WSPA and Animal Planet take on the illegal wildlife trade

Nov 2, 2007

Cages in an Asian bear farm

WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) is helping tackle the ugly world of illegal wildlife trade in Animal Planet’s new series, Crime Scene Wild.

The final programme in the series – airing on Animal Planet on Sunday 4th November at 10pm – focuses on the cruel practice of bear farming and the illegal trade of products containing bear bile, particularly those found in Traditional Asian Medicines, or TAM.

The program contains extensive WSPA footage of illegal sales in bear products from an undercover investigation carried out across 8 US cities, which led to arrests last year. WSPA has been working since the 1990s to highlight the cruelty bears face in bear farms across Asia.

Chris Gee, WSPA Bear Farming Programme Manager, said: “WSPA investigations globally continue to show that many bear bile products originate from bear farms in China. Not only does bear farming give rise to illegal trade, but it is cruel, unnecessary and must end. WSPA is delighted that Animal Planet is calling attention to this.”

WSPA continues working to highlight the suffering of bears on bear farms using innovative and ground-breaking tactics. Earlier this year, WSPA launched bear protein detection kits in partnership with Wildlife DNA Services, a specialist wildlife forensics organisation. The kits are currently being trialled by customs and wildlife officers in Australia and Canada and are designed to be very easy to use, working similarly to home pregnancy testing kits.

UK trials have been successful – the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit has completed a trial of the new kits and is keen to use WSPA’s new bear protein detection kits to aid their crackdown on the illegal traditional Asian medicine trade in the capital.

Andy Fisher, Head of the Wildlife Crime Unit at the Metropolitan Police said:
"WSPA gave us a number of test kits which we tried out on products that we had seized in recent raids on shops in London. We found bear bile present in a number of the medicines we had previously seized. I think we will find it really useful to have these kits with us on future raids, they will help us to do instant tests on suspicious items which we can then do further analysis on later."

Official figures show that there are at least 12,000 bears kept in bear farms throughout Asia, but WSPA believes it could be many more. The suffering of bears on bear farms is unmatched in terms of the acute suffering and the length of time the bears are forced to endure it. 

Most bears in bear farms are kept in cages measuring around 1 metre wide, 1 metre high and 2 metres long – about the size of a telephone booth - where they cannot easily stand or turn around. If they do not die during the initial operation (to insert a bile extraction tube), they can live for up to 20 years suffering through the painful bile extraction process – done twice a day, every day.

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