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Folk Remedies: Animal Torture
Bile Bears in Asia






Folk Remedies:
Bile Bears in Asia



Pharmaceuticals & Biological Agents

Rituals: Kapparot




"A few more tentative steps and they came to the first cage, which stood several feet above the ground on four posts. Beneath it, excrement and old food that had fallen through the mesh rose up in a pile a good two feet high. Inside the cage, a moon bear looked at them and groaned. The sound roused the animals in other cages.... The animals had no room to stand or even sit up. They all wore metal corsets around their middles. Some of them had gangrenous infections that festered and oozed pus from beneath their corsets; others seemed to be suffering from dementia."

Lisa See, Flower Net


The following information and photographs are from the Animals Asia Foundation.


Bears are the only mammals to produce significant amounts of the bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which has been used in Traditional Oriental Medicine for 3,000 years as a cure for ailments from headaches to hemorrhoids. Today eminent traditional Chinese medical practitioners stress that all bear bile products can be replaced by herbs or synthetic alternatives which, they say, are just as effective.


The Moon Bears in these photos will spend their entire lives in these cages.
Try to imagine it.



Of the eight species of bears in the world, all except the giant panda have seen their numbers reduced as a result of the bear bile trade. The Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus Selenarctos) is most affected by the demand for bile acid. This species of bear is more commonly known as the Moon Bear because of the beautiful yellow crescent on the chest. They are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Appendix I, the category for the most critically endangered species.




In countries across Asia, bears, surgically implanted with catheters into their gall bladders, are confined in restraining cages so that the bile can be extracted. The surgery to insert the implants is crude and unsanitary and many of the bears die as a result of painful infections. Those that survive spend the rest of their lives, as long as 22 years, suffering in cages that are the length, width, and height of their bodies, where they cannot move or even stretch, enduring painful daily extraction of their bile. Some have head wounds from banging their heads against the bars. The bears are kept in the cages until they die, emaciated, atrophied, insane, regarded as nothing more than production units.




In China, bear farming began in the early 1980s when Chinese scientists adopted a procedure developed in North Korea to extract bile through surgically implanted catheters. It was believed that this method would satisfy the local demand for bile and reduce the number of bears killed in the wild for their gallbladders and other body parts. Sadly, however, the situation grew out of control and by the early 1990s there were over 400 bears farms in operation, containing more that 10,000 bears. Plans were in place to increase the numbers of bears on farms to 40,000 by the Year 2000.


Following the international exposure of this cruel industry, the authorities acknowledged the concerns of the international community and, rather than expanding the number of bear farms, began reducing them instead. In addition, with increased public awareness, the bear farming industry began to plunge and farmers saw the reduced demand for bile having a major impact on their economy. The supply of bear bile on the market rapidly began overtaking demand. Tragically, because of this market saturation for medicinal bear bile, many farmers have now turned to producing other products from the bile, such as throat lozenges, shampoo, wine, and tea, in order to use the surplus.


There are now approximately 7,000 moon bears in cages in approximately 247 bile farms throughout China.


In Vietnam, fewer than 100 Asiatic Black Bears — Moon Bears — remain in the wild, while approximately 5,000 are held captive on farms so that their bile can be sold for Traditional Oriental Medicine. Unlike China, where bears are tapped for their bile, in Vietnam bears undergo operations to remove bile from their gall bladders every three months. According to the Forestry Protection Department in Hanoi, the bears suffer four such operations before they die. Animals Asia Foundation investigators showed this to be true. They witnessed chronically infected, painful, gaping wounds in the abdomens of these poor animals.