Asian Bear Bile Remedies: Traditional Medicine or Barbarism?

“Currently, animal activists across China are up in arms because Gui Zhen Tang Pharmaceutical Corporation, a Fujian-based company that sells bear bile for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has tried to increase production through an initial public offering (IPO). The company is being accused of cruelty towards animals in the process of extracting their bile at an industrial scale. Bear bile, or Xiong Dan, is an important ingredient in TCM…The globalization of TCM has lead to a dramatic increase in the demand for bear bile along with other traditional remedies. Bear bile is sold in Asian apothecaries throughout the world in the form of powder, solution or pills. It is likewise the key ingredient in many Asian “patent medicines” used for tapeworm, childhood nutritional impairment, hangovers, colds, and even cancer. Bear bile is even found in Chinese throat lozenges, shampoo, wine, and tea. Overall, the worldwide trade in bear parts, including bile, is estimated to be a $2 billion industry…Animal activists posing as potential clients report that the caged bears moan, writhe in pain, and clutch their stomachs as the bile drains from their bodies. Sometimes the bears try to pull out the catheters. Those that succeed are immobilized in an iron corset. Under-nourished and highly stressed from horrific pain and unnatural confinement, the bears lie in agony, in their own filth. According to Jeanette McDermott, bile is not the farmers’ only source of profit from the bears. Some farmers amputate one or two paws from live bears to sell to restaurants. When bears are no longer able to secrete bile, they are left to die from sickness or starvation. Bears might endure this torture for up to 25 years, making their lifetime a reality of suffering and pain in the name of “natural” and “traditional” medicine…As I wrote his article, I was overwhelmed with rage, and repulsed not only by the horrific images of the animal holocaust in Asia, but also by the enormous hypocrisy of the proponents of TCM, who effectively claim that pus-infested bear bile, and the by-products of animals tortured, disfigured, and dismembered in the name of the“natural” are better, safer, and “gentler” than synthetic pharmaceuticals.” Ben Kavoussi, Science Based Medicine (24th March 2011)