Bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. It is believed to treat conditions including liver disease, diabetes, and heart disease and is even used as a hangover cure. In the past bear bile would be obtained by hunting wild bears and killing them to remove their gallbladder. However, in the 1980s, bear bile farms were set up as a way of constantly extracting bile for the duration of a bear’s life and many of these farms are still in operation throughout Asia today.
Bears that live in these bear bile farms are kept in incredibly cramped metal cages, are often half starving and dehydrated and will suffer severe physical and psychological damage as a result of their appalling living conditions and constant bile extraction. Some of these poor bears will live like this their whole lives, suffering daily for up to 30 years.
There is some good news however. In 2005 the Vietnamese government launched its first efforts to phase out the keeping and farming of bears for their bile. Thanks to the work of the Vietnamese government and law enforcement authorities, NGOs and increasing public awareness, the number of captive bears at farms reduced from approximately 4,300 in 2005 to about 1,300 in 2015, a decrease of 72 per cent. But, with approximately 1,300 bears still living in these tiny cages and being used for bile extraction, more action is needed to ensure bear farming comes to an end in Vietnam.
To call attention to this animal welfare issue, the global non-profit FOUR PAWS has created a microsite asking, “How much can you bear?”, which tests the endurance of viewers by showing them the heart-breaking footage of these bears, and urges them to take action against Vietnamese bear bile farms by signing a petition.
Today, FOUR PAWS asks you to please add your voice in calling on the Vietnamese government to take even greater steps in ensuring that bears are not farmed for bile extraction, ensure bears currently on bear farms are strictly monitored, close all bear farms by 2020 and ensure the transfer of all remaining bears to rescue centres and sanctuaries.
Success in ending the bile bear industry is vital to the survival of wild bear populations in Vietnam. Please be a voice for the voiceless.