Thousands of Asiatic black bears, known as moon bears because of the white crescent markings on their chests, are confined to suffer on bear farms, some trapped in cages no larger than a telephone booth for their entire lives.
Bear farming was started as a way to collect bile from the bears’ gall bladder, which is used in traditional Asian medicine, and was considered as a way to protect the number of moon bears in the wild through captive breeding. However, bears are still showing up with injuries indicative of being illegally trapped in the wild. Some bears also have their teeth cut back or their claws removed to make them easier to handle.
Bile extraction may be performed by permanently implanting a catheter in a bear’s abdomen or by the newer “free dripping” technique.
The “free-dripping” technique is now the only permitted method of bile extraction. This method involves surgery to create an open hole or fistula in the abdomen through which bile drips out. While this is promoted as “humane” and appears more aesthetically pleasing than a metal catheter implant, Animals Asia’s investigations and veterinary assessments show that this technique is as inhumane, if not more so, than the older methods and causes a high mortality rate on the farms.
Unfortunately, bear farming is legal and requires owners to be licensed by the government. The World Society for the Protection of Animals estimates that approximately 12,000 bears are currently suffering on bear farms around Asia, with an estimated 16,000 left in the wild and are considered an endangered species.
Under the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the commercial export of bear parts is illegal, including gall bladders and bile. Wildlife DNA Services has created a protein detection kit that is being tried in Canada and Australia by customs and wildlife officials.
The active ingredient in bear bile, UDCA, can be synthetically created without the use of animals. Additionally, a report by the Chinese Association of Medicine and Philosophy and EarthCare has established that there are at least 54 herbal alternatives to bear bile, including Chinese ivy stem, dandelion, chrysanthemum, common sage and rhubarb. The alternatives are both cheap and effective, according to Animals Asia.
Since October 2000, over 40 bear farms have been closed down by the Government and over 245 bears released into the care of Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Sichuan. The World Society for the Protection of Animals is working on a similar campaign to encourage Asian governments, practitioners and consumers to promote alternatives to bear bile.
The compassion with which we’ve been given as humans, the only creature on earth who is able to help other life, includes the knowledge that healing does not come at the injury of another life. It includes the concept of respect for the living conditions of others.
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