Scientific studies reveal brutal truth of bear farming industry

21 February 2012

  • 99% of free drip bears had cholecystitis, 
  • 66% had gall bladder polyps 
  • 34% had abdominal herniation, 
  • 28% had internal absessation, 
  • 22% had gallstones

Scientific research into bears previously farmed using the “free drip” method of bile extraction was revealed today at an Animals Asia press conference in Beijing. The detailed medical evidence was based on analysis of 165 bears that had been rescued and brought to Animals Asia’s bear sanctuary near Chengdu.

Of the bears studied, 163 (99%) had cholecystitis, 109 (66%) had gall bladder polyps, 56 (34%) had abdominal herniation, 46 (28%) had internal absessation, 36 (22%) had gallstones, and 7 had peritonitis. Many of the bears had multiple combinations of these conditions.

At a press conference held last Thursday by the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the association’s head, Fang Shuting, stated that: “The process of extracting bear bile was as easy, natural and painless as turning on a tap”.

Monica Bando, a veterinary surgeon at Animals Asia, commented:
“The free drip method of bile extraction can cause great harm and pain to farmed bears.”

Across Asia, an estimated 14,000 moon bears are being held in captivity on farms and milked for their bile because its believed to be effective in the practice of traditional Asian medicine despite the availability of inexpensive and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives. In China, the bears can spend more than 30 years in tiny cages and are milked regularly for their bile through crude catheters or permanently open holes in their abdomens.

In response to allegations that farms break current regulations, Fang Shuting stated last week said: “If such bear farms are found, please let us know.”

At the press conference, an independent film-maker revealed undercover footage of the bear farming industry. The footage was shot between 2009 and 2010 and reveals “legal” bear farms with conditions that are clearly breaking current regulations.

It shows bears forced to wear metal jackets that weigh them down and hold rubber pipes into their gall bladders. Bear farmers are shown baking bile juice in dirty containers, smashing the dried bile, and hand-making capsules of bear bile powder.

The film footage was produced by Elsa Xiong, Tu Qiao and Chen Yuanzhong for a documentary. They spent four years working on the documentary, travelling to six provinces and conducting many undercover investigations.

Elsa Xiong commented:
“Because bear farms are closed from public, we encountered many unimaginable difficulties and risks. The bear farming industry is extremely cruel. What is even more shocking is that the legal bear farming industry allows many dirty and unsafe products to enter the market.”

Rocky Shi, a bear worker from Animals Asia’s China bear sanctuary also spoke at the press conference and introduced the happy lives of rescued bears. He said:
“Every bear has their own character, emotions, and social life. Though tortured by human beings for many years, they always express a kind and forgiving nature, and show no hatred towards people.”

Dr Jill Robinson MBE, Founder and CEO of Animals Asia commented:
“The practice of bear farming will end only by change coming from within China, and not because of pressure from overseas. Indeed, foreign pressure could even be counter-productive and cause the bears’ suffering to continue. We have seen an unprecedented outcry from the Chinese public and media over the last few days. It’s heartening to see so many people in China coming out against this awful industry and there is growing hope that the bear farming industry may soon come to an end."

Gui Zhentang, a bear bile company that has applied for an Initial Public Offering in Shenzhen, and has met with much opposition from the public, has invited press and the public to visit their bear-bile farm in the next few days.

Toby Zhang, External Affairs Director in China for Animals Asia commented:
“We are pleased that Animals Asia has been invited and we will be looking for a guarantee of transparency, and several conditions for viewing the bears.”

He also pointed out that he hasn’t yet received confirmation of his reserved place on the visit.