On bear bile farms throughout Asia, Asiatic black bears – known as moon bears because of the crescent-shaped marking on their chests – are held in “crush cages” for their entire lives for the sake of traditional Eastern medicine.
Highly endangered, with only an estimated 16,000 remaining in the wild, some 10,000-13,000 of them are kept in metal cages forced to remain in a prone position – unable to even stand or move – to have bile crudely and painfully extracted from their gall bladders through either implanted steel catheters or free-dripping holes in their abdomens.
Bile extraction is daily agony for the bears, who can survive for up to 20 years in these coffin-like crush cages. They develop stereotypic behavior, banging their heads repeatedly against the bars, gnawing them until their teeth are broken, and even growing into the cage bars. Many are missing limbs or paws due to the trauma or the snares used to capture them.
Groups like the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) are working effectively throughout Asia to end bile farming. They have rescued and provided sanctuary for around 400 moon bears, and shut down more than 43 bile farms for good. AAF’s China sanctuary includes a bear enclosure funded entirely by NEAVS. Then in 2011, NEAVS adopted Shima, a moon bear rescued by Animals Asia, and is committed to providing for her lifetime care.
Over 50 herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile are readily available. As public awareness grows, there has been growing clamor from the people of China to end this cruel practice. In fact, according to AAF, “20 of China's 31 provinces have become proudly bear farm-free.”
But now there's a possible setback to this progress: In 2012, one of the largest bear bile farms in China, the Gui Zhen Tang Pharmaceutical Company, announced plans to expand their farming operation and is seeking approval from the Fujian Securities Regulatory Committee to publicly list their business in the stock exchange. The investment money generated by the listing would allow the company to increase production by adding over 700 more moon bears.
The company's plans have led to an outpouring of public opposition within China.
An online petition to end bear farming generated over 92,000 signatures from Chinese citizens within a week!
As of April, 2013 the company had suspended its plans.
NEAVS considers bile farms for the sake of human “medicinal use” a form of vivisection that must end. While much of traditional Eastern medicine – for example the use of replenishable herbs – is compatible with our mission to end the use of animals, we draw a line when it involves ancient practices that cause suffering or the demise of animals (e.g., the use of animal parts from bears, tigers, and rhinoceroses).
Read NEAVS' response to sensationalistic articles about a new study a showing chemical found in the bile of bears can slow the development of type 1 diabetes in mice in "‘Bear bile’ research reporting is misleading and misguided."
Help us show our solidarity with the nearly 100,000 Chinese signatories who are speaking out against this outdated and cruel practice.
Chinese Embassy Chancery
Ambassador Cui Tiankai
3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
While citizens and organizations are working hard in China and other countries to end bile farming, we need to do our part in the U.S., Europe, and other “consumer” countries where a market for traditional Eastern medicines also exists.
Some formulas may contain cruelly obtained animal parts or derivatives, some illegally so from endangered species banned from commerce. Please take a moment to become an educated consumer who can Recognize, Reject, and Report any products that contain illegal species ingredients. Then go a step further and reject all formulas that include any animal ingredients – endangered species or not.
If you practice alternative medicine, spread the word to your colleagues. If you are treated by an alternative health practitioner, bring one of our free 3 R's posters with you to your next appointment.
Let's not let ignorance of this issue make anyone an accidental contributor to the suffering!
Theodora Capaldo, EdD
To learn more, visit Animals Asia.