Bear Bile - the cruelest industry you probably never heard about
Updated: May 18
By Staci-lee Sherwood
Did you know there’s an industry based on extracting bear bile from their gall bladders for human use? The method for removing the bile is considered one the cruelest and most painful things we humans do to animals. Moon bears in Vietnam and China are forced to wear these metal contraptions around their middle for decades while in constant agony. If this were being done to humans you know there would protests to shut the industry down. We humans rarely apply that same compassion or outrage to other species especially when the exploitation of animals benefits us. It’s estimated over 10,000 bears are held in captivity in these tiny cages on farms where they can languish like this for 30 years, if they survive.
Cruelty in a bottle
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been around for centuries. The use of bear bile has been part of that for thousands of years. Ancient people did not know that the bile contained high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), known to be useful for treating liver and gall bladder conditions in humans, they only knew it did help. In 2023 we have long entered the modern era of medicine and with that necessary change can happen. We no longer need to rely of traditional forms of medicine when we have safe effective alternatives, especially when they do no inflict suffering on others . There are many available herbal and synthetic alternatives with the same medicinal properties. Traditional medicine practitioners agree that no one’s health will suffer from a lack of bear bile.
Methods used for extracting the bile vary. Animals Asia has been educating the public for years about the cruelty and available alternatives to bear bile. “The techniques vary between Vietnam and China and range from the “free drip” method where the bear suffers a hole in their gall bladder which is continuously reopened, to the insertion of permanent catheters, to locating the gall bladder via ultrasound and extracting bile through a four-inch needle.”
According to Animals Asia there are over 50 herbal alternatives to bear bile, including some synthetic ones. The biggest barrier to change is human nature, We as a species prefer to cling to old ways even when newer better ways exist. We find comfort in the familiar and that is a huge barrier in getting people to change. It has taken decades to get people to see not only the cruelty involved but the safety of alternatives. Education is always key when trying to make a lasting change.
Bear bile being extraction in a Laotian bear farm 2012
Click here to read more about the uses, methods and alternatives https://www.animalsasia.org/us/media/news/news-archive/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-bear-bile-farming.html
Story of mama bear and her cub
In 2011 a story broke in the Chinese media about a mama Moon Bear killing her cub and then herself which made international news. This occurred in a bear bile farm where bears are kept in tiny cages that barely allow any movement. The cages are called crush cages because they basically crush the bears over time. The bears are stuck in them for decades while an open wound in their abdomen remains infected from the daily needles and tubes used to extract the gall bladder bile for TCM (traditional Chinese medicine).
As the story was reported the mama bear was so distressed after hearing her cub cry out in pain and distress as a worker went to puncture his stomach, the mama bear reportedly broke free from her cage. I’m not sure how the bear would break free from a metal cage that allowed no movement but never doubt the will of a protective mother when her offspring is in danger. The story goes on to say she rushed over and hugged the cub until she strangled him to death. After this she ran into a wall head-first killing herself. Whatever happened we know the unbearable agony these bears suffer and can imagine this how this could have played out. Click here to read the story
Turning a new leaf for compassion
In 2022 a landmark victory for captive bears of this industry found its way to South Korea. It took 20 years of hard work by World Animal Protection and other groups to finally end this brutal practice. While it’s illegal to extract bear bile n South Korea from live bears it is legal to slaughter the animals for their whole gall bladder for use in Traditional Asian medicine when they are 10 years old. With this victory the practice of exploiting bears as commodities will be abolished once and for all, ending their 40-year industry. Click here to read more https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/news/success-south-korea-announces-end-bear-bile-farming
This is a fantastic nonprofit who have been working for years rescuing and trying to end this industry. They have rescued over 610 bears but with thousands still held at the farms many more need to be rescued and the industry needs to end. While bear bile farming is now illegal in Vietnam it’s still legal in China, so there is much work still to be done. It takes a long time to get people to give up long held beliefs and centuries old traditions. Even with evidence showing safe alternatives are available it will take a long time to finally end this industry.
This is what needs to end. We must never turn away or ignore the suffering we inflict on other species.
We as a species must continue to push to end bear bile farming.
It cannot be acceptable in 2023 for this to still be considered a legitimate form of medicine. The cruelty and inflicted pain is
more than enough reason to mandate it end immediately.
If you would like to learn more and help end this practice check out this group https://www.animalsasia.org/us/
To learn more about World Animal Protection click here
Also published on The Good men project on May 8, 2023