New York has joined a growing global movement to stop the plundering of bears for traditional Chinese medicines by enacting a law that prohibits the sale and transport of bear gallbladders.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that bans the “possession, sale, barter, offer, purchase, transportation, delivery or receipt” of bear gallbladders and bile.
(Thank you to NY State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and NY State Senator Mark Grisanti for sponsoring Assembly Bill 6291/Senate Bill 3858.)
According to Animals Asia, an undercover investigation revealed that New York is involved with an “interstate network of bear gallbladder trafficking in the US.”
It is hoped that the new law (violators will be subject to a $1,000 fine) will deter wildlife smugglers from using New York as a laundering point for illegally acquired bear gallbladders.
While the penalty is quite small compared to the profits made from these criminal activities, it is a step in the right direction.
Bears are in high demand for the use of their bile in traditional Chinese medicines.
The Asiatic black bear (Ursus selenarctos Thibetanus) is the most valued species for Chinese medicines, but only about 16,000 of this species remains in the wild.
Animals Asia notes that moon bears, Malayan sun bears, brown bears, American black bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears and polar bears have all been used in the medicine trade.
However, the use of bear bile is completely unnecessary: The active ingredient in bear bile, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), is available as a synthetic.
In addition, there are at least 50 herbal alternatives to bear bile.
In China and Vietnam, the business of “farming” bears ensures that the demand for bear bile remains strong, and provides an incentive for illegal wildlife traders to “source” bears from North America.
It is estimated that 14,000 bears are confined to filthy cages for their entire lives and “milked” for their bile. These cages are so small that the bears are unable to turn around.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC IMAGES.
Farmers have even found new ways to profit from bear bile by producing non-medicinal items such as shampoo, wine, and tea.
“These products have no known health benefit, but allow the farmer to continue making a profit by exploiting the symbol of a majestic species and the trusting minds of naive consumers, ” according to Animals Asia.
Dr. Eric Busch explains in his presentation Bear bile: Fact and Science that bear bile demand has “probably been built by the bile industry, which includes farms, factories, distributors and stores.” (The presentation can be found here.)
Learn more about how you can help stop bear farming and end demand for bear bile at Animals Asia.
Image # 1by Jim Martin (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; image #2 viaYouTube