AAF part funds Singapore labelling scheme to educate TCM consumers
The label that will be displayed in Singapore TCM shops participating in the scheme
Animals Asia Foundation has provided 50 per cent of funding for a labelling scheme aimed at ending the trade in endangered species for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Singapore.
Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said AAF had decided to invest US$6,000 in the scheme after a request for help from Executive Director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), Louis Ng. The labelling scheme, the result of an agreement between Acres and the Singapore TCM Organisations Committee (STOC), aims to discourage the sale of endangered species for TCM. Initially, the scheme will covers bears, rhinoceroses and tigers; it will be reviewed constantly and more animals added if necessary.
TCM shops committed to not selling endangered species products will receive the "Acres & STOC Endangered Species-Friendly TCM Label" to place at the entrance of the shop, advertising that no endangered species products are for sale. The public is urged to patronise only those shops with this label.
"We are delighted to fund this labelling scheme to educate consumers that by buying bear bile and other endangered animal products, they are directly contributing to the suffering and demise of a range of species,” Jill said.
"Through our own campaign to end bear bile farming, we know that animal products can be replaced by herbal alternatives and that consumer education is vital to ensuring long-term change. The use of endangered animal products conflicts with the underlying ethos of traditional medicine, that healing should be in harmony with nature”
Louis Ng said the launch of the scheme followed a recent Acres undercover investigation into the illegal trade in bear products in Singapore for TCM, conducted from May to October 2006. The investigation revealed a significant drop in the trade in bear products. Twenty-three TCM shops (20 per cent of shops surveyed) were found to offer alleged bear products for sale to Acres investigators (recorded on video), compared with 50 shops (73.5 per cent of shops surveyed) in a 2001 Acres survey.
He said that Acres understood from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) that products confiscated from two of the 23 shops were found to be genuine bear products. However, under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 2006 (ESA), it is also an offence to advertise bear products for sale even if the products turn out to be fake. As a result of the investigation, six shops were fined under the ESA and 17 shops were given warning letters.
The continued trade creates a demand for bear products and fuels the exploitation of bears held in deplorable conditions on bear farms. The practice of farming bears for their bile is inhumane on the grounds that it severely and unavoidably compromises the physical and psychological health of bears.
It is also detrimental to wild populations of bears, especially in Asia. The reality is that, despite the presence of farmed bear bile, the gall from a wild bear is seen as more potent in TCM, and is worth considerably more, so the risk of poaching is high.
STOC Chairman Lee Tiong Sa said that by participating in the labelling scheme, TCM practitioners can create more awareness of the need to protect endangered species among the traders as well as customers. “This also reaffirms our commitment to the cause," he said.
Part of a great historical tradition and the central to the culture of many Chinese Singaporeans, TCM plays an important role in providing complementary health care to Singaporeans.