A bear suffers in captivity

Cruel bear bile industry is thriving despite pandemic risks



As the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, we reveal the abhorrent cruelty of bear farming for traditional medicine and the unacceptable scale of the bear bile trade.

Bear bile is the problem, not the cure

Our new report, Cruel Cures, comes just days after extremely disappointing news that the Chinese government allows the use of a bear bile product, alongside several plant-based traditional medicines, to treat severe symptoms caused by COVID-19. 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 the symptoms of the virus.

This is all the more shocking given that the handling of wild animals is believed to be the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re calling on the Chinese government to make bear bile products illegal and only include plant-based traditional medicines as recommended remedies.

A threat to animals and people

Right now, there are approximately 24,000 bears 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, as 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (transferring from animals to humans), and 70% of these are thought to originate from wild animals. Zoonotic diseases collectively cause over two million human deaths annually.

A life of torture for bears

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, trapped in small, barren cages 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.

Ban the global trade in wild animals forever

Recent developments in China and Vietnam have been encouraging, where both countries have banned the consumption of wild animals. This ban must be extended to include the use of wildlife in traditional medicine, preventing animals such as bears, tigers, and pangolins from being abused.

We call on the Chinese government to make bear bile preparations illegal and only endorse plant-based medicines to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

On a global level, we are calling on governments, organizations, and nations to unite to end the global trade in wild animals forever.

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