddenly 23 babies are being debuted at the same time and yet no one is talking about what that means for the panda population. Their numbers are still dwindling, and soon they will only exist in zoos and sanctuaries worldwide rather than in the wild. The fact that they were recently declared no longer endangered is actually a false representation of the health and viability of their captive population.

It turns out that most giant pandas in captivity were born as a result of purposeful and monitored breeding, which is not all that surprising. Giant pandas have an incredibly delicate mating process, in which the female is only fertile for about 12-24 hours once every year. This is largely why they have been endangered for decades, amongst other reasons like habitat loss.

Credit: China Daily

Credit: China Daily

What is surprising, however, is that most pandas are born in exclusive breeding facilities that churn out as many baby pandas as they can at one time because it helps to keep the multi-million dollar industry running. China pays these facilities handsomely in exchange for the continuous production of cubs.

“The Chinese government rewards the breeding centers for the number of the cubs that are produced — not the health or quality — and hence they’re terribly proud of these piles of pictures of these cubs,” said Dr. Kati Loeffler, a former director of animal health at one of these breeding centers.

This is why no one talks about what it means for conservation; none of these pandas are bred to be released into the wild or even help the wild population in any way. Their entire lives are just as unnatural as their conception and birth.

The way that the females are impregnated and males have semen extracted from them is extremely inhumane, too. First, the males are brought in, and Dr. Loeffler said,

“He is tied by all fours to a table, and a person hangs off of each ear as an extra measure of control. Electroejaculation works by running an electric shock through the rectum from a thick metal probe, which eventually releases an ejaculate. Ketamine [the drug used to temporarily sedate the breeder pandas] produces no block against pain.”

Credit: Xinhua/Cai Kai

Credit: Xinhua/Cai Kai

Since females have such a short window of time where they are fertile, Loeffler said of the impregnation process,

“To cover that window, and to be extra sure, breeding facilities may inseminate her twice a day for two or three days in a row. Each time, she is anaesthetized with ketamine, tied to a table and inseminated with metal instruments.”

This is cruel, unusual, and unnatural, especially because their breeding practices aren’t contributing to the health and continuation of the species. While their species may rise in population, their health is declining at these facilities because of the stress they are put through. After the mother gives birth, the way they are treated only worsens.

“The moment a cub is born, it is snatched away by human hands, inspected, prodded, weighed, smeared all over with human smells,” Loeffler said. “If a mother is deemed fit to raise her baby, she will get it back … for a little while. Then she is prodded and distracted and clapped at and poked until she drops the cub to have it snatched away again for weighing and force-feeding and artificial incubating.”

Credit: John Richard Wilson

Credit: John Richard Wilson

These conditions are similar to those of a puppy mill, which are frowned upon for the torturous and unhealthy practices used in the industry. It shouldn’t be seen as any different when it comes to breeding wildlife, but China often has their own ways of handling and treating animals. They are so unhealthy that many cubs grow up without the ability to reproduce.

So while officials may be saying that the giant panda is no longer endangered, this isn’t a true representation of the facts surrounding these breeding centers and how healthy the cubs grow up to be. Learn more about how to help pandas here.

What are your thoughts on these breeding facilities? Please share, like, and comment on this article!

This article (Remember This Heartwarming Photo? It Turns Out It’s Anything But Adorable) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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