Animals in Asia are perhaps the worst victims of the trade industry in animal parts and extracts, especially in China and the southeast nations. Exploit action and cruelty are widespread as few laws protect them, as in developed nations. The law is more often than not on the side of the abusers. One such diabolic industry is bear-bile farming where horrific cruelty is perpetuated for questionable medicinal practices.
Bear-bile Farming: An Unnecessary Cruelty For An Obsolete System
Bear-bile farming is a punishing and heinous system for extracting bile from the gallbladder of bears for use in traditional Chinese medicine. While earlier bears were killed to extract the bile from their body, present practices are more disturbing and atrocious. The animals are continuously subjected to unspeakable acts of cruelty and are milked for their bile while being confined in choke cages to disable them.
Bear-bile farming is the extraction of bile from the body of the bear. The bile forms inside the liver and gets collected in the gall bladder. It is claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners as a mild inflammatory.
The extraction is not used for the manufacture of life-saving drugs. Neither is it indispensable as there are numerous artificial substitutes for it.
Bear-bile farming involves the practice of extracting bile from the gallbladder of a bear. The process was done by killing the bear in the past. The gallbladder was removed to extract the bile. It was a more humane process when you compare it with the methods followed today.
Governments around the world were complicit in a method that claimed to protect the bear population but gave legality to a monstrous practice of legalized bear farming. Bile began to be extracted from live bears, though it was unlawful to hunt them down.
The process of bear-bile farming resulted in the widespread use of crude methods of extracting bile that now allowed the torture of a large population of magnificent creatures in the name of saving them.
Bear-bile farming is carried out through a number of processes, and each method is as horrific as the other. The bile extractors use two basic methods for extraction: the repeated extraction method and the permanent graft.
The first method of bear-bile farming is done by repeatedly removing bile from the animal through the process of surgery. Post extraction, the wound is stitched up, and the poor animals are dumped till more bile is collected for another round of torturous surgery.
In this process, a device is attached through a gash in the bear’s abdomen. This fixture, that sticks out of their stomach, stays throughout their life and ensures that the bile can be farmed continuously.
A permanent graft can also include the attachment of a metal suit to the poor bear and the bile is collected as it is formed. They are shut and opened when necessary.
The permanent graft method is termed ‘humane’ by the bear-bile farming industry. The surgery is unhygienic, crude and seldom executed by a trained veterinarian. Many bears die of post-operation complications or perish in agony.
The permanent insertion in the body creates severe complications and the body attempts to reject it and tries to naturally heal. So every time the bile extraction process is repeated, the metal tube is forced through the unhealed scar tissues to get to the gallbladder of the bear.
Metal jackets are frequently used to restrain the catheters, used for draining the bile. The jackets are reminiscent of medieval torture devices. They are heavy and rusted and confine the bear with strips of rusted metal and sharp spikes.
The Chinese government obliquely supports the practice though they officially frown on its use in bear-bile farming. This is evidenced by the large number of bears that turn up at rescue centers with indentations and injury marks that are clearly caused by years of confinement in metal jackets.
10 bears rescued from a farmstead in Shandong in 2010 had injury and stress marks which undoubtedly proved that the metal jackets had been used for long periods before they were brought to the farms.
To the horror of the rescuers, Oliver, a rescued bear, had been confined for 30 agonizing years in a metal jacket.
Even in Vietnam, the bears are routinely drugged and stabbed repeatedly in the stomach with a 4-inch needle to trace the gallbladder to drain out the bile. Multiple incisions become necessary because the tasks are performed by untrained people, let alone a veterinarian.
China Continue To The Epicenter Of Horrific Practices Against Animals
The commercialization of bear-bile farming started in the 1980s in China. Within a decade there were around 400 bear farms in the country where tens of thousands of bears of all ages went through medieval forms of torture. They were for use in questionable Chinese medical practices that were unproven for their efficacy. It had the blessing and support of the Chinese administration.
The bears in the farms are kept confined in small cages all their life. The cages are kept deliberately small to confine the bears to one position and allow no movement. This makes it easy to extract the bile from their body. The cages are barely larger than the bodies of the bears and they are deliberately kept in them so they are unable to move.
Many bears are brought to these farms as cubs and stay all their lives, which may be as long as 30 years. But the bears in the farms normally die much earlier than those in the wild.
The bears in the farms are kept dehydrated and starved to subdue them. They also suffer from malignant tumors and multiple diseases due to the unhygienic conditions and the primitive forms of operation carried out on them. Most die of it much earlier.
The bears in the farms are considered as production units and are useful only as long as they continue to produce the bile. If they stop giving it they are left to starve to death in their cages.
The Myth Of Medicinal Uses
Most Chinese medicines are unscientific and based on unproven claims. bear-bile farming booms as the bile is used even in ordinary household goods and cosmetics such as shampoo and even toothpaste. Even teas and wine are added with bile to impart medicinal properties.
It is peddled as pills, tonics, powder. Bear bile is believed to cure several ailments, including colds, hangovers, acne, hemorrhoids, sore throats, conjunctivitis, and also several forms of cancer. The Chinese and several other South Asian countries have an obsession with weird methods of cure and for exotic products with supposed aphrodisiac properties.
Their efficacy has never been proved through modern scientific methods, but it extracts a devastating toll on the poor animals, and death is a welcome release from the years of torture.
There are active herbal and modern alternatives for each of the ailments, but a ready market remains for these dangerous products that have been extracted from sick animals.
bear-bile farming practices are primitive, and the bile extracted contains cancer and bacteria cells, pus, blood, feces, urine, and many other contaminants.
Other than China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Malaysia continue to be thriving markets for the product. Products containing bear-bile are also sold in Laos, Australia, Myanmar, Indonesia, the US, Canada, and Singapore.
Bear-bile Farming In Vietnam, China, & Korea
An estimated 10,000 animals are languishing in farms in China, and another 400 are in Vietnamese farms. Chinese authorities support and encourage bear-bile farming and over 100 huge farms exist which harvest bile on a mass scale. The largest of the bear farms contains over 2,000 animals alone, and most of the bigger ones are owned by large pharmaceutical companies.
Bear-bile farming was banned by Vietnamese authorities in 2005 under international pressure. But they have deliberately retained a loophole that allows former owners to retain the bears in the name of pets and continue with their bear-bile farming practice.
Bile farmers have exploited this escape route for a year and continuing with bear-bile farming with the support of the authorities.
The bear-bile farming industry also continues to thrive in South Korea, a legacy of its dark past. Like their dog and cat meat industry, it is a stain on their claims as a progressive society.
The South Koreans showcased the bear and the tiger as mascots during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. But the bears are routinely trafficked and used in the bear-bile farming industry. Bears are most slaughtered after years of confinement in cramped cages and the numbers trapped in the cruel industry continue to outnumber those outside the trade, both in captivity and in the wild.
The recent upsurge in the practice of bear-bile farming was seen in the early eighties. One of the measures undertaken by General Doo-hwan Chun, former dictator, to alleviate poverty was the import of around 500 bears from Myanmar, Japan, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
They were used for bile extraction and confined in tiny 2 by 2-meter cages. The bile was exported mainly to China, which always had a huge market for it that the domestic bear-bile farms could not satiate.
The captive bears are subjected to the same mental trauma, distress, and develop serious disorders and ailments that ultimately lead to a premature and painful death.
As in China, initiatives to stop trade are confined to civil society. The administration in both countries actively supports the practice for economic reasons. And it is made even worse in China as it is for all practical purposes, a dictatorship.
Fierce rebuke and criticism from the international community have meant little on the ground given the economic clout of the two countries.
Chinese Peddling Bear-bile As A Cure Of Covid-19
The Chinese government has always been wildly unpredictable in its policies. Even as they banned on paper the trade of live wild animals, they have recommended the use of an injection containing bear-bile for the treatment of COVID-19.
The Chinese National Health Commission promoted the use of Tan Re Qing in an injected form, highlighting the contradictory nature of Chinese policies that are twisted and modified to suit their needs. Within a month, they have both banned the trade of animal parts, but also peddled their use for questionable uses.
The Asiatic black and brown bears are traditionally been traditionally used by the Chinese for over 12 centuries. The presence of high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, or ursodiol, in bear-bile, makes it valuable for traditional medicine. It is believed to treat liver disease and dissolve gallstone. But ursodiol is available in its synthetic form and so the practice of bear bile farming is unnecessary.
The WHO has rejected its efficacy in the treatment of COVID-19. The injection is used to treat upper respiratory infections and bronchitis. Professor Clifford Steer of the University of Minnesota, an expert in the use of ursodiol says that there is no evidence to prove that the controversial injection is effective against the virus.
International laws continue to be flouted by countries, especially China. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora protects the Asiatic black bears, the species most commonly used in the horrifying trade.
Wildlife experts worry that the Chinese authorities’ blessing for the use of Tan Re Qing is another attempt to promote bear-bile farming and also the trade per se in illegal wildlife products and justify their terrible animal rights record.
Most countries across the world have banned products that use invasive methods on live animals for extraction. The wildlife farms in the bear-bile farming trade practice the worst possible methods of hygiene. Chinese farms are lax in slaughter, storage, processing, and transportation.
Wild farms always pose a risk from unknown diseases and the COVID-19 virus is the most notorious example with its origin in China. Wild animals crammed together in unhygienic conditions and interacting with humans is just the right recipe for disaster.