WHAT IS BEAR BILE FARMING?
A latex catheter is surgically implanted into the bear’s abdominal wall and gall bladder.
In some instances, the catheter is surgically embedded under the skin from the abdomen to the hip, where it exits and enables the farmer to extract the bile at a safe distance from the bear’s head.
This method allows 50–100ml of bile to be tapped from each bear twice daily, but is liable to clogging as the bile crystallises.
Although against regulations in China, evidence of this method is commonly seen in bears at our Chengdu sanctuary.
A rubber pipe is surgically connected to the bear’s gall bladder and attached to a fluid bag inside a metal box. To hold the box in place against the bear’s abdomen, the bear is fitted with a metal jacket weighing more than 10kg.
Bile is emptied from the bag about every two weeks.
To drain the bile bag, the farmer must crawl under the bear’s cage to unlock the metal box and, to prevent the bear's head from moving, many of these jackets are designed with metal pieces protruding under the bear's neck in order to keep his or her head up. Bears wearing metal jackets often suffer from infection, hair loss and skin irritations.
Although against regulations in China, evidence of this method is seen in bears at our Chengdu sanctuary, some of whom have arrived with the outline of these heavy metal jackets clearly visible on their bodies, and dripping bile extraction sites an indication of hastily removed cathethers.
A 5–7 inch metal catheter is surgically implanted into the abdominal wall and gall bladder, allowing daily milking of the bile.
Bears milked in this way are often kept in “crush cages” that have a metal grille that can be pushed down to immobilise the bear against the bottom of the cage and allow the farmer to collect the bile through the bars.
In many instances, farmers keep the metal grille in the “crush” position indefinitely – sometimes for years. This was the case for Jasper (pictured above), a mischievous bear who now lives happily at our centre in Chengdu
As these catheters are embedded permanently, they often begin to rust and decompose within the bear’s body
Although against regulations in China, evidence of this method is seen in bears at our Chengdu sanctuary.
'Jasper had spent 15 years ofhis life confined in a “crush cage” barely the size of his body.'
Bears undergo one-off surgery to create a permanently “open” duct or fistula from the gall bladder to the abdomen. Bile drips freely from this duct.
As the hole naturally tries to heal itself, each milking session involves poking a metal tube through the membrane that has grown over the wound to allow the bile to flow out.
Although this method is claimed to be the most “humane”, more than 20 per cent of rescued free-drip bears have infected fistulas and abdominal abscesses. Some have peritonitis caused by bile leaking into the abdomen. Bile collected in this way is also observed to contain pus and other contaminants.
This free-drip method (pictured above) is the only extraction method currently permitted in China and is commonly used on Chinese farms.
To prevent the free-drip hole from healing, an “invisible”, clear, perspex catheter is inserted intothe fistula and cut flush with the surface of the abdomen.
Although against regulations in China evidence of this method is seen in bears at our Chengdu sanctuary.
Bile is extracted directly from the bear’s gall bladder by means of a temporary catheter and pump or a syringe. After the bear has been drugged with ketamine, its gall bladder is located (by means of an ultrasound or by repeated “blindpuncturing” attempts with a needle) and the bile is extracted using a catheter and pump or a syringe. Around 80–100ml of bile is extracted from each bear each time.
This method is common in Vietnam.
Bile is removed from the gall bladder by means of major abdominal surgery.
This surgery could be performed only every three months. Many bears generally survived only four such surgeries before dying from infections caused by crude and unhygienic surgery conditions.
This method is believed to have been phased out in the early 2000s.