What is Bear Bile Farming?

What?

Bears are farmed in order to harvest the bile stored in their gall bladders for the Traditional Medicine Trade.

 

They are confined in small cages for their entire lives.  During this time bears are subjected to extreme loneliness, heat stress, dehydration, hunger, fear and multiple mental and physical health problems that cause their premature death. 

Bear farming was originally touted as a conservation tool but the extreme cruelty of their living conditions mostly prevents breeding.  Replacement farm bears are therefore caught from the wild.  

 

Farming has also boosted demand for bile.  

Why?

Bear bile contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) which is used to treat a plethora of unrelated symptoms from liver and gall bladder conditions, depression, rheumatism, bruising, fevers, COVID-19, cancer and convulsions. 

Where?

Bear bile was originally used in China.  It has now spread to Vietnam, Laos, South Korea, Myanmar, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, the US, Canada and Singapore.

However, the majority of bear farms are found in China, Vietnam, Laos, South Korea and Myanmar.

When?

Bear bile first appeared thousands of years ago in China's medical Pharmacopoeia in 659 CE. 

Bear farming was developed in the 1980s.

How?

Before farming existed bears were hunted from the wild and their gall bladders, that contain bile, were removed after death.

Farming allows the continued extraction of bile from live bears.  It is done in different ways in different countries. 

 

The infamously barbaric crushing "metal jacket" method holds a gall bladder catheter in place whilst a spike prevents the bear from removing it.  Although now illegal in China, it is still thought to be practised in some areas.  

The "free-drip" method involves pushing a metal tube into a pre-prepared slit in the gall-bladder but this seals between bile draining sessions.  A permanent catheter can also be fitted into the gall-bladder.  Both allow bile to drip out but are painful and cause infections.

Vietnam sedates bears before using a long needle and syringe to extract the bile.  Being illegal there are no training courses for this invasive procedure so farmers learn through trial and error.

What can We Do?

Plant alternatives have now been found to contain the "same therapeutic effects as bear bile."  Persuading people to use herbal alternatives is more about changing belief systems. Some charities are setting up gardens in local bear farming communities to achieve this. 

 

There are also synthetic and semi-synthetic alternatives to bear bile.  The former do not use animals but the latter synthesises bile using farmed animal bile. 

According to The Journal of Chinese Medicine, authors Wang and Richards wrote in A Bitter Pill:

"Synthetic bear bile, or ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), with the generic drug name of ursodiol, is now being widely produced under brand names such as Actigall, Urso, Ursofalk, Ursogal and Ursotan, depending upon where you are in the world. It can be synthesised using cow or pig bile and even using no animal ingredients."

Verify Humanity's Position

Verify Humanity believes each animal life is equally as important.  While we advocate herbal alternatives, we do not support the use of any other animal bile alternatives as this simply bumps cruelty from one species to another by bolstering the meat industry.