Don't share in bear farming's barbarity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


If you think 'de-finning' live sharks is cruel, try milking bears for their bile. This involves confining Asiatic moon bears to small cages for long periods, sometimes their entire lives, and the use of catheters to extract bile from their gall bladders. The process is gruesome and painful. Repeated insertions, catheterisation and draining of the gall bladder often cause infections, leading to peritonitis and septicaemia, and an excruciating death.

The prolonged physical confinement of the bears, which weigh up to 150kg each, causes many to go mad and mutilate themselves. When the bears are dying or no longer 'productive', their paws may be hacked off - to be sold to restaurants as a delicacy. Such farms flourish on the mainland and in Vietnam. Bear bile in traditional Chinese medicine supposedly relieves muscle aches, joint pain, fever, migraines, hangovers, impotence, gallstones, cirrhosis, even cancer. That's doubtful. In any case, synthetic compounds are available.

Beijing has promised to phase out the practice. But Fujian Guizhentang Pharmaceutical, which produces medical powders, obviously thinks there is a future as it is seeking a controversial initial public offering and listing in Shenzhen, hoping to raise enough money to more than double the number of bears being milked for their bile, from 470 to 1,200. It says its farms are more humane, but that didn't stop a mass campaign on the mainland from being mobilised against its IPO. More than 70 mainland celebrities and public figures have signed a petition by the animal rights group Ta Foundation. Hongkongers should join them.

Bear farming is illegal in Vietnam, but thousands of bears are kept illegally as such farms operate with officials turning a blind eye, if they are not on the take. Animals Asia and the Ta Foundation have long campaigned against the cruel practice. It's time we all join them to stop this barbaric trade once and for all.