Extraction of bear bile painless, necessary (?)

This thread follows article on this site, The Great Bear Rescue

Illegal raising of bears or extracting their bile in a cruel manner will attract severe penalties, a senior wildlife official said yesterday in Beijing. But approved bear farms will continue to exist in China for the time being, as painlessly-extracted bile is crucial for medical purposes, he said, adding that farming has vastly helped prevent poaching. A drug that contains bear bile is shown in this file photo.

"Before we find good alternatives for bear bile, we do not have a timetable to eliminate the practice (extracting bile from the gallbladder of farmed bears)," Wang Wei, deputy chief of the Department of Wildlife Conservation under the State Forestry Administration, told a press conference. It was organized by the State Council Information Office in response to foreign media's concerns about bile extraction and other animal-welfare issues. Bear bile, considered an indispensable ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, is used in 123 drugs and has an efficacy not matched by any other substitute, Wang said. As a result, a host of patients rely on bile-containing medicines for treatment.

"So we must consider both the needs of medical treatment and the protection of wild bears, and find a win-win solution," Wang said. Bear farms for extracting bile were set up in the mid-80s as a way to stop hunting of the endangered and protected animals in China, Wang said. He cited statistics as saying one bear in a farm prevents 220 being killed in the wild for their bile. When bile-extraction technology was introduced to China, some used surgically-implanted metal tubes, causing tremendous pain to the animals, Wang said. "That was a practice we are opposed to," he said, adding it happened before China's Wildlife Protection Law was enacted in 1988. Since then, China has been using advanced techniques, such as tubes made of bear tissue, to make the process painless. In addition to capping production of bile powder, illegal or substandard farms have been shut down, reducing the number of farms from at least 480 in the early 1990s to 68 fully regulated ones, where about 7,000 bears live in a suitable environment.

Extraction of bear bile 'painless, necessary' - that's China Daily story From the Times Online:

IT IS a scene replicated in scores of Chinese farms: hundreds of Asian black bears crowded into rows of cages with hardly enough space in which to roll over. Each animal has a hole punched through its abdomen and into its gall bladder. From that hole drips the bile that is sent off for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Most of the bears — known as moon bears for the crescent of yellowish fur across their chests — were trapped in the wild and are destined to spend dramatically shortened lives in captivity. They die of illness, starvation, tumours or infections of their open wounds. On the initiative of five British MEPs, Labour and Conservative, the European Parliament this week demanded an immediate ban on this “cruel and uncivilised practice”. But China rejected that demand yesterday. ... Traditional Chinese doctors use the bitter, green bile to treat eye, liver and other ailments. Yang Liang, of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said: “It’s definitely painful for the bears, but the synthetic substitute is too different from natural bile.

“Traditional Chinese medicine attaches importance to every material as a whole and not just one ingredient. Laboratory-made bile is just bile acid, but real bear bile has many amino acids and trace elements.” Jill Robinson, the British founder of the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation, which runs a sanctuary in southwest Sichuan province, disagreed. “It’s nonsense. Bear bile can easily and cheaply be replaced by herbal or synthetic materials.”

She urged Beijing to investigate hidden malpractices on the farms, which range from family businesses with a couple of bears to “superfarms” in the northeast with as many as 2,000 animals. Not all practitioners of Chinese medicine consider bear bile essential. Liu Zhengcai, a professor who has worked as a doctor for more than 40 years and never used the ingredient, said bile first appeared as a folk remedy in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was said to be effective in treating eye diseases.

“Traditionally, people believe bear bile can relieve internal heat or fever,” he said. “Actually it functions as an anti-inflammatory and many other Chinese medicines — such as chrysanthemums — or Western medicines are more effective. Bear bile is not a magic cure.” It could even do harm. Ms Robinson said that her sanctuary had received 198 bears and every one had to have its damaged gallbladder removed. “In 100 per cent of cases, we have found pus in the bile,” she said. “We wonder, what is that pus doing to the end consumer? So, far from healing people, it could be harming them.”

Siphoning bear bile for medicine is painless, says China

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