Bear Bile Farming Isn't Just Cruel, It's "Unnecessary"

bear bile farm photo
Photo: Soggydan / cc

In pursuit of convenient animal-based products, like meat and leather, profiteers and consumers have turned a blind eye to some incredibly inhumane treatment of countless other species -- but too often, unimaginable cruelty is inflicted for no real gain at all. Throughout parts of China, some 10,000 endangered Asiatic black bears are currently housed in tiny, restrictive metal cages where they are systematically 'milked' of bile, a digestive fluid produced in the gallbladder which is believed to have medicinal qualities in some Asian traditions. But after a recent conference on bile farms, experts have confirmed what so many animal rights groups had long suspected: the bear bile industry isn't just cruel, it's unnecessary, too.Late last week, a panel of doctors from the School of Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong met to discuss the latest research into the effectiveness of farmed bear bile, traditionally used as a cure for "heat-related" liver and eye ailments, compared to other resources available on the market. The study's results, which are expected to be formally released shortly, indicate that bile procured from bears, typically in tortuous conditions, is not all that tradition has cracked it up to be.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Chinese researcher Dr. Yibin Feng believes that bear bile farms are "unnecessary" centers of animal cruelty, and that herbal substitutes derived from plants (or livestock animals) is virtually indistinguishable from bear bile in terms of effectiveness.

"Bears are being inhumanely treated and bear farming must end in the near future," he said.

This scathing assessment of how the traditional medicine is acquired echoes the sentiments of a growing number of Chinese doctors and animal-rights groups in Asia and around the globe -- and it's no wonder why. For years, Asiatic black bears, or Moon bears, as they're sometimes called, were killed outright in the wild to have their gallbladders removed. In recent decades, however, bile farmers developed a more efficient, yet markedly crueler way of procuring it. The Telegraph summarizes the process:

On the farms, the bears - mostly Asiatic black bears - are kept in tiny, cramped cages and milked for their bile through crude holes cut into the abdomen wall and the gall bladder.

The wounds are deliberately left open, leaving the bears exposed to infection and disease. They are kept hungry and denied free access to water because this helps produce more bile.

The farms are still found in many parts of China and other Asian countries, fuelling poaching and illegal trade in the animals.

With thousands of bears currently housed in the most horrendous conditions, and more entering into the same cruel fate every day, the study's findings that their lucrative bile is "unnecessary" should be enough to end the practice outright, yet some traditions are slow to change. Nevertheless, as Chinese doctors learn that bear bile isn't the most viable medicine, only then will bile farms be shuttered for good.

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More on Bear Bile Farming
Bears Rescued from Illegal Bile Farm in Vietnam
New York to Fight Poaching, Torture of Bears with Ban on Sale of Gallbladders and Bile

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