Not all of us are animal-lovers however, certain practices are so outright cruel for animals that it boils our blood just to think of it. Bear bile farming is one such cruel practice. Have you ever heard of it? Don’t worry if you haven’t. In this article, we are going to discuss in-depth about bear bile farming, its uses, and price. We’ll also tell you about some shocking facts that you might not have known before.
What is bear bile farming?
The history of bear bile farming
The first reference of bear bile in the history of mankind was made in the 8th century in a Chinese medical text. In the text, it was mentioned that bear bile had miraculous powers to cure maladies such as heartache, hemorrhoids, and epilepsy.
The Chinese medical text is a standing proof that bear bile has in fact been used in the traditional Chinese medicinal practices for about a thousand years.
Many centuries later, in the 1900s, scientists, while researching for evidence to back the traditional practice, found out that bear’s bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid, also referred to as ursodiol. Traces of ursodeoxycholic acid are also found in cows and pigs.
However, none of the other animals secrete it in such a substantial amount as a bear. There is medical proof that ursodeoxycholic acid can help in treating liver diseases and dissolving gallstones. Thus, began the practice of bear bile farming in China in the 1980s.
Although China is still the leading country in practicing bear bile farming, other countries such as Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, have partaken in it as well.
There are 8 different species of bears found in the world.
- Polar bear (Thalarctos maritimus)
- Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
- American black bear (Usrus americanus)
- Asiatic black bear or Moon bear (Selenarctos thibetanus)
- Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
- Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus)
- Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)
- Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Out of all these species, the Asiatic black bears, Sun bears, and Brown bears are the most common targets of bear bile farming, most probably because of their availability in the Asian subcontinent.
Uses of bear bile
Bear bile is mainly used for medical purposes, but there are other bizarre uses of it in China that will blow your mind. Take a look.
According to the Scientific studies, the ursodeoxycholic acid, which is the key ingredient of bear bile, has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and hepaprotective properties. It also protects the epithelial cells in our gastrointestinal tract.
Many studies have proven that ursodeoxycholic acid is also helpful in dissolving gallstones inside our gall bladder. Bear bile is consumed in the form of pills and powder. However, many people consume it raw as well. It is used in certain ointments as well.
Common people purchase bear bile to cure sore throat, muscle ailments, bruises, epilepsy, sprain, fever, etc. It is also sold as a treatment of hemorrhoids as well as to improve eyesight. Many people use to get rid of hangovers as well.
There are many Chinese brands in the market today who use bear bile for products that do not necessarily need it. Some of these products are.
- Acne treatment
Surely these products could do without using bear bile that is extracted from such an inhumane practice as bear bile farming.
The price of bear bile
The cruelty on bears is priced quite high in the international market. The estimated price of raw bear bile can cost as much as $24,000 per kg, which is roughly half the price at which gold is sold.
If you think the raw bear bile is high-priced, wait till you hear the price of the powdered bile. While the wholesale price of powdered bile is about $400 per kg, its retail price is multiplied about 50 times on an average. In Japan, the price of retail bile powder is the highest: $33,000 per kg (about 80 times the retail price).
The prices of bear bile pills in different countries are listed below.
- United States: $1 per pill
- Malaysia: $0.38 per pill
- Thailand: $3.83 per pill (most expensive)
In many markets, the gallbladders of bears are sold as well. The price of the gallbladder ranges between $5,000-$10,000.
10 Shocking facts about bear bile farming?
While you might have heard of or even used bear bile at some point, there’s a chance you might not have an idea of how exactly bear bile farming takes place.
Given below are 10 facts about bear bile farming that might shock you.
Bear bile farming has largely contributed to the decreasing number of bears in recent years
This shouldn’t come as a shock to those who are familiar with bear bile farming. Although bear bile was used for many centuries, in the past few decades, bear bile farming grew more intense and extensive.
More than thousands of bears have been killed worldwide to sell their body parts and organs. The most-prized one out of all parts is the gallbladder with the highest commercial value.
As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared six out of eight bear species to be vulnerable or endangered.
The methods of bear bile extraction are cruel and painful
Five different techniques are used while extracting bile from bears.
Catheterization – The process of pushing a catheter through the bear’s abdomen in order to reach their gallbladder.
Percutaneous biliary drainage – The process uses an ultrasound imager to find the bear’s gall bladder that is then punctured using surgical tools.
Implantation – The process of implanting a tube into the bear’s gallbladder through their abdomen.
Full-jacket method – In this process, the bear has to wear a metal box that contains a plastic container for collecting the bile that Is extracted by a permanent catheter tube.
Free dip method – The process of creating a fistula, or a permanent hole in the abdomen and gallbladder of the bear through which the bile freely drips.
Out of all these methods, the free dip is by far the most brutal. However, that doesn’t make any of the other methods any kinder.
The surgeries performed on bears are not supervised by certified veterinarians
At bear bile farms, the owners are solely concerned about the bile they extract and not the means to do it. There’s hardly a bile farm where a veterinarian is present to oversee the surgeries being performed properly. These surgeries are performed by crude, inexperienced workers who have no idea what they’re doing.
Bears living in a bile farm have a much shorter lifespan
This is another sad truth of bear bile farming. While wild bears, or even those who live in sanctuaries, live up to 25-30 years on average, the average life expectancy of a bear caged at bear bile farms is merely 5 years. In other words, the lifespan of a farm bear is about 5 times reduced than that of a wild bear.
Cruel treatment of bears in Vietnam
Several years ago, a report revealed that while Chinese methods of bile extraction were cruel, the Vietnamese took it one step ahead. The bears in the Vietnam bile farms were regularly drugged and then jabbed in their abdomen with a 4-inch long needle until the workers found their gallbladder.
Consuming bile from sick bears can be dangerous
As mentioned before, bear bile farms are not supervised for hygiene or safety by veterinarians or other health experts. Consequently, on many occasions, the bears are sick, and the bile extracted from them is thus dangerous for the health of its consumer. In other cases, the bear’s blood or pus gets mixed with the bile, which is unhealthy for the consumers as well.
Bear bile farming is illegal in Vietnam
Yes, you read that right. And it is not the latest news either. Bear bile farming has been illegal in Vietnam since 1992. Unfortunately, due to legal loopholes in the country, the cruelty on bears continues to persist and grow.
Bears rescued from bile farms have a pitiable health
In a survey conducted in 2000, it was found that bears rescued from bile farms often suffered from skin conditions, scarring, swollen limbs, injuries, ectoparasites, dental, and breathing problems.
Most bile bears suffer psychological trauma
Considering what these bears go through on the farm, it is not unthinkable for them to have trauma. A few years ago, the Chinese media reported that a bear who had escaped from the bile farm strangled her own cub to death and then took her own life as well.
There are cruelty-free alternatives of bear bile
After years of research, scientists have come up with several synthetic as well as herbal alternatives of bear bile with the same properties and health benefits.
Bear bile farming is a cruel, inhumane activity that inflicts far too much pain on bears. Many non-government organizations that work against animal cruelty are actively struggling to help free the bile bears, which is an initiative more people should join in order to stop bear bile farming.