By Courtney Cavaliere, HerbalGram
In many cultures throughout the world, traditional remedies are concocted from animal parts. Because the harvesting of animal parts frequently requires the animal’s death, this medicinal use can have disastrous effects on some animal populations and contribute to the endangerment of some species.
Use of tiger bone and rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), for example, contributed to reduced populations of both animals. Many countries instituted bans against tiger- and rhino-based products to stop further exploitation of those species, including China in 1993. Recently, however, facilities in China have begun selling tiger bone wine made from the bodies of farmed tigers (despite the country’s ban). Poaching of both tigers and rhinos has also seemingly increased, spurred largely by medicinal demand.
Some animals are farmed for medicinal and other uses, with the goal of ensuring sustainability. Thousands of bears, for instance, are trapped on Asian bear farms, where they are “milked” for their bile. These bears can spend 10 years or more confined to small cages and suffering repeated, painful bile extraction for the creation of medicinal bear bile products. Turtles and tortoises are also farmed at a massive scale throughout Asia. In addition to being eaten, turtles’ shells are boiled with herbs to create medicinal “turtle jelly.” Evidence indicates that farming of animals does not necessarily take pressure off wild populations, particularly as wild animals are often poached to help restock the farms.
Next: Are animal-derived remedies effective?