For more than 20 years, we have been calling attention to the despicable trade in bear parts. From coast to coast across the U.S., American black bears are killed, their paws cut off, and their abdomens brutally sliced open to extract the gallbladders inside. Thousands of miles away, Asiatic black bears languish in coffin-like cages so small they can’t turn around, forever trapped and intrusively “milked” for their bile.
Traditional Chinese medicine has employed bear bile and gallbladder in its medicinal remedies for millennia to treat a range of ailments, from headaches to hemorrhoids. Increasingly, as the value of bile went up, so, too, did the pressure on bear populations to supply the mounting demand — and to create new bear products, such as shampoos and hair tonics. And, while we have campaigned for legislation in individual states and in the U.S. Congress, and in international treaty organizations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), for additional legal protection for bears from this disastrous trade, we also know that stopping Asian demand is a key factor in saving the species from the trade in their parts.
Times are Changing
On March 29, more than 80 percent of people who were surveyed by the Beijing Loving Animals Foundation stated that keeping bears in captivity to harvest their bile should be banned in China. The Foundation surveyed more than 1,800 people on their thoughts about the bear bile industry.
Around 97 percent thought the industry was “very cruel” and nearly 84 percent supported banning the industry. More than 70 percent of those surveyed said they had never used or bought any products containing bear bile — and promised to never purchase products that contain it.
The use of bear bile and gallbladders is antiquated and unnecessary, and we now have further evidence that it’s not even particularly wanted in China, except by a small minority.
I have seen bears at the Animals Asia bear sanctuary in China being gently rehabilitated from the brutal treatment they endured for so many years. I have seen them enjoy space, grass, fresh vegetables, and companionship. I have seen bears missing limbs; their paws lopped off for a bowl of soup; I have seen them dealing with the psychological damage from their years of incarceration.
I know that bears should be freed from the indignity, pain, stress, and suffering that it takes to create these medicines and luxury cosmetic items. But, don’t take my word for it; ask the Chinese people!
Image source: vincecentral/Flickr