Cruel Bear Bile Industry Thrives Despite Pandemic Risks

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Cruel Bear Bile Industry Thrives Despite Pandemic Risks Says World Animal Protection

TORONTO,  CNW- World Animal Protection is raising concerns over the recent news that the Chinese government is recommending the use of a bear bile product to treat severe symptoms caused by COVID-19.

In a new report from the global charity called Cruel Cures (See PDF link below) this shocking development is described as both 'tragic and ironic,' given that the handling and consumption of wild animals is believed to be the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. World Animal Protection is urging the Chinese government to remove this drug from its recommended list and only include plant-based traditional medicines.

The report also reveals the abhorrent cruelty of bear farming and the unacceptable growth of the bear bile trade.

China has been farming bears since the 1980s to extract bile from their gall bladder, predominately for use in traditional medicine. It is used to treat a variety of ailments from liver disease to hangovers, but plant-based alternatives do exist.

The 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 in captivity and trapped in small, barren cages in factory farm style conditions for the duration of their long, miserable lives.

They suffer unthinkable traumas. Most commonly, their bile is drained from their gallbladder using a metal tube through a surgically created opening in the bear's abdomen. The intense, agonizing process that the bears are forced to endure causes them to cry out in agony.

The report also states approximately 24,000 bears are currently kept caged and farmed for their bile for traditional medicine products across Asia - including in China, Vietnam and Myanmar. This should raise major concern in the wake of the COVID-19 contagion, as 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and of these 70% are thought to originate from wild animals. While COVID-19 is a pandemic like no other to date, collectively, zoonotic diseases cause over two million human deaths annually, as a result of people coming into close proximity with animals.

Melissa Matlow, Campaign Director for World Animal Protection Canada says:

"The COVID-19 pandemic is ringing the alarm bells that the consumption and trade of wild animals needs to end. Farming bears for their bile is cruel, endangers bears in the wild, carries serious public health risks and is completely unnecessary as plant-based traditional medicine alternatives are available. It's time to stop the intensive farming, consumption and trade of wildlife to end animal suffering and help to prevent another pandemic."

Matlow adds that bears are still hunted from the wild for their gallbladders and due to a depletion in Asiatic black bears, bears are being hunted in places such as Canada and Russia.

The report also found illegal bear bile products are still being sold in shops in Toronto and exported to countries in Asia. During the charity's investigation, six of the 25 stores visited were found to stock bear bile products or offered the opportunity to order a bear bile product.

Consumer research also shows that 1 in 14 Canadians have knowingly used traditional medicine containing animal parts. However, when informed of the cruelty involved, more than half surveyed were then against the use of animal parts in traditional medicine.

World Animal Protection is asking governments around the world, including the Canadian government, to support a global ban on the farming and trade of wildlife. Bear gallbladders and bear bile have been trafficked in Canada for decades and there is concern this latest recommendation by the Chinese government will increase the illegal trade here.

It is recommended Canada strengthen legislation and enforcement to ensure consistent protection for bears across the country and to ensure authorities have the support they need to crack down on the trade and sale of illegal bear bile products.

Recent developments in China and Vietnam have been encouraging, where both countries have banned the consumption of wild animals. Yet, the ban must be extended to include the use of wildlife in traditional medicine, preventing animals such as bears, tigers and pangolins from being abused. Not only will this drastically reduce the human health threat, it will prevent animal suffering too.

World Animal Protection will continue to promote better welfare for bears, while we move to end the bear bile industry for good.

Photo Details: A bear caged on a farm in Asia. Bears are confined so that bile can be extracted from their gallbladders and sold for use in traditional medicine. World Animal Protection has been campaigning to stop this cruel practice. Photo Credit: World Animal Protection (CNW Group/World Animal Protection)

About World Animal Protection

From our offices around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Kenya and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. Last year, we gave more than 3 billion animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming. More information can be found at the link below:

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