Pictured: a bear kept caged and farmed to fuel the bear bile industry.

Authorities Seize Thousands of Dollars of Bear Bile Products Following World Animal Protection Investigation



Following a months-long investigation into the illegal sale of bear bile products in stores throughout New York City, state authorities have seized thousands of dollars in products from multiple locations.

Bear bile is extracted from live, suffering bears, and is one of the most extreme forms of animal abuse in the world. The bears are largely bred into captivity and trapped in small, barren cages no larger than a phone booth in factory farm style conditions for the duration of their long, miserable lives. 

They suffer unthinkable traumas regularly. Most commonly, their bile is drained from their gallbladder using a metal tube through a surgically created opening in the bear’s abdomen. This intense, agonizing process causes bears to moan and quiver throughout and is often done by people with no veterinary qualifications and little concern for animal welfare. If the bears don’t die prematurely from infection, tumors, or self-inflicted wounds, the animals could live in this state for upwards of 20 years.  

Bear bile has been used for years as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat flu and flu-like symptoms and has even been used to treat symptoms of COVID-19, despite more effective and humane plant-based or synthetic alternatives.  

In April 2020, World Animal Protection shared this information with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), showing that bear bile products were being offered for sale in at least ten traditional medicine stores in New York City’s, Chinatown—despite legal prohibitions on their importation, production, possession, and sale.  

After preliminary plain clothes inspections of the locations had confirmed World Animal Protection’s findings, an undercover NYSDEC detail was prepared for September 2nd. With the assistance of officers Shea, McCarthy, and Parmelee(pictured left to right below) the detail was executed, and it was a success.  

Bear bile investigation

Each of the locations found to be selling the illegal products agreed to sign a Consent Order relinquishing all products and pay a penalty of up to $5,000.   

Bear bile investigation

Heart tonic pills containing bear bile, among other ingredients, for sale in New York City.

During World Animal Protection’s undercover investigation store owners acknowledged that it was illegal to sell bear bile products. However, they continued to sell the products or indicated that they could obtain the products. While most products were produced in China or Japan, store owners reported that they also purchase whole bear gallbladders and bear bile powder from hunters in the United States and Canada. 

Bear bile investigation

Bear bile has been used for years to treat flu and flu-like symptoms. Patients ill with COVID-19 have been using bear bile as a remedy to alleviate symptoms of the virus. 

Earlier this year, World Animal Protection launched the first-ever database for TCM Alternatives to Wild Animal Preparations to help traditional medicine practitioners easily identify suitable plant- and mineral-based alternatives to wild animal ingredients.  

We will continue our work to end the needless suffering of animals, but we can’t do it without you. Donate today to support our continued fight to keep wild animals where they belong, in the wild. 

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