Success! South Korea announces it will end bear bile farming

31 January 2022

South Korea’s 40-year bear bile farming industry is finally coming to an end. The South Korean Ministry of Environment has signed an agreement with the Bear Farmers Association and animal protection organisations who have been campaigning for an end to the cruel trade for decades.

Bear farm South Korea*

Although it’s currently illegal to extract bile from alive bears in South Korea, it’s perfectly legal to slaughter them for their gall bladder when they are ten years old. Until that time, the bears are kept alone in tiny, rusty, damp cages and often exist on inadequate diets.

Torn from their mothers at a very young age, these bears, like tens of thousands of others across Asia, are mentally and physically broken.

Bears are kept alone in small, rusty cages for up to 10 years.*

Animals Asia’s founder and CEO, Jill Robinson, first visited South Korea over 20 years ago when she began investigating Asia’s bear bile industry. Since then, South Korean authorities and animal welfare organizations have visited our bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam for insights into how to care for ex-bile farm bears.

Heidi Quine, Animals Asia’s Director of Bear and Vet Department at our Vietnam sanctuary has been working with Project Moonbear, Green Korea and the Korean Animal Welfare Association for several years and recently, Project Moonbear translated our Care and Welfare of Asiatic Black Bears and Malayan Sun Bears into Korean.

On hearing the announcement, Heidi said,

“For several years now, we have been providing expert advice to the groups working to end bear bile farming in South Korea. I’ve hosted several of the groups at our Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, showing them first hand exactly what excellence in bear rehabilitation and care means.”

“So, I am elated to hear that South Korean bears will finally find the sanctuary and care they deserve. After Vietnam, where Animals Asia has officially partnered with the government to end bear farming, South Korea marks yet another country in the region to choose kindness and allow bears to live the lives of peace they deserve.”

This landmark agreement will see 49 of South Korea’s 360 bears moved to a new shelter the government will construct, and 70 more moved to a new wildlife sanctuary. As it currently stands, the bear owners will humanely conserve and care for the remaining bears.

The Role of Bear Sanctuaries in South Korea

Jill Robinson continued,

"This is huge news! We're over the moon to see this progress happening in South Korea following in the footsteps of the advances we've made in bringing bear bile farming to an end in Vietnam. Credit to the government for listening to the animal welfare organisations who have been putting the pressure on locally for many years. I'm so proud that we were able to play a part in promoting the cause of the bears in Korea, providing expert advice to those who are now preparing to give these bears the life of kindness they've always deserved."

Animal welfare organisations in South Korea have campaigned against bear bile farming for years.*

Animals Asia congratulates and thanks the animal welfare organisations such as Project Moonbear, Green Korea, Korean Animal Welfare Association and World Animal Protection who have campaigned tirelessly for an end to bear bile farming in South Korea for many years.

Read more:
Animals Asia founder appeals to Koreans to halt bile tourism
Animals Asia signs agreement with Vietnam government to end bear bile farming

*Photos courtesy of Project Moonbear