China’s Illegal Bear Bile Trade


When it comes to the trade of illegal animal products, China is notorious for the use of local and exotic ingredients within traditional medicine. Perhaps one of the most well known ingredients is bear bile, used for it’s supposed medicinal properties for thousands of years. Used in traditional medicine, bear bile is believed to contain a range of therapeutic properties that aim to decrease inflammation and improve liver function. With this assumption the demand for products containing bear bile has dramatically increased, pushing China to the forefront of such practices.

Between March and November of 2006, WSPA conducted an undercover survey into the illegal trade of bear bile within the USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Upon analysis of their findings, WSPA concluded the majority of illegal bear bile products found in these countries had originated from China. Products were often clearly labelled as having been manufactured in China and in particular on bear farms. In a country where $128 million of its people are living below the poverty line, China’s trade of animal products accounts for $10 billion of the countries annual revenue. With such phenomenal wealth being generated from the trade, it is no surprise the Chinese government allow such blatant acts of animal cruelty to go unpoliced.

In 1999/2000 WSPA undertook one of the most comprehensive inspections to date of China’s government monitored bear farms. The investigation revealed there was absolutely no way of humanely extracting bile from a live bear. WSPA went on to explain that in terms of severity of suffering, bear farming is unmatched when compared to other practices. The small confines in which bears are contained, coupled with the ongoing extraction of bile through open wounds over a long period of time, leads to severe physical and psychological suffering in which the animal cannot overcome. As the practice of bear farming becomes increasingly scrutinised by animal welfare organisations, the validity of the medicinal properties found within bile are becoming increasingly queried by some of the top doctors within traditional medicine. Doctor Nguyen Xuan Huong Vietnam’s top traditional medicine doctor, and his Chinese counterpart Professor Liu Zhengcai, together have warned consumers against using bear bile, claiming it does more harm than good.

As the trade goes unmonitored by the Chinese government in a blatant disregard for basic animal welfare, the road to phasing out illegal bear farming seems the be ever lengthening. With the trade of bear parts believed to be one of the major threats to the survival of a variety of bear species around the world, it is imperative we speak on behalf of these animals who are denied the basic necessities of life. To add your voice, please click on the link below and sign the petition addressed to President Jiang Zemin (China) and Honorable Minister Hiroshi Ohki (Japan), urging them to close all illegal and government monitored bear farms. 

Click here to add your voice!

Written by Michelle Moore for NFAW