The animals, known as moon bears after the distinctive yellow crescent moon-shaped mark on their chests, were given to Animals Asia by bear farm owner Nguyen Ngoc Tien, the group said in a Tuesday statement.

"(Tien) had the opportunity to sell the bears to others but for reasons of conscience decided to give them to Animals Asia," said Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia's Vietnam director.

"We want to see an end to bear farming across Vietnam so no more bears have to suffer," he said, adding that it was the first time a Vietnamese bear farm had given up a significant number of animals without compensation.

Bear farming is banned in Vietnam but people are allowed to keep the animals in small cages as pets.

Using this legal loophole, bear bile factories still operate in Vietnam - there were 4,190 bears in farms in 2005 according to official figures, but Animals Asia says the captive population has dropped by some 700 since then.

In the farms - which feed a regional demand for bile used in traditional medicine - bears are often drugged, restrained and have their abdomens jabbed with unsterilised needles to harvest their bile.

The 14 bears that were rescued show significant health problems including missing and maimed limbs, indicating they may have been trapped in the wild.

They have been taken to a sanctuary in northern Tam Dao district for care and treatment, Animals Asia said.

Agence France Presse - December 8, 2011