Uploaded by AnonymousViet on 28 Feb 2009
“Around 30 bears die each year in Hanoi. To replace the dead animals, poachers scour the country’s few remaining forests to trap the animals and sell to ‘bear raisers’.”
– Hoang Ngoc Can (Director, Law Dept. Hanoi Forestry Service) An estimated 4000 bears are kept illegally in Vietnam‘s flourishing bear farms where they are “milked” for their bile, which is used in traditional medicines and tonics. The active ingredient in bear bile – ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is believed to calm fever and inflammation, improve eyesight, keep the liver healthy and break down gallstones. Despite the current availability of synthetic alternatives, over the last three decades the demand for bear bile has continued to increase. The result has been the introduction of intensive farming of wild bears to supply growing consumer demand.
Two species of bear are found in Vietnam’s bile farms. The majority of the bears are Asiatic Black Bears; Sun Bears are also farmed for their bile in Vietnam.
Most of the farmed bears are believed to have been poached from Vietnam’s forests, or smuggled over the border from Laos. Once a bear is fully grown (at around three years old) the painful bile extraction begins. These adult bears, many of which have lost paws following capture in crude snares, are kept in tiny cages and are forced to undergo painful and dangerous extraction of their bile using a steel catheter that is embedded into its stomach. The cages are designed to be so small that the bears cannot move or turn – this makes the process of milking the bile much easier. Many of the bears have sores, wounds or scars on their bodies from rubbing against the cages.
A bear will stop producing bile between the ages of five to ten years old. They will then be left to die or they are slaughtered for their paws or gall bladders. In Asia, bear paws are still seen as a delicacy and can be found on restaurant menus for a few hundred dollars. Cubs too young to produce adequate quantities of bile may also be slaughtered for their whole gall bladders and paws.
The extracted bear bile – EJF
In the last few years bear bile has become commonplace on menus. Restaurants and cafes in major towns and cities serve bear bile wine, paws and meat. Newspapers openly advertise bear bile and customers are invited to attend bile extractions to verify the authenticity of the product. While demand for “authentic” bear bile remains high, both synthetic and herbal alternative products which contain the active constituent found in bear bile (UDCA) are cheap and readily available.