From Issue #8
The Bear Bile Farms of China
a tiny iron cage, too small to allow him to stand up or lie
down, a young Asiatic black bear is huddled in agony. His stomach
is permanently oozing thick, yellow bile from an open wound.
Twice a day, a metal tube will be forcibly inserted through
the wound into his gall bladder and he will be systematically
'milked' of his bile, which will be used in Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM), cosmetics, wine and even shampoo.
To prevent him lashing out at his torturers, he is forcibly
restrained in a crude iron body harness or squeezed into a very
small cage. And he's not the only one. In bear farms across
China, thousands of bears are kept in such unspeakable conditions
where they are condemned to between five and ten years of torment
before their bile dries up and they are simply abandoned, left
to die alone of starvation or disease.
For the past 3,000 years, TCM has prescribed derivatives of
bear gall bile for medicinal purposes. Bear bile contains an
active constituent which on ingestion is believed to reduce
fever and inflammation, protect the liver, improve eyesight
and break down gallstones.
There are now officially 247 bear farms across China, housing
an estimated total of 7,002 bears. While TCM utilizes a total
of 500 kg of bear bile every year, over 7,000 kg is now being
produced, with the majority feeding a demand for products such
as wines, tonics and eyedrops.
During 1999 and 2000, the World Society for the Protection of
Animals (WSPA) conducted one of the most comprehensive inspections
of Chinese bear farms undertaken.
WSPA investigators found that conditions represent the worst
examples of factory farming. At every farm, bears could be seen
with wounds or scars to the face, head, paws and back because
of the friction caused by containment.
These practices are not only cruel they are pointless. Chinese
practitioners state that there are at least 75 herbal alternatives
that can replace the use of bear bile, however, the Chinese
government still refuses to put an end to the suffering and
ban bear bile farms for good.
Written with files from WSPA Canada