Many Chinese people believe in the medicinal properties of bear bile. It is believed to cure a variety of ailments. Although there is little scientific evidence to back up such claims, some companies exaggerate the benefits of bear bile to make a profit.
The bears, meanwhile, suffer terribly. They are locked in tiny cages and their bile is drained through pipes inserted into their sides. This goes on for years.
Some people defend such practices by saying that bears do not feel pain like humans do. They are only interested in profits and do not care about animal rights.
Bears are protected animals. The authorities should arrest the people who capture bears from the forest, put the bears in cages and mistreat them.
From the Editor
We have plenty of effective medicines. We do not need bear bile to treat certain illnesses.
Let us stop using such products and help save bears.
Jacky Chow Tsz-kiu
Dear Jacky, thank you for your letter. I think most people would not mind using bile as a medicine if there were a better, more civilised way to extract it from the bears.
But the way it is done at the moment is terribly cruel, as you pointed out. The bears are kept in very small cages, and as you can imagine, the pipes poking into them often induce infections.
It is hard to get people to change their minds about things, especially if their parents and grandparents have done it, too.
But just last week, the central government announced it would take shark fin off the menu at official banquets. That is a massive victory for conservationists. Perhaps it won't be too long before there is a national ban on bear bile products as well.