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REPORT: 97% of traditional medicine doctors no longer prescribe bear bile in Vietnam

30 May 2019

Phung Thuong 24.09.2016 159

New report reveals Vietnam’s traditional medicine practitioners are on schedule to phase out bear bile by 2020, promising a collapse in demand.

Having worked with Animals Asia since 2010, the Traditional Medicine Association of Vietnam has pledged to end all prescriptions of bear bile by 2020, a move which many feel will cause demand for the illegal medicine to collapse.

Now a new report, which interviewed thousands of official practitioners and association members, has revealed they are well on the way to achieving that goal, with 97% self-reporting that they no longer prescribe the illegal drug.

The results are in stark contrast to a survey as recently as 2013 which suggested that 40% of traditional medicine doctors in the country regularly prescribed bear bile products to their patients.

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“To end bear bile farming, you must stop the demand – that’s why we’ve worked with Vietnam’s Traditional Medicine Association for nearly a decade.  

“The clear move away from bear bile by traditional doctors reflects what we are seeing elsewhere in the industry – demand is falling, prices are plummeting and many bear owners now realise the industry is dying. It’s time for them to let their bears be transferred to sanctuaries where they can receive the care they desperately need.”

As the industry ends, there are fears some farmers may allow their bears to die rather than being sent to sanctuaries. To prevent this, Animals Asia is urging its government partners to strengthen oversight of existing farms, instigate more spot-checks and ensure bear parts cannot enter the black market to reduce financial incentives.

Bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years, but instead of prescribing bear bile as they used to, practitioners are now recommending more than 50 herbal alternatives identified by the association to have the same medical effects as bear bile.

READ MORE: From schools to temples: winning hearts and minds to end bear bile farming in Vietnam

To raise awareness of the alternatives, Animals Asia published a guidebook which is given out free to communities across the country and has also set up 10 gardens of herbal alternatives.

The gardens help raise awareness about how rural communities can stay healthy without harming a single bear.

Tuan said:

“Our long-standing work with the Traditional Medicine Association and rural communities is paying off. More people than ever before know – not only that bile farming is cruel and illegal – but that they have alternative ways to stay healthy prescribed by the very doctors they know and trust.”

Animals Asia has opposed the bear bile industry since the organisation’s founding in 1998 and signed a legally binding agreement with the Vietnam government in 2017 to completely end the industry in the country by 2022.

To date, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears in Vietnam and China, and the charity’s two sanctuaries are both certified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

The new report, titled ‘Consumer demand and traditional medicine prescription of bear products in Vietnam’, was researched by Animals Asia, San Diego Zoo Global and Traffic.

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