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Vietnamese Government Increases Efforts to End Bear Bile Tourism

Exposé by WSPA Member Society ENV prompts a crackdown on tour companies

HANOI – March 21, 2011 – The Vietnamese government has announced a crackdown on illegal bear bile tourism, following reports of bile extraction for tourists by the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ (WSPA) member society, Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV).

Last month, ENV released an exposé on bear owners in Quang Ninh Province who continue to extract bear bile and sell it to tourists. Shortly after, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sent a letter to tour companies engaged in this so-called bear bile tourism, warning that they could lose their business licenses if they continued to sell the product.

“This is fantastic news and clearly demonstrates that the government of Vietnam sees the damage bear farming is causing their tourist industry,” said Dave Eastham, WSPA Captive Bears Campaign Leader. “We urge the authorities to now step up their efforts to ensure an end to the farming of thousands of bears across the country for their bile.”

Approximately 3,000 bears – almost all stolen from the wild – are kept under terrible conditions in illegal bear “farms” in Vietnam. They live in tiny, barren cages, often with no space to stand or move, for the duration of their lifetime. Bear owners typically extract bile from the bears’ gall bladders using a syringe, causing the animals to suffer. The bile is then used in some Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM) to treat conditions such as reducing fever, protecting the liver and improving eyesight – despite the many herbal alternatives available.

“Authorities have been aware of illegal bear bile tourism for a long time, but it has taken an article to be published and put into public view for them to take action,” said Tran Viet Hung, ENV Vice Director. “We welcome the stern words from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and expect to see prosecutions of the very visible perpetrators of this illegal industry.”
WSPA and ENV, together with Free the Bears and Animals Asia Foundation, jointly lobby as the Vietnam Bear Task Force to prevent illegal bear bile tourism in Vietnam.
Vietnam is a member of the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna CITES, which is committed to ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.  Additionally, under the Vietnamese Government’s Decree 32/2006, bears are listed as an endangered species and owning and selling bears, or their by-products, is illegal.

WSPA hopes that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s recent crackdown will signal an end to the bear bile business in Vietnam.

About The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is the world’s largest alliance of animal welfare organizations, currently representing more than 1,000 member societies in more than 150 countries. WSPA strives to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty ends. WSPA brings about change at both grassroots and government levels to benefit animals, and has consultative status at the Council of Europe and the United Nations. For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter and “Like” our Facebook page.


Media Contact:
Laura Flannery
WSPA U.S. Communications Manager
(617) 896-9291
lflannery@wspausa.org


Notes for Editors:
Images of the illegal bear bile extraction and are available at: https://www.yousendit.com/download/eURDRm82UEN5UkZFQlE9PQ
* All images used must be credited to ENV

A short video clip of bear bile extraction on a Vietnamese bear farm is available to view at:
http://www.envietnam.org/videos/quang-ninh.html

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