An explanatory statement from the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN outlining the background to bear farming and its relationship to sustainability of wild bear populations.
Bear farming in Asia, with particular reference to the conservation of wild populations
Demand for bear bile, an important component of traditional medicine in Eastern Asia, has led to the over-exploitation and decline of many Asian bear populations, especially Asiatic Black Bears. Bear farming was conceived as a method to increase supply of bile and thereby reduce the motivation to poach wild bears; however, there is no evidence that farming has aided bear conservation and concern by conservationists that it may be detrimental. This resolution pushes for closing bear farms that are stocked with wild bears. Some farms in China apparently have self-perpetuating captive populations; nevertheless, it is not clear how the burgeoning bear farming industry, with new products and advertising, is affecting demand for wild bile. This resolution calls for a thorough, independent analysis of how farming is affecting the market for wild bears: if this investigation uncovers negative, market-driven effects of bear farming on wild bears, it will likely prompt a push to end farming altogether. Dealing with the thousands of bears currently on farms, and replacing bile with an acceptable synthetic substitute represent major obstacles to ending bear farming. In preparation for the future, this resolution calls for no further increase in the farmed bear population, and heightened research and promotion of alternatives to bear bile as a medicine.