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BEAR BILE FARMING
Bear Bile Farms: The Agonizing Truth Behind the Bars
Bear Bile Farm
More than 10,000 bears are kept on bile farms in China, and official figures put the number suffering the same fate in Vietnam at 1,245. The bears are milked regularly for their bile, which is used in traditional medicine.
Bile is extracted using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infection in the bears. This cruel practice continues despite the availability of a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives.
Most farmed bears are kept in tiny cages. In China, the cages are sometimes so small that the bears are unable to turn around or stand on all fours. Some bears are put into cages as cubs and never released. Bears may be kept caged like this for up to 30 years. Most farmed bears are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them.
Bear bile has been a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for 3,000 years.
It has been used to cure various ailments, such as fever, gall stones, liver problems, heart disease, and eye irritation. The active ingredient in bear bile is ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is more abundant in the bile of bears than in any other mammal. Bile is excreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, where it is released into the stomach to aid in digestion. The average bear produces 2 kilograms of dry bile powder per year. The price of bear bile varies by location, but investigators have found that bile sells for about US$410 per kilogram in China, an average wild bear gall bladder sells for US$33 per gram in Japan, and a whole bear gallbladder sells for about US$10,000 in South Korea. Because there is now a surplus of bear bile, bear farmers have begun producing shampoo, wine, tea, and throat lozenges containing bile.
UDCA has proven to be effective, although medical practitioners now often claim that its effectiveness has been overrated. Veterinarians examining bile from farmed bears have also discovered that it is often contaminated with pus as a result of the conditions on bear farms. Further, both synthetic and herbal alternatives exist that are cheaper and more readily available. Synthetic UDCA is sometimes used in the West as an alternative to surgery for the treatment of gallstones, primary cirrhosis, autoimmune hepatitis, and colon cancer.Many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine prefer to use one of the fifty-four herbal alternatives, such as sage, rhubarb or dandelion, to cure various ailments.
Five things you need to know about bear bile farming
1. Bear bile does have medicinal uses but there are cruelty-free alternatives
Bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) known to be useful for treating liver and gall bladder conditions. However, there are now many readily available herbal and synthetic alternatives with the same medicinal properties. Traditional medicine practitioners agree, nobody’s health will suffer due to a lack of bear bile.
In the past bear bile would be obtained by hunting bears in the wild and killing them to remove their gall bladder. It would have been a particularly rare and prized ingredient at the time used sparingly for specific medical conditions. In the 1980s however, bear bile farming began to be practiced as a way of constantly extracting bile for the duration of a bear’s life. Today more than 12,000 bears are believed to be kept on bear bile farms in China and Vietnam.
2. Extracting bile from bears is as cruel and painful as you would imagine
The extraction of bear bile from live bears causes unimaginable suffering and long term health problems for these physically and psychologically damaged animals.
A number of techniques exist, all of which are particularly gruesome. While the techniques vary between Vietnam and China, each involves bears being kept in tiny cages. Extraction methods range from “free drip” where the bear suffers a hole in their gall bladder, to the insertion of permanent catheters.
Crush cages and bears locked into metal jackets have now been made illegal in China – but are likely to still be used in poorer farms. Bears literally grow up in tiny cages to the point where their bodies have contorted to fit the bars. Most have few teeth left due to literally trying to chew their way out.
In China some farms have breeding programmes, but also rely on these being added to by poaching bears from the wild. Many bears can be caged as cubs and never released, suffering up to 30 years of continuous torture by bile extraction.
3. The Chinese people don’t want bear bile farming
A 2011 poll by Animals Asia found that a staggering 87% of Chinese people interviewed disagree with the cruel practice of bear bile farming.
The medical community too is shunning bear bile farming, with thousands of pharmacies recently pledging never to stock bile products as part of Animals Asia’s Healing Without Harm programme.
This year the owners of Nanning Bear Bile Farm asked us to take over and convert it into a sanctuary. They were in agreement that the industry must end – because, in their words, bear bile farming is both cruel and hopeless.
4. It’s still legal in China but not in Vietnam
Unfortunately, bear bile farming is still completely legal in China – albeit with regulations aimed at curbing the worst cruelty of the industry. Regulations that are circumvented or ignored time and again – so far, with no prosecutions being made.
Since being set up in 1998 Animals Asia has continuously campaigned to end bear bile farming in China and Vietnam. Thanks to the staunch support of people all over the world, we have been able to take bear bile farming from a dark secret to an international outrage. We have rescued more than 500 bears in Vietnam and China from the cruelty of bear bile farms and are absolutely committed to ending this cruel trade.
But we can’t do it alone. We need your help and the help of everyone you know to condemn this barbaric industry to the history books. So please, tell your friends, share this article and support our work. Together we can end the cruelty.
By AnimalsAsia https://www.animalsasia.org/us/media/news/news-archive/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-bear-bile-farming.html
The demand for rhinoceros horns in traditional Chinese medicine has led not only to the poaching of the endangered animals, but the theft of horns from animals in museums. Bile from bears is also an ingredient used in Chinese medicine, as a fever suppressant. The bile is cruelly extracted from bears in cages via holes punched in their bodies, a “harvesting technique” that is approved by the Chinese government.
The Guardian reports that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine are now joining with animal rights activists to call for an end to bear-bile farming.
About 242 types of medicine, including tanreqing for lowering fever in children, are produced from bear bile. The bear-bile industry is described as secretive though there are an estimated to 96 farms in China, with about 10,000 to 20,000 bears. One bear produces about 6 1/2 pounds of bile per year, which is worth about 12,000 yuan or just under $2,000 at wholesale prices, or more when marketed directly to hospitals and buyers. One company, the Shanghai-based Kaibao, is thought to take about half of all the bile.
Bear-bile farming began in North Korea in the 1980s before spreading to China and Vietnam. After an international outcry, it was banned in Vietnam in 2005 but has taken root in Laos, one of the poorest countries in southeast Asia. The Telegraph describes the conditions of the bears on one farm:
In the wild an adult black bear would roam across a territory 100 square miles in size, but here, in the Luang Prabang farm, they are confined in barred enclosures measuring 15 sq ft. Some of the animals cannot stand fully upright and some display the repetitive swaying movements of severe stress. Most also have mange, and scratch incessantly at their patchy fur. Despite the 100F heat outside, there is no water in any of the cages.
Disturbing as all this is to witness, these bears are luckier than others. In some bile farms the bears live with a catheter inserted into their gall bladder. To enable farmers to extract the bile without risk of attack, the animals are often confined in ‘crush cages’ so tight that they can hardly move at all. A bear in a well-run zoo or safari park can live for up to 35 years. Most bile-farm bears are unlikely to survive much beyond eight years, according to Free the Bears.
Gao Yimin, a professor at Capital Medical University, is quoted by the Guardian as saying that synthetic materials are similarly effective and even safer than bear bile, and that the cruel technique used to obtain it “actually reduces the effectiveness of the gall and is harmful to human health.” Toby Zhang, external affairs director of an NGO, cites research by Chengdu military scientists that “found that 100% of farmed bears were suffering from infections and other ailments despite being pumped full of antibiotics.” In addition, more than a third of the bears who are rescued die of liver cancer, meaning that the bile may contain carcinogens.
There are thousands of drug stores in China; about forty have agreed to stop stocking medicines made from bear bile and join campaign against its use. This support is a “major step forward,” as Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, says. She has been campaigning to end bear-bile farming since 1995. It remains unclear if the Chinese government will respond to the campaign, as Chinese authorities have a “long-standing desire to protect traditional medicine” and are concerned about the consequences of closing the industry, from finding “vast shelters or mass euthanasia” for the bears to new jobs for the workers.
But read the Telegraph‘s description of how the bile is taken from anesthetized bears and it becomes all too clear why bear-bile farming should be banned in Laos, in China and everywhere.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/ban-bear-bile-farming-in-china.html#ixzz3h9CBZkRm
Moon Bears Journey To Freedom Part 1-11
6 Bears Rescued from Bile Farm
Animals Asia received six bears last week after the Sichuan Forestry Department removed them from an illegal farm in China where their bile was being harvested.
The bears were reportedly in rough shape and understandably grumpy when they were taken in by their rescuers. Some had facial injuries from banging their heads on the bars of their cages, another was starving with bile leakage, while yet another will require major abdominal surgery.
“If you’ve seen the paws of the bears it’s obvious they haven’t stood on solid ground for years,” said Jill Robinson, CEO and Founder of Animals Asia.
Fortunately for these six bears, they will be treated for injuries and illnesses and have a chance to live free from the tiny cages that had confined them, but their rescue has once again brought to light the suffering of bears who are still being kept on bile farms and regularly “milked” with catheters or by a technique known as “free-dripping,” which involves creating an open hole in their abdomens through which bile drips out.
“The bears’ gall bladders are severely damaged from being repeatedly jabbed every few weeks and the process also leads to the dangerous leakage of bile into the body. In some cases, the result of this leakage is a slow, agonizing death from peritonitis. The wounds from the unsterilized needles cause massive and painful abscesses and the bears suffer severe joint and muscle ailments from their inability to move freely. Their physical pain is compounded with the mental stress that this horrific situation causes and many bears end up psychologically damaged,” said Robinson.
Many of the bears used in bile farming are Asiatic black bears, also known as moon bears because of the crescent-shaped marking on their chests, who are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Under the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the commercial export of bear parts is illegal, including gall bladders and bile.
The bears produce bile with high concentrations of Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA), which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. However, UDCA can be synthetically produced without the use of animals and there are more than 50 herbal alternatives available that are affordable and effective.
Unfortunately, proponents of this insidious industry continue to insist that it’s humane.
“The process of extracting bear bile was as easy, natural and painless as turning on a tap,” said Fang Shuting, head of China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine at a press conference in February.
Animal advocates disagree and scientific evidence proves otherwise.
“When they say they have better, more humane ways of extracting the bile, it’s rubbish. You can’t surgically extract the bile and say it’s humane – it’s offensive,” said Robinson.
Fortunately, public awareness of the plight of bears on bile farms is growing. In the past decade a number of farms have been shut down and this rescue saw the 285th bear saved and released to Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Sichuan.
“In Vietnam it’s illegal and the number of bears has reduced from 4,000 to 2,400. Today in China there are a minimum of 10,000 in bear bile farms. The positive thing in China is the rise in public outrage about bear-bile farming. At one stage it was the second-most searched term after Jeremy Lin,” Robinson told the Irish Times.Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/6-bears-rescued-from-bile-farm.html#ixzz3h9EXr6yZ
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