Bear bile farming is a very disturbing, yet a common practice, in some places. It causes extreme pain to the bears. During the process, it can be observed that bears gnash their teeth, bite their cages, moan, and even chew their own paws because of the pain.
The Process – Bile extraction is done in the crudest manner, and without any form of sanitation. The persons conducting it are unskilled and the process is not up to modern veterinary standards. Most of the bears die during or soon after bile extraction. If they live, they suffer from liver cancer, as a result of chronic inflammation and infection of the gall bladder and liver. Generally, farmed bears live only up to 4 years.
Why They Do It – Bile is a digestive liquid produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Bile gathered from bears has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for at least three thousand years for a variety of purposes. It is used in Chinese physiotherapy, to cure inflammations and to dissolve gall stones and kidney stones. Also, it is thought to help detoxify the liver and improve eyesight. And according to research, bears are the only mammals that produce the bile salt ursodeoxycholic acid, which is effective in treating some liver diseases.
Before, bear bile was gathered by killing wild bears and removing their gallbladders. In recent decades, when wild bears became increasingly rare, bile became prohibitively costly for most Chinese. But then, during the year 1980, the Chinese bear bile farming industry adapted a technique first developed in North Korea. This involved extracting bile from captive bears without having to kill them.
Cruelty to Bears – The bears are housed in cages hardly large enough to hold the animal itself. To get the bile, an incision is made in each bear’s abdomen and a catheter (which is basically a plastic or rubber tube) is then inserted into the gallbladder. The bile is drained through the catheter and then gathered for sale.
How is the process done? To gather the bile from the gallbladder, a connection from the gallbladder (located deep inside the body) to the surface has to be established. The connection, which is medically called fistula, is made in any of the three ways: insertion of a metal tube, insertion of a plastic tube, or creation of a tissue bridge between the gallbladder and skin. The connection is conducted by untrained and unskilled individuals who do not observe modern veterinary standards.
A metal jacket is donned on the bear to be biled. It is worn around their bodies and it has a collection container attached to it. There are bears forced to lie on the floor of their small cages so the bile will drip downward. Keep in mind that their crush cages are extremely small. The floor is made up of iron bars so the bears cannot stand or lie down on firm ground. This results in neck and back injury. Since a bear’s body will try to exclude the inserted metal or plastic tube or close the tissue bridge, scarring and damage is done to both the inside and outside of the bear. Sometimes, to prevent the closing of the incision, hot pieces of metal are inserted without any form of sedation or anesthesia. Bile is collected twice a day, and this goes on for the rest of their lives.
Why It’s Useless – This is all very unnecessary. There is no need to make poor bears undergo such abuse. The use of bear bile is obsolete. There are at least 75 herbal medicines that can be used as an alternative to bear bile. Of which, 54 are proven to work. These alternatives are a lot cheaper and more convenient.
Today, we can already manufacture synthesized bear bile that contains UrsoDeoxyCholic Acid (the active constituent in bear bile). All these alternatives are just as effective without the deaths of innocent bears. Let us put a stop to bear bile farming. It causes unnecessary torture to poor bears.