By Adam M. Roberts
For twenty years, we have been calling attention to the bloody trade in bear parts.
It is an intricate global web of illicit wildlife commercialization that leads to American black bears being poached for their gallbladders, which are consumed domestically or smuggled overseas; Russian brown bears killed for their gallbladders, which are shipped throughout Asia or smuggled to America; and endangered Asiatic black bears incarcerated in tiny coffin-like cages, so small that they can’t turn around, forever trapped and “milked” of their valuable bile. Animals Asia, our friends and colleagues who have continually fought an intelligent and heartfelt battle against this horrific bear bile industry, has announced that a bear bile company in China, Flower World, is getting out of the bear bile business and retiring their 130 bears to Animals Asia’s sanctuary for a peaceful lifetime home. Bravo!
For millennia, traditional Chinese medicine has employed bear bile and gallbladder in its medicinal remedies to treat a range of ailments, from headaches to hemorrhoids. Increasingly, as the value of bile went up, so, too, did the pressure on bear populations to supply the mounting demand. Hence, the development of bile farms in Asia in the 1980s and the widespread uncovering of bear carcasses across America, their abdomens sliced open and the gallbladders removed.
I have seen firsthand the amazing animals in Animals Asia’s care. Bears dining on fresh carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce. Bears lying on a hammock, literally cuddled with a compatriot. Three-legged bears lounging in a pile of leaves, one of their limbs having been cruelly sliced away to supply the restaurants seeking bear paws for pricey soups.
Born Free USA has worked to end the trade in bear parts for years. To stop the trade in states that are the worst offenders. To create a uniform national policy against the commercialization of bear gallbladders and bile. To create international policy under CITES calling for a demonstrable reduction in the trade in bear parts. Our work will continue.
Every bear that is freed from a bile factory is a success story—and when 130 bears are freed, well, that’s a dream come true … for a wildlife campaigner who has spent decades trying to shed light on this abominable trade, and for the bears who will have fresh produce and a peaceful place to lie each day for the rest of their lives.