CHINESE medicine containing bile drained from the stomachs of tortured bears is being sold in the UK.
By: James Fielding, Express.co.uk
The digestive juice, painfully extracted from Asian, black bears kept in tiny cages, is advertised as a traditional remedy for hangovers and liver complaints.
What shoppers do not realize, however, is that these products, bought from Chinese pharmacies around the country, are funding barbaric bear farms in South East Asia.
Poor bear is milked for its bile
The endangered animals are milked twice a day for their highly valued bile, a process that often leaves them gnawing at their paws and howling in pain. Hundreds die in agony each year.
Police have already recovered a number of health products containing bear bile in London but warn more are still on sale. Sergeant Ian Knox, of the Metropolitan Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “If people knew the suffering and the misery bears go through for these medicines, they would never touch them again.
If people knew the suffering and the misery bears go through for these medicines, they would never touch them again
Sergeant Ian Knox, of the Metropolitan Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit
“We have seized a number of items containing bear bile from traditional Chinese medicine shops but cannot be complacent as there is a strong possibility more are on sale all over the UK.”
Britain is fast becoming a key target for the vile trade, with farmers trying to exploit new Western markets aided by a recent surge in demand as Britons turn to Chinese medicine as an alternative to prescription drugs.
Bear bile is particularly treasured in Asian culture because it contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, a sub- stance that helps the animals avoid kidney complaints during hibernation.
Ground into powder for a market worth about £6million a year, the bile is thought to prevent gallstones, improve eyesight and stimulate energy.
Selling bear bile products in Britain carries a maximum five-year jail term, but first offenders are normally let off with a warning. Many shop owners are unaware they were breaking the law be- cause the substance is legal in Asia.
On farms in China, Vietnam and Laos, as well as other countries, up to 20,000 bears are kept confined for as long as 10 years in tiny “crush cages”. With no space to move, they constantly beat their heads against the metal bars in frustration at their hellish existence.
The manner of their twice-daily milking is in itself extremely brutal. Some have been subjected to amateur surgery to implant a tube or steel catheter into their abdomens, others have a permanent hole drilled into their stomach, in a process known as “free-dripping”.
Not only are the techniques excruciatingly painful, the unsanitary surgery also leaves them open to infections and diseases like cancer. When bears stop producing bile they are slaughtered for their meat and fur.
Sgt Knox said: “Much of the British public is unaware these bears live in such appalling conditions and suffer so much pain. One of our main aims is to raise public awareness about this problem and encourage people to be careful of what they buy.
“The use of Chinese alternative medicines is becoming increasingly popular in this country, but as many people do not understand the language they have no idea what they are buying.
“Some shop owners have no idea what is in their medicine while others are unaware bear bile is banned in Britain, but there are a few who know they are breaking the law and know all about the bear farms but just want to make money
“We need to end any demand for bear bile in the UK to protect these rare animals back in their natural habitats.”
Chris Gee of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said: “The farms are horrendous places. By nature bears are solitary animals but are cooped up in tiny cages among many other bears. It places huge mental stress on them.
“The bile perhaps contains minor healing properties but there are synthetic alternatives as well as dozens of
herbs that do the job far better. In such unsterile conditions, the bears are often open to infectious diseases so you never know quite what’s in these health products.”
Many bears rescued from farms are found to have liver cancer and a report last month found that some of the bile could contain carcinogens.
Dr Jidong Wu, president of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the UK, added: “We strictly condemn and prohibit the use of bear bile. There are countless available alternatives.”
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