Animals Asia successfully rescued 13 Asian black bears (moon bears) from bile farms in the past month. This is a small step in a continuing fight, as an estimated 7,000-10,000 moon bears still suffer in bile farms across China.
The rescued bears are currently receiving treatment for the associated illnesses of having their gall bladders tapped for bile that is used in certain Chinese medicines. Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) pays bear farmers a ‘market price’ for the animals. The farmers, in turn, give up their bile-farming licenses.
While the effectiveness of bear bile is questionable, it remains a popular treatment across Asia for liver disease, eye problems and fevers. Although I am a proponent for natural medicine (when applicable) and a healthy lifestyle over drugs from large pharmaceutical companies, I think that the use of bears in bile farming is an extremely wicked practice and that no informed conscience could ever consume such a product.
Bear farming began in the 1980s as a way to collect bile from moon bears without killing them. To harvest bile from the gallbladder, a connection (or fistula) must be made between the gallbladder and the skin’s surface. The connection is usually a metal or plastic tube that is often installed by untrained individuals. These impromptu surgeries commonly lead to internal and external scarring. After the ‘fistula’ is established, the animals are confined to a cage hardly larger than the body in order to keep the connection open. Such severe confinement leads the bears to develop disfiguring injuries from lack of movement. One of the rescued bears had spent approximately 25 years confined in a cage and suffered stunted bodily growth as a result.
Atrocities aside, there is simple reason why bile-farming should be deemed illegal. The ‘active ingredient’ of bear-bile, urodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), is produced in large quantities by pharmaceutical companies! Pure UDCA products are used by millions world wide in the treatment of liver disorders. These FDA regulated medicines are safe, widely available, and more affordable than extremely expensive bear bile.
It is easy to see that bile farming is an inhumane and outdated process that must be banned. This may prove to be a difficult task in a country with inadequate animal protection legislation. AAF is currently pushing for anti-cruelty laws and continuing their rescue operations throughout China.
For more information on what is being done, and what you can do to help, visit: http://www.animalsasia.org/.