Healing without Harm

When we talk about the various ripples associated with ending bear bile farming, there is one ripple of which I'm particularly proud. Yesterday, I joined our China team members Susan, Sascha and Sharon in Changsha, China, to announce that no less than 1,945 health entities, including traditional Chinese medicine shops, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, have joined our increasingly popular "Healing without Harm" campaign.

Organised by Animals Asia and the Hunan Drug Industry Trade Association, the press conference saw doctors, pharmaceutical and hospital heads, and government officials signing a pledge promising not to produce, sell or prescribe bear bile, or products containing it, once the current stock is sold.


Originally started in Chengdu in 2010 with four pharmaceutical chains comprising 33 traditional Chinese medicine shops and pharmacies, our Healing without Harm campaign has snowballed to the number of medical professionals joining us today. Attended by the Changsha Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director, Mr Sun Weidong, the press conference yesterday presented a wonderfully surprising and satisfying moment as we heard how strongly this kind government official endorsed this campaign. Talking in front of no less than 15 Chinese media representatives, Mr Sun described how honoured he was for the opportunity to join an event to help the bears.

mr sun

"In order to end bear farming we need to use alternatives and make every effort to protect moon bears. All animals, including moon bears, are our friends and are a very important link. Human improvement cannot live without the animals' help - we need to be in harmony with animals and plants, and protecting animals is like protecting ourselves. To take other other animals lives is like taking our own lives, and on behalf of Changsha FDA I pay my respect to all the pharmaceutical industries who are respecting life, caring for animals, refusing bear bile products, and saying no to animal cruelty. In order to regulate animal medicine and promote the continued development of medicine and ecology, we need to research synthetic alternatives to animal medicines, and do our best to protect animals. Let's join together to protect animals and together we can be a strong power." 

mr yi

Other speakers, such as the Vice President of Hunan Province Pharmacy Industry Trade Association, Mr Yi Jun, were just as robust: "I want to make a commitment of behalf of the association. Since we have already joined the team to protect moon bears, we will continue doing our best. We want to introduce many medicines instead of bear bile products, to spread the word of protecting moon bears to our customers and other companies, and tell them why we joined Healing without Harm. It's not only a public welfare event, not only an advertisement, but something that companies and people should do."

mrs zhou

The President of the Changsha Wildlife Conservation Association WCA – Mrs. Zhou Canying, was equally clear: "We convinced a lot of pharmacies, shops and factories to join the project. At first, people couldn't understand what we do, as animal protection is far from people's lives. But now we have so much support from shops, factories and hospitals, and we thank you for your support."

mrs tang

A kindly TCM doctor of the Huaxi Hospital – Professor Tang Chengan - gave her opinion on using bile from diseased bears: "As doctors of TCM our responsibility is to maintain the health of human beings, so we can protect the moon bears and not use them as medical ingredients. It is one of our responsibilities to protect wildlife and nature. As TCM doctors we must refuse to use bear bile. The function of herbs has better effectiveness than bear bile. "

Perhaps the most compelling speech was that from the General Manager of the Hunan Qianjin Pharmacy Co., Ltd - Mr. Wen Ligao.  Mr Wen spoke of a story he had read concerning a mother bear on a bear bile farm who, consumed with grief and sadness for her caged cub on the same farm, killed her cub and then herself. This story has gone viral over the years and, although we question its accuracy, it's clear that the very plight of bears and their cubs on the farms has touched so many people across China.

mr wen

Mr Wen continued with an impassioned plea for giving up bear bile: "Live bear bile is the most direct expression of the shamelessness, selfishness and greed of human beings. Each person who loves peace should focus on the fate of bears, and refuse to buy bear bile products. Hunan Qianjin Pharmaceutical Chain Store is among the Top 50 chain companies in China. In the past, we didn’t sell bear bile powder, but we did sell medicines containing a little bear bile. I feel very sorry for that. Here we are sincerely committed to this project, and will never sell bear bile products after selling out the current stock of products."

Mr Wen finished with a particularly bold statement that I pray is repeated as widely as possible: "I also also want to call on people who love animals to care for the moon bears' lives, and I hope the government pays attention and does something practical. The whole bear species will thank you for your behaviour. "

This is the calibre of people joining us today. When so many across the world are prepared to write off Traditional Medicine as a discipline not to be taken seriously, we can see too that many people are becoming interested in the more holistic approach to healing, but some are resistant to exploring it more, fearing the use of animal ingredients.

These professionals are convincing advocates for their industry, and would likely be pleased to hear that their counterparts across the world are applauding their actions too. A message on Facebook from Martin John in the UK read: "As a Chinese Medicine practitioner proudly supporting your fantastic work, this comes as wonderful news. Your invaluable work is supported by herbalists the world over. As a council member of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine here in the UK, we warmly welcome this announcement and hope it brings an end to this inhumane practice. Keep up the good work...."

Finally, ending on another poignant, convincing note from the President of the Changsha Maria Hospital Mr. Geng:

mr geng

"Here on behalf of all staff in Maria, I call on all people from the whole of society to respect life and be kind to animals, to regulate the medicine industry and speed up the research on synthetic animal medicine alternatives. To reduce the abusive use of animal medicines, to refuse business activities of abusive animal medicines, and say no to live bear bile and other cruel treatment to animals.  We trust that in the future there will be more people joining us - in Healing without Harm."

Read Jill's speech here.