years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Bear bile is a prized ingredient
of Traditional Medicine with a 3,000-year history of usage. The
bile liquid within bear gall bladders is classed as a "bitter,
cold" medicine with the function of expelling heat in the body.
It is used to treat heat-related illnesses such as high temperatures,
liver complaints and sore eyes. Bear bile medicines are used in
China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and countries across the world with
significant Asian populations.
The active ingredient in bear bile, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA),
is more abundant in bears than in any other animal. However, Chinese
medical practitioners stress that all bear bile products can be
easily replaced by herbal or synthetic alternatives, which are cheaper,
more readily available and just as effective.
The main products of bear farms are dry bile powder and some Chinese
patent medicines. Bear bile is used mainly as a secondary element
with limited composition. The use of bear bile can be divided into
two categories; bear bile as medicine, (both treatment and preventative,)
and bear bile as tonics and food. China's state pharmacopoeia asserts
that its actions include
removing heat from the liver
relieving convulsions and spasms
improving acuity of vision
clearing away heat and toxic materials
There are 28 kinds of patent medicine containing bear bile, which
are divided as follows:
15 used in ophthalmology
8 in external surgery
4 in internal medicine (vascular and gastric illnesses)
1 in cancer treatment.
The output of dry bile powder from each individual bear is approximately
2 kg per year on average. Before bear farms began to produce bile
in large quantities the domestic demand was only 500 kilos annually.
Today this has risen dramatically to 4000 kilos and the annual output of
dry bile powder from 1994-1998 was approximately 7 tonnes - nearly twice the demand.
Tragically, because the market has been saturated with bear bile, many
farmers have now turned to producing non-essential products, such
as throat lozenges, shampoo, wine and tea, in order to utilise the
surplus. These products have no known health benefit, but allow the farmer
to continue making a profit by exploiting the symbol of a majestic species
and the trusting minds of naive consumers.
The retail price of farmed bear bile in China varies from
province to province. Research in August 2007 by Animals
Asia investigators in Sichuan Province revealed that the wholesale
price of bear bile powder was US$410 per kg. A whole
gall bladder in South Korea sells for about US$10,000, whilst in
Japan the average price for a wild bear gall bladder is US$33 per