Saving Bears from the Cruelty of Bile Farming

This is a guest blog post from Jill Robinson MBE, h.c., founder and CEO of Animals Asia.

More than 10,000 bears — mainly moon bears, but also sun bears and brown bears — are kept on bile farms in China, and around 2,400 in Vietnam. 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 tumors that ultimately kill them.

In the bile extraction process in Vietnam, the bears drugged and an ultrasound machine is used to locate the gall bladder; their abdomens are then repeatedly jabbed with 4-inch unsterilized needles until the gall bladder is pierced and the bile is pumped out of the bear’s body.

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.

Animals Asia‘s work to end bear bile farming focuses on five key areas:

1. Operating bear sanctuaries
We operate bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam where bears are rehabilitated and cared for and where our bear teams gather vital evidence of the effects of bile extraction.

2. Reducing demand
We engage with the traditional medicine community and other users of bile to promote herbal and synthetic alternatives and reduce demand.

3. Mapping the bile trade
We monitor the changing trends in the trade of bear bile and parts, keeping track of the producers, sellers and end consumers of bear products and working to maintain up-to-date intelligence on the location, size and workings of the bear bile industry.

4. Increasing public awareness
We run extensive public awareness campaigns in China and Vietnam to highlight the cruelty of the industry and build support for an end to bear bile farming.

5. Engaging with government and advancing policy
We engage with government authorities, public representatives and policy-makers in China, Vietnam and internationally to build support for an end to bear bile farming.

Our approach in China and Vietnam is working. Nearly twenty years of relentless exposure of bear farming cruelty in China, together with far reaching public education countrywide, is seeing a massive response and upsurge against the industry today. February 2012 saw an unprecedented peak of outrage from the Chinese public, with the issue dominating headlines for weeks. As the most prominent group working to end bear bile farming in China, Animals Asia was featured in over 8,300 Chinese-language press articles in February alone. The reaction from the public was of overwhelming opposition to this barbaric industry.

In Vietnam, in April, the Quang Ninh Culture, Sports & Tourism department and Quang Ninh Environmental Police caught two tourist groups from South Korea, totaling 36 tourists, visiting a bear farm in Ha Long Bay. One of the tour companies has been fined $1,110 for violating tourism regulations. The other company ignored the prosecution order and the case has now been referred to the Vietnam General Tourism Department.

In July, the authorities at Ha Long Bay, one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam, worked with us to launch an awareness-raising campaign targeting tourists that pay for bile extractions.

In October, two bear cubs were seized from smugglers in Lai Chau province in northern Vietnam by local police, and transferred into the care of Animals Asia by the local Forest Protection Department (FPD). The two traffickers, who were illegally transporting the bears in Than Uyen district, were arrested.

Animals Asia transported the cubs to our Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, near Hanoi, where they are being provided with the care they need.

Yet despite this progress, Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre faces eviction and relocation following an aggressive campaign against it by the director of Tam Dao National Park, Do Dinh Tien. Relocation would see 104 bears that have been rescued from the bile industry evicted, 77 local Vietnamese staff made unemployed, and financial losses to Animals Asia of more than $2 million. The local economy that depends on the center would be severely impacted, and the Vietnamese government’s commitment to ending bear bile farming would be called into question.

We need your help to convince the Vietnamese Prime Minister to honor his government’s agreement with Animals Asia. Please take action by sending a letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister. With your help, we can stop the eviction.

Animals Asia is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam. We promote compassion and respect for all animals and work to bring about long-term change.

The Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears since 1994 and is the only organization with a bear sanctuary in China. Our founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, h.c., is widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993.

Animals Asia’s work focuses on three major programs: End Bear Bile Farming, Cat and Dog Welfare and Zoos and Safari Parks.


Related Stories:

104 Rescued Bears Forced Out of Sanctuary and Back Into Cages

Bear Bile Industry Shrinking in South Korea

Bear and Antelope DNA Found in Traditional Chinese Medicine


Photo copyright: Animals Asia


Valentina R.
Valentina R3 years ago

This is most certainly one of the cruelest, most revolting and excruciating ideas Asians came up with. Truly a sick bunch of idiots.
Thank you Animals Asia for your great work.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago

Save the bears and spare them from human cruelty.

Val M.
Val M5 years ago

Thanks for the article

Barbara Nawara
Martin Swiercz5 years ago

Such a shame to be even called humans, barbarians-that's who they are! Please stop this ASAP!!!!

Barbara Nawara
Martin Swiercz5 years ago


Human cruelty never seizes to amaze. Will it ever change, I wonder? Will awareness ever touch those people's hearts and minds and fill them up with compassion for all living creatures?
I truly believe in the law of our universe - 'What you put into things is what you get out of them', and nothing good could ever happen to those people. We are all here to fix ourselves to see the light,but some prefer just stay in the darkness. Such a shame to be even called humans, barbarians-that's who they are!

Linda P.
Linda P6 years ago

Stop this horrible practice and LEAVE these bears alone to live their lives they way they were intended. This is a torture chamber for them. Imagine being ripped from your home, think about it.

Judith King-Tourlouki
Judith Tourlouki6 years ago

Is there any where we can sign a petition to help these poor animals????

Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A6 years ago

It never ceases to amaze me what people will do for money. This needs to be stopped and punishment set up for those who are caught still milking these poor beautiful creatures.

Aileen C.
AILEEN C6 years ago


Fiona T.
Past Member 6 years ago

WE have to get more people to fight for this