More than 200 animal lovers took to the streets yesterday to protest against the international trade in the bile of the Asian black bear.
They called on the government to take the lead on a nationwide ban on the use of bear bile in traditional medicine.
Organised by the animal rights group Animal Earth, the demonstration showed its support for legislation prohibiting the import of bear bile into Hong Kong and its opposition to the initial public offering of the bile-employing Fujian -based company Gui Zhen Tang Pharmaceutical on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
'Hong Kong should take advantage of its legislative system to become a role model opposing animal cruelty and saving the bears,' Animal Earth chief officer David Wong Kai-yan said.
Among the protesters was Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee. She raised a formal question in the Legislative Council last Wednesday on whether the government would legislate to ban all trade and sales of Chinese medicines made from bile, a digestive juice stored in the bear's gall bladder.
'I have written to the government to ask them to follow up on the issue and, at least in my remaining term, I will continue to fight for the banning of any substance that contains bear bile in Hong Kong,' Eu said.
According to the Food and Health Bureau, medical products containing bear bile can only be sold with government permission. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said there was no application for import of bile-related products in 2011. But information on how many such products are sold each year and the number of traders who are engaged in the trading bear bile is not available.
Thousands of Asian black bears, also known as moon bears, are kept caged for their entire lives in farms on the mainland and in Southeast Asia.
They are forced to wear breastplates to keep the wounds cut into their abdominal walls and gall bladders permanently open for daily collection of bile. But Chu Kwok-tung, a registered Chinese-medicine practitioner, said there were substitutes for bear bile, such as chrysanthemum, which were just as effective.