Magazine article Geographical

Bear Necessities

Magazine article Geographical

Bear Necessities

Article excerpt

Thousands of endangered bears are in captivity on farms across China. They are being systematically drained of bile from their gall bladders which is used in traditional medicines. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) more than 7,300 Asiatic black bears are known to be kept in confined and inadequate conditions on around 481 bile farms.

Bear farming began in China and South Korea in the early 1980s for use in medicines. The gall bladder is considered to help treat many conditions, including parasites, burns, swelling and fever. However IFAW is keen to prove that cheap herbal remedies are as effective. Many non-essential products are often derived from bile, including shampoos and herbal teas.

Although the sale of gall bladders has been illegal since 1989 under China's Wild Animal Protection Law, the legislation only affords `Class II' protection to the black bear because of its bigger population. This is despite the government's acknowledgment that they are at significant risk. Unlike the panda which receives protection, the black bear can be caught subject to approval by the state; since 1991 hundreds of licenses for bear farms have been issued.

Some defenders of the practice consider it a necessary evil, saying that by keeping some bears in captivity to meet the demand for bile, fewer wild bears will be killed for their gall bladders. …

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