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Pharmacies saying no to bear bile means best birthday yet for Animals Asia

15 August 2013

A hundred and fifty Chinese drugstores announced they would no longer be selling bear bile products in a move timed to coincide with Animals Asia’s 15th anniversary.

The announcement has been called “the best birthday present imaginable” by Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson who attended an event in Chengdu to thank the pharmacies and mark the special occasion. 

Animals Asia’s on-going “Healing without Harm” programme now sees a total of 11 chains and 260 pharmacies proudly proclaiming themselves "bear bile free". 

Speaking at the event Jill Robinson said: 

“Today, we are delighted to be joining you as we celebrate our 15th anniversary of the founding of Animals Asia. In fact it is 20 years since I first walked on to a bear farm in 1993 and struggled to understand why bears were being exploited in such a cruel way. Very quickly at that time I was taught by traditional medicine doctors like you that while bear bile had held a limited use in Chinese pharmacopoeia, it was viewed by ethical doctors as being unnecessary, against the very principles of being in harmony with nature and could easily be replaced. 

“By removing bear bile from your shelves today, the world can see that you are showing intelligence and compassion towards China's endangered moon bears. Your action could also greatly be helping human health - as so many of our rescued bears are ultimately dying of liver cancer. This is no surprise to us considering that we see pus, bacteria and cancer cells and other contaminants in 100% of the gall bladders of farmed and extracted bears. We have to ask the question - who in their right mind would want to take such a substance from suffering creatures whose diseased and dying bodies are literally rotting away?” 

The sentiments were echoed by renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, Professor Liu Zhen Cai who told assembled pharmacists: 

“You love people and you love animals. Traditional Chinese Medicine was always called a kind practice, so we should be kind. Healing without Harm is a campaign that is named very properly. It is not proper and it is not humane to hurt animals unnecessarily while treating people.” 

Animals Asia was set up on the 8/8/98 - considered an especially auspicious date. Since then the organisation has rescued bears in China and Vietnam as part of a five-pronged approach to end bear bile farming. 

This includes working with the traditional medicine community, engaging with governments, raising awareness, mapping the trade and running sanctuaries. In 1998 bear bile farming was virtually unheard of in China, it’s now one of the country’s most debated issues as concern grows alongside a wider indigenous animal welfare movement. 

It’s believed there are more than 10,000 bears in bile farms in China and around 2,400 in Vietnam 

Jill added: 

“Hearing that drug outlets are refusing to stock bear bile genuinely is the best birthday present imaginable from the pharmacies. There is, however, a better day ahead of us. The day when bear bile farming stops for good. To this end WE will continue to lobby governments and create awareness of the cruelty involved in the trade, and highlight the other options available. In the meantime we must remember that every bile extraction for a bear shortens their life and causes unimaginable pain. Fewer bile products for sale very simply means less pain and less suffering. ” 

Animals Asia reversed birthday traditions and marked the support of the pharmacists with a special gift to all those who attended. 

Each was given a commemorative paperweight. Inside was embedded a v-shaped section of a corner of a bear cage - simultaneously representing victory and the crescents of the thousands of moon bears still in cages. 

Animals Asia China Director Toby Zhang commented: 

“It was a gift inspired by the preserved fragments of the Berlin Wall. In the end the people broke down the wall. We can break the cages too."


No bear bile hereJill Robinson thanks pharmacists