China is planning the global export of bile farmed from captive bears in a move condemned by animal welfare campaigners. More than 7,600 bears on 481 farms in China are milked for their bile - a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine used to treat cancer, burns and liver ailments. International trade in wild Asiatic black bears or their parts is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. But officials at the convention's Geneva headquarters confirmed they were aware of the Chinese plan and saw nothing wrong in principle with bear farming. To register the farms, China would have to prove they could breed animals in captivity and were not having an impact on wild populations. The convention's animals committee chairman, Hank Jenkins, said strategies to regulate the bear trade had failed. EarthCare vice-president Dr John Wedderburn said farming bears was 'unwarranted cruelty' and China would be breaking an agreement it signed with animal welfare campaigners in 1994 to phase out the practice.