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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
June 23
1946, 11:20pm: William S. Hart, 81, dies at L.A.'s California Lutheran Hospital, leaving his Newhall home and 80-acre estate to L.A. County and his Hollywood home to L.A. City [story]
Hart dies

Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Saturday, May 7, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelI’ve made six trips to China. During those trips I had the opportunity to admire moon bears in various zoos and presentations. I admired their strength and beauty. But there was another side to the moon bear trade that I was not exposed to until recently.

It sickens me.

Moon bears, along with other species of bears including the Asiatic black bear, the sun bear and the brown bear, are abused. Note that moon bears and sun bears are threatened species. Bears are held captive in China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and South Korea. They are held in cages so small that some of them cannot even turn around. Some are bound with metal straps around their abdomens, and permanent catheters are inserted to extract bear bile for medicinal purposes. An average estimate is that up to 60 percent of the bears die from surgical complications and infections.

bear6Bear teeth and claws may be surgically removed from the bears, as well, to protect the bears from self-mutilation and to prevent injury to the farm workers. These surgeries are conducted by people who are completely unskilled, leaving the bears in constant pain.

The catheters that are inserted are also done by unskilled workers. While the bears are still alive, they suffer from other conditions including skin sores, parasites, hair loss, bone deformation, multiple injuries, swollen limbs, dental problems, breathing problems, ulcers, diarrhea, hernias, abscesses, dehydration, scarring from things like constant banging and rubbing against steel cages, and more. They are also starved.

Some people believe animals have no “human” feelings or attachments. Recently, it was reported that a mother bile bear managed to escape her cage in a bear farm. She subsequently strangled her cub that was caged and then ran her head into a cement wall, causing her death. This mama bear was luckier than the bears that were left behind in this bear farm.

bear1Farmed bile bears live an average of 5 years. Healthy bears in captivity can live up to 35 years. When the bile bears die from stress, shoddy surgeries, bile leaking back into the abdomen or infections, other “parts” are harvested such as bear paws for bear paw soup, which is considered a delicacy. Other uses for the dead bears include meat, fur and whole gallbladders.

Using bear bile for medicine is a very old practice in Asia. Modern doctors argue there is no value to bear bile. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe otherwise, so the practice which has been outlawed in some places continues in others.

In some areas, wild bears are caught for bile production, and others are killed to harvest their gallbladders. Cubs are also caught in the wild and taken to bear bile farms where they produce bile until they die. Other bears are bred in captivity to produce cubs that immediately enter the bile farms.

bear8In China, in 1994, a law was passed to limit new licensing of bear bile farms. This law included more humane and hygienic ways to harvest bile and gallbladders. But this law has not been enforced.

In South Korea, bear bile farms were declared illegal in 1992, but there are still bears in bear bile farms, and wild bears are still being killed for their gallbladders.

In Vietnam, bear bile farms became illegal in 2005. But the practice still goes on as there is still a market for bear bile, and it is reported that there are still 3,410 bears on these farms, just in Vietnam.

In China, an English woman named Jill Robinson has started a moon bear rescue center. She has been successful in rescuing about 300 moon bears. There is one center in Sichuan Provence, in Chengdu, and another one in Yunnan Province. These bears are rehabilitated and then allowed to run around and play.

bear2Sometimes, this is the first time that they have ever been free to run or play. They can never be rehabilitated, however, to return or be introduced to the wild.

While this is great for the 300 bears that have been rescued, there are still 7,600 bears in bear farms in China, according to Chinese officials. However, the actual production and sales indicate there are at least 10,000 bears producing bile in bear bile farms, and other estimates are as high as 20,000.

In actuality, bears continue to produce bile at a high rate in farms across Asia, and wild bears continue to be hunted for their gallbladders.

bear7Bear bile products come in both pill and liquid forms. It is also available in other forms such as whole gallbladders, raw bile, powder, flakes and ointments. It can be found in items such as cough drops, shampoo, toothpaste, wine, tea, eye drops and other tonics.

Bear bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid. It is used to treat hemorrhoids, sore throats, bruising, muscle aches, sprains, epilepsy, fever, to improve eyesight, to break down gallstones, as an anti-inflammatory, for hangovers, and to cleanse the liver.

bear9Scientists have studied the use and efficacy of bear bile in medicine and have found it has absolutely no benefit whatsoever. No one’s health will suffer without bear bile. And if traditional Chinese practitioners of medicine still believe in using ursodeoxycholic acid in their practice, they can extract it from herbs such as coptis or rhubarb. There is no need to torture or kill bears.

There are many fights facing animal advocates in Asia. A few examples are the beloved dog meat hot-pot, shark fins harvested for shark fin soup, the practice of eating live monkey brains, the killing of elephants for ivory carving, and dried deer penis which, when consumed, is supposed to increase virility. There are literally thousands of these examples that still need to be addressed.

bear5But at least the world is beginning to learn about the bear bile trade, and at least some bears are being released, laws are on the books, and the youth in Asia are aware of these old practices.

Hopefully, the youth will embrace a kinder view in the future and follow modern medicinal techniques, and the bear bile harvest, along with other tortuous practices, will eventually disappear. Meanwhile, the worldwide trade in bile products and parts is currently over $2 billion in profit.

[Here is a link] to a rescued bile bear named Tuffy, who has just been released to play in a pool of water for the first time.



Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.




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1 Comment

  1. Lee Jenkinson says:

    Thank you for helping the poor animals caught up in the illegal and cruel trade of wild animal parts.

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