Vietnam Set to Completely Eliminate Bear Bile Farming by 2020
If you’ve never heard of bear bile farming before, here’s a crash course: bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. The high concentration of ursodeoxycholic acid has been used to treat conditions of the liver and gall bladder, yet more and more countries and traditional practitioners agree that the use of synthetic or herbal treatments are just as effective and avoid causing unbearable pain and suffering to the continent’s bears.
Bile farming is actually illegal in Vietnam (but not China), yet law enforcement doesn’t have the means to take down every operation and, even so, farms use legal loopholes to stay in business. The Ministry of Forestry’s first required approval for owners to keep bears in 1992 and the first species-specific regulation landed in 2005. Yet, still, people are extracting bile from bears for medicinal purposes.
A press conference in Hanoi featured representatives from the non-governmental organization Animals Asia and the Traditional Medicine Association who promised an end to bear bile farming by the year 2020. Dr. Tran Van Ban, chairman of the association, said:
“We have worked with Animals Asia since 2010 to push for our members to instead use one of the many herbal alternatives. The use of bear bile is now only among a minority of traditional medicine practitioners and it is something we do not condone. We believe around 5% still persist – by 2020 we are making a commitment that through our on-going education of practitioners that will be zero.”
Already, there has been a significant decrease in the suspected amount of bears being held for farming purposes in the country. In 1999 numbers were around 400, yet had skyrocketed to 4,300. Last year, the number was estimated to be near 1,245. The decline may have something to do with the aforementioned partnership’s efforts to release over 7,000 booklets to practitioners which highlighted herbal alternatives for bear bile.
The fight seems to be nearing an end, with the very plausible 2020 target date coming up quickly. Animals Asia currently houses and cares for 132 bears at its sanctuary and has rescued a total of 550 from the bile industry.
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