Mar 2, 2010
More than 12,000 endangered Asiatic black bears are cruelly confined in bear farms, facilities at which many are kept in tiny cages and their bile is regularly extracted and sold for use in Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM). Farmed bears show extremely high levels of stereotypic (repetitive) behavior such as bar biting, rocking, and rubbing against the bars of the cage. They have also been witnessed to have sores, injuries, diseases and other health problems related to confinement.
WSPA believes bear farming is cruel, unnecessary and must end. Increasing numbers of TAM practitioners agree, and are turning to herbal and synthetic alternatives. WSPA has encouraged traditional medicine groups worldwide to support a statement agreeing that there are good herbal alternatives to bear bile - 71 traditional Asian medicine associations from eight countries have already expressed their support.
In a recent WSPA-commissioned Harris Interactive poll, more than half of all U.S. TAM users and potential users surveyed indicated that they would stop buying all products from any company that makes or sells bear bile medicine. Therefore, WSPA has launched a new website that consumers and practitioners can visit to discern whether the TAM products they buy are produced by companies involved with bear farming in China.
“Herbal medicine practitioners and users in the U.S. might unintentionally be providing economic support to companies that make and sell medicines containing bear bile. Our goal is - with the help of the market power of TAM patent medicine buyers in the U.S. - to give U.S. TAM retailers and Chinese TAM exporters a positive incentive to do the right thing,” says Chris Gee, WSPA International’s Wildlife Programs Manager.
There are many manufacturers in Asia that produce patent medicines containing bear bile, although these products typically represent a small portion of the companies’ product lines. Bear bile products are generally intended for domestic consumers, but the companies frequently sell a range of other products within U.S. markets.
WSPA’s new website educates viewers about the cruel and unnecessary practice of bear farming and invites them to send personalized letters to U.S. retailers of Chinese-made TAM products. Viewers can select from a list of 13 major U.S. retailers or add e-mail addresses for unlisted retailers. The letters sent to retailers will include a link for retailers to learn more about bear farming and obtain a template letter (in English or Chinese) that they can use when contacting Chinese companies about their bear bile policies. Consumers and practitioners who send letters to U.S. retailers will be able to post the retailers’ responses to the website.
Ultimately, WSPA will be able to provide consumers with a list of U.S. retailers that have agreed to stop selling medicines produced by Chinese companies that manufacture bear bile medicines, as well as a list of Chinese companies that pledge to no longer produce bear bile medicines (or express that they never did so). If a company makes such a pledge and is found to violate that agreement, such information will also be publicly available on the website.
Gee adds, “We hope that in hearing these messages from their customers, first-hand, that U.S. retailers can speak on behalf of TAM practitioners and users and encourage Chinese companies to view this in simple business terms and solve the issue themselves.”