NEW YORK, April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, World Animal Protection reveals the abhorrent cruelty of bear farming, and the unacceptable illegal US sales of bear bile products in a new report – Cruel Cures.
The report comes just days after disappointing news that people in China are using a bear bile product, alongside a number of plant-based traditional medicines (TM), to treat severe symptoms caused by COVID-19. This shocking development is described in the report as both 'tragic and ironic' given that the handling of wild animals is believed to be the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. World Animal Protection is calling on the Chinese government to make the use of bear bile illegal and only include plant-based traditional medicines as recommended remedies for the symptoms of COVID-19.
The report states approximately 24,000 bears are currently kept caged and farmed for their bile for traditional medicine products across Asia - in China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and South Korea. This should ring alarm bells in the wake of the COVID-19 contagion, as 60%1 of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and of these 70% are thought to originate from wild animals. While the COVID-19 is a pandemic like no other, collectively, zoonotic diseases cause over two million human deaths annually, as a result of people coming into close proximity with animals.
Bear bile is predominantly used for traditional medicine. However, the report discloses numerous other products containing bear bile, including toothpaste, cosmetics, and alcohol.
The bile is extracted from live, suffering unhealthy bears, and is one of the most extreme forms of animal abuse in the world. The bears are largely bred into captivity, trapped in small, barren cages in factory farm style conditions for the duration of their long, miserable lives.
They suffer unthinkable traumas on a regular basis. Most commonly, their bile is drained from their gallbladder using a metal tube through a surgically created opening in the bear's abdomen. The report describes how the intense, agonizing process that the bears are forced to endure causes them to moan and quiver throughout.
Recent developments in China and Vietnam have been encouraging, where both countries have banned the consumption of wild animals. Yet, the ban must be extended to include the use of wildlife in traditional medicine, preventing animals such as bears, tigers, and pangolins from being abused. Not only will this drastically reduce the human health threat, it will prevent animal suffering too.
World Animal Protection is calling for the Chinese government to make bear bile illegal and only endorse plant-based medicines to treat COVID-19 symptoms. On a global level, World Animal Protection is urging governments, organizations, and nations to unite to end the global trade in wild animals forever.
While the use of bear bile continues in China, it is also being used illegally in the United States. A 2018 investigation revealed that bear bile products are on sale in more than a dozen traditional Chinse medicine stores in New York City and San Francisco despite legal prohibitions on the importation, production, possession, and sale of bear bile products.
In New York City, undercover investigators visited 44 Chinese medicine stores and found products containing bear bile in 10 stores. In San Francisco, undercover investigators visited 33 Chinese medicine stores and found products containing bear bile in five stores. Store owners in both cities acknowledged to the investigators that it is illegal to sell bear bile products. While most products were produced in China or Japan, store owners in New York City reported that they purchase bear gallbladders and bear bile powder from hunters in the United States and Canada. [Photos of the products are available here.]
Section 3372 of the Lacey Act criminalizes the importation of bear bile products into the United States. State laws in New York State and California also prohibit the possession and sale of bear bile products [More information about the illegal sale of bear bile products in the United States and authorities' ongoing investigations are available on request.]
1 Jones KE, Patel NG, Levy MA, Storeygard A, Balk D, Gittleman JL, Daszak P; Global trends in emerging infectious diseases; Nature, 451(990-993), 2008
Notes to editors:
- Bear bile is believed to treat inflammation, reduce cholesterol, ocular, liver and gall bladder diseases. Although non-bear bile and herbal alternatives are all readily available, the industry has continued to flourish over the past 36 years with poaching leading to less numbers of bears in the wild.
- We are committed to ending the exploitation of bears in the bear bile industry, and to protect wild bears from a lifetime of suffering in captivity. Our work includes:
- Joining with partners, including governments, global bodies, local partners and individuals, to stop bears being exploited and to create lasting change
- Promoting better welfare for captive bears, while we move to end the bear bile industry for good
- Seeking laws, policies, monitoring and enforcement to ensure that captive bears are given space to move, provided with richer environments and are protected from all forms of bile extraction and exploitation
- Raising awareness of alternatives to bear bile, including herbal and synthetic products, which are readily available, affordable and effective
- Working with local organizations to urge governments to live up to their international commitments to protect bears and other wild animals.
SOURCE World Animal Protection