In China, controversy over bear bile farming as Asia's animal rights movement grows

In the New York Times, Andrew Jacobs reports on new outrage over the business of selling bile extracted from Asiatic black bears, a threatened species also known as the moon bear. The extraction process requires open wounds for "milkings" that take place three times a day. "The bears’ teeth are invariably worn down from gnawing on the bars of their cages and their feet are often in pitiful shape because few of the animals have ever walked on the ground....The years of pain and confinement are so traumatizing, some of the rescued bears spend endless hours butting their heads against walls or gnawing on their limbs."


  1. China: Your traditional medicine is shit and doesn’t work. Stop killing stuff to satisfy your bizarre beliefs or the rest of the world will continue to dismiss your traditional “medical” practice as ignorant, barbaric & uncivilised.

    I hope I hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

      1. …and as long as they do *anything* more than placebo (which TCM almost universally doesn’t).

      1. Exactly. Smithfield bacon isn’t much better (maybe not better at all) but you conveniently forget it when it’s breakfast time.

        Which doesn’t mean that all of this is right but choose your words carefully, people. Don’t allow this thread to turn into a China hate fest.

        1. Weird isn’t it? A post about how China are becoming more progressive and tackling animal rights issues, filled with comments from folks bashing the Chinese for being barbaric monsters. Mind = blown.

        2. America: Your traditional diet is shit and doesn’t work. Stop killing stuff to satisfy your bizarre tastes or the rest of the world will continue to dismiss your traditional “culinary” practice as ignorant, barbaric & uncivilised.

          1. As toothless and corrupt as the USFDA is, I’m pretty sure they don’t keep pigs with open sores for the purpose of milking those sores. Animal rights practices in America are pretty shitty but nothing compared to this.

            False equivalency is false guys.

          2. Remember the Rolling Stone article about Smithfield a couple of years ago? They keep pigs with open sores for the purpose of making money. I doubt the are the only ones.

          3. @twianto:disqus I don’t remember that article, I try to get my news from actual news sources but I have read up on it now and it does look bad. Like I already said US regulation of animal welfare if FUCKING SHITHOUSE. Why don’t you guys work on fixing that? In Australia we have very good animal welfare rules and regulations which are *actually followed*. I would suggest starting by making the USFDA wholly taxpayer funded (read: independent), not funded by the industry that they supposedly regulate.

            In any case companies like Smithfield are breaking laws that exist, so someone should be prosecuting them.

      2. Traditional Chinese medicine is the thing causing the demand for dead endangered species and a small number of Chinese activists are fighting this. If 100 people cause a problem and then 10 work to fix it I will still characterise the problem as arising from that group. Who else would you blame?

        You are likely not aware that “I hope I hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” is a joke at the expense of Chinese government officials who frequently respond to international criticism with such a line. If you read the first paragraph of my comment again you’ll notice my vitriol is squarely directed at TCM and not people.

        When did BB get its new wave of ignorant jerks?
        New wave? Dude, I’ve been here for years. I’ll happily wear the jerk badge but I’d hardly call myself ignorant.

        1. Huh?

          I can buy Chinese medicine 5 minutes from my home – their market isn’t Chinese people – the demand is coming from PEOPLE, not a race.

          1. Nathan, I don’t know if you forget that I took the doucheburger douchebag to task, but I am a strong supporter of animal rights plus I am as racially blind as anyone you could find.

            You are deliberately misrepresenting what I said because you realise I wasn’t actually attacking Chinese people at all.
            I said “Traditional Chinese medicine is the thing causing the demand for dead endangered species”, but then your reply suggests I said the demand was coming from the Chinese race which I explicitly did not.

            The fact remains that if Chiense culture (specifically Mao’s barefoot doctors) had not sought to provide medicine *without* medicine then the idea of eating bear bile would not be a thing. I highly recommend everyone listens to that episode of Skeptoid as it shows that even the Chinese don’t historically believe in the woo that is contemporary TCM.

            I don’t know what the uptake of bullshit like TCM is in the UK but in Australia people (including some of my close friends) are not skeptically minded enough, or too politically correct to say bluntly what TCM is: Just another type of homeopathy with no documented efficacy that includes “medicines” whose production requires torture of animals. I am absolutely aware that the demand is from people and my vitriol is just me doing my part to stamp out the waste of time, money and thought that TCM is.

            C’mon TCM asshoels.. take me to task and I’ll cut your idiocy intro shreds for everyone to see.

  2. From reading this I can think of the appropriate punishment for the people who do this “farming”

    1. Eh, humans aren’t endangered enough for their bile to be medically useful…

      1. or, stripped of their weaponry, fearsome enough to warrant investment with mystical powers that you can absorb through consumption

  3. I’m always afraid of sounding racist or politically incorrect or some other awful thing when I think this, but the whole thing with powdered rhino horn, bear bile, tiger scrotum juice, or whatever these superstitious people are buying as cures:  Just get a fucking clue people.  I would say, “read a science book once in a while”, but I know that isn’t possible in most places where this kind of bs sells. 

    But, Christ,  the poachers and processors of this stuff – aren’t they so evil you could spot them a mile away? 

      1.  I don’t know. But praying or homeopathy don’t kill endangered species do they? 

      2. Prayer and homeopathy are definitely as clueless but Jake0748 makes a good point that at least endangered species aren’t killed in the process.

    1. The west skins live animals for fur and tortures ducks for their liver fat. I won’t even get started on intensive farming.

      It’s a little different. But not as much as you might like to convince yourself.

      1.  Hey Nathan, I’m not convincing myself of anything.  I find animal torture horrendous and disgusting.  Not to mention people torture.  Why do you jump on me when I was only trying to speak against it? 

          1. I am not a racist.  I don’t give a damn actually about “race”.  Humans are humans. Also, why do so say I accuse “foreigners”?  What exactly is a foreigner?  YES, some people and some cultures continue to be barbaric.  No?   I’ll have to end here, because I’m a bit angry that you accuse me of racism.   You hurt me sir. 

          2. Sorry, but you said yourself you were afraid of sounding racist – which was likely because you were saying something racist. I’m unsure how me clarifying it has caused you offence.

            Such a delicate racist flower :)

  4. As someone whose daughter and my own life have depended on something called Ursodiol (synthesized chemical to match bear bile) it has helped the two of us, and countless other cancer patients, preserve the functioning of our gall bladders against the slow poisoning caused by the chemicals that also kill off the cancer cells.

    Ursodiol is made in a laboratory these days, and is very effective.  There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be milking any type of bear to obtain the equivalent “natural” substance, and the fact that the Chinese continue to engage in this practice is beyond barbaric.

  5. It’s vile.  Absolutely horrid.  Instructions:  don’t buy anything Made in China.

    /generalising:  Chinese society knows about it, most people do, but turn a blind eye to maintain cultural etiquette and conformity despite their inner feelings.  But when it’s public, and the issue crosses that private / public face line, they’re “allowed” express their true feelings.  This happened with the toddler who was run over (twice) in the road and no-one assisted – all on video – for a long time, until a homeless woman stepped in.

    Then they do what might appear to be a volte-face, and aggressively attack the system, culture and perpetrators.  They don’t hold back, and you don’t want to be in the way.  They’ve bottled it up, and they’re angry.

    As education and knowledge increase, as awareness of the international perceptions of the Chinese increase, we may see more and more of this rebellion and throwing out of the olden-day ways.

    I hope.

    1. So their response is actually slightly more mature, if slightly more ambivalent, than, say, the average American’s attitude toward how the food industry there treats its animals? No amount of prompting would get most of them to “aggressively attack the system, culture and perpetrators,” they’d more likely just make a joke about “prying my cheeseburger from my cold, dead, hands” or whatever.

  6. Disgusting.

    Can we use this as an opportunity to also remind ourselves about the horrendous process for producing Foie Gras? As I appreciate for many people their morals are shaped by fads, and for some reason Foie Gras is acceptable at the moment.

    1. We’ll allow it, since it “sounds French,” but in the future, please reserve your indignance for animal cruelty committed by people of non-European-descended races and cultures, because that’s apparently the only time we’re allowed to get mad about this kind of shit.

      This comment posted from my iPhone™ at McDonald’s™.

  7. A children’s book called Jasper: A Moon Bear’s Story is available from Sleeping Bear Press. It tells this story and describes rescue efforts and a moon bear rescue center currently operating in China. 

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