Shut Down Bile Farms in China

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Bear bile has been harvested for thousands of years in Asia and is believed to be useful in treating fever, liver illnesses and sore eyes. It is common in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as ordinary household products and cosmetics like shampoo and toothpaste. Farmed bears are kept permanently in cages, sometimes so small that they are unable to turn around or stand on all fours.

Some bears are caged as cubs and never released, with many kept caged for up to 30 years.They are starved and dehydrated, and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumors that ultimately kill them.Those bears are seen as mere production units, whose use is nothing more than bile production. Old or very sick bears – those who fail to produce bile – are simply left to starve to death in their cages. Bear's bile is extracted using various invasive techniques, all of which cause severe suffering, pain and infection.The method claimed to be the most 'humane' by bile farmers, is 'free-drip' method, where bears undergo surgery to create a permanent open passage from their gallbladder through their abdomen.

The surgery is crude, unhygienic and rarely performed by a veterinarian. This results in many of the bears dying from infections or other complications, and agony for those who do survive. As the body naturally tries to heal itself, each bile tapping session then involves forcing a metal tube through the wound and scar tissue to reach the bile stored in the bear's gallbladders. Other methods include the permanent surgical implantation of a metal or latex catheter which drains the bile straight from the bear's abdomens. Some bears are even fitted with 'metal jackets'. Reminiscent of a medieval style torture device, it is designed to keep bile-draining catheters in place. Heavy and typically rusting, they restrain bears movement using sharp spikes and strips of metal.

With the advent of synthetic bile and greater awareness of the inhumane method of harvesting has driven the price down on farm bile, so we need to keep the pressure up relentlessly. In 2017, China pledged today to rescue 500 bears held in cages for their bile as a first step in wiping out the age-old practice.

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