Traditional Medicine practitioners turning their backs on bear bile

26 April 2013

  • 60% of TM practitioners do not use bear bile 
  • 17% do use bear bile

Traditional Medicine practitioners in Vietnam are turning their backs on the use of bear bile according to new research by the Traditional Medicine Association in Vietnam, showing its members now view use of bear bile as old fashioned. 

The association has produced a book, in conjunction with Animals Asia, that lists 32 alternatives to bear bile. Some 7,000 copies of the publication have been released to practitioners alongside new research suggesting bear bile use is decreasing among Traditional Medicine (TM) practitioners. 

Even within the centuries old practices of Traditional Medicine, the use of bear bile is being frequently seen as out-dated. Even in locations such as bile hot spot Ha Tinh province, research shows that 72% of TM practitioners said colleagues used bear bile 5-10 years ago, when bear bile farming was at its peak, but now no longer used the substance. Across the country 60% of TM practitioners said they have never used bear bile while only 17% said they continued its use. 

Elsewhere, with higher use of bear bile often concentrated around bear farms, the suggestion is that availability rather than suitability promotes its use. Those closer to bile farms were more likely to prescribe it to patients while those further away were happy to turn instead to a range of alternatives. 

Also included within the book is three-fold warning to TM practitioners. Protect the bears. Protect your customers because unhygienic bile extraction is commonplace and deaths have been caused. Finally protect yourself because the use and prescription of bile is illegal and offenders could face fines or prison. 

The book was launched at Animals Asia’s Tam Dao sanctuary, two hours from Hanoi. With representatives from Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in attendance. 

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said: 

“The support we have received by the Traditional Medicine Association and their members has been fantastic. The research they have helped us conduct shows bear bile use to be outdated and increasingly marginalised among TM practitioners. This new book clearly shows the many alternatives to bile and the good news is that their members are already demonstrating their awareness of this. The use of bear bile and bear bile farming itself are both ready to be consigned to the past” 

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson added: 

“This is a wonderful example of how the campaign to end the use of bear bile farming is being driven by Vietnamese people and, in this case, by those with exhaustive knowledge of traditional medicine. Why would you not use alternatives when bear bile is extracted so cruelly and so unhygienically that it can kill the very person practitioners are trying to cure? The alternatives are not only cruelty free, but they are legal and represent no risk to the patient.”