Have you ever heard of a bear “bile farm” in Asia? In an incredulously horrid, cruel practice, Asian bears are confined to a coffin-like extraction or crush cage (2′ x 4’x 6′), immobilized, starved of food and water, and implanted with an often dirty catheter into their gall bladder. They are doomed to exist this way and may live for about ten years (if they don’t die of infection or liver cancer first), unable to move, suffering from mental distress and muscle atrophy. Lest we not forget the painful extraction or “milking” process; bears can be seen moaning and chewing their paws while the bile is extracted from their gall bladders. This is the definition of torture.
Fact: The Sun Bear is listed as vulnerable on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Animals.
Background: Bile has been used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Although all mammals produce bile, practitioners often prescribed bear bile, as it contained a higher percentage of UDCA (the key ingredient) than the bile of other animals. In the 1980’s, Koreans started bear bile farms in an effort to “milk” bears over the span of 10-12 years and mass-produce the high-value commodity (the previous extraction method was to kill the bear and remove the gall bladder). The bile farms spread to other regions, and bears are currently farmed for bile in Laos, China, Vietnam and Korea.
Key Ingredient: Bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is believed to be an anti-anflamitory, break down gallstones, treat gallstone disease, improve eye site, reduce fever, and protect the liver. Now, UDCA is manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. It’s also noteworthy that only a small amount of bear bile is actually used by practitioners in traditional medicine every year. The majority of the bile that is extracted ends up in superfluous products such as wines, tonics, and eye drops. In other words, people in these Asian countries wrongly prize this bear bile mixture for having medicinal value and are consuming it without actual medical advisement.
Bears are also butchered for bear paw soup. We actually saw jars full of bear paws at vendor stands along the side of the road.
So what does any of this have to do with this blog?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Tat Kuang Si also houses a Free the Bears rescue center. There are 23 Asiatic Black Bears being cared for at the center. Most of them arrived as young cubs, confiscated by the Lao government from illegal trading and poaching. Meet the 23 bears here.
The bears at Tat Kuang Si seem to receive the best care possible. They are fed several times a day, and their caretakers leave them little snacks, such as corn or carrots, to find hidden inside objects. This supposedly simulates the search and grazing in the wild.
Check out this video of a bear searching for and finding a culinary treasure. A-dorable!
Read about how Australian Mary Hutton became inspired in 1993 to start Free the Bears Fund here.
How Can YOU Help?
- Donate here. 100% of your donations go to the bears.
- Help educate locals.
- Join Free The Bears Fund (membership).
- Give a gift to the bears! (Like a tub of honey, a treat ball, a climbing tower, a tub of peanuts, or a bear hammock!!!)
- Sponsor a bear.
- Volunteer in Asia.
- Write a letter to government ministers. PROTEST!
- SREAD THE WORD!!! Share this blog post or Free the Bears.org site. Tell your friends and families about the plight of these suffering creatures!
As always, thanks for stopping by!