Bears ‘commit suicide’ to escape horror of gall bile farms

  • 187
    Shares


Wildlife campaigner Louis Ng is no stranger to close encounters with animals in distress. But nothing quite prepared him for the emotional exchange with an adult bear outside a bear farm in Laos. A film-maker had stumbled upon the farm and contacted Ng, the co-founder and executive director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) in Singapore.

Asian Brown Bear – Image by Zahoor-Salmi

When Ng visited the farm in November 2009, he was greeted with the sight of a female bear lying motionless in a cage. The owner explained that she was refusing food and starving herself to death so he had left her outside to meet her inevitable end. Ng crouched near but a safe distance from the cage to watch her. Bear’s eyes were flooded with anguish and gentleness After a few minutes the bear, who was on her tenth day of hunger strike, pushed a limp paw through the cage bars and weakly flexed her claws in Ng’s direction. He realised with a start that she was reaching for his hand. And so he gave it to her.

The two ‘held hands’ in silence for a few minutes. Ng remembers the bear’s eyes being flooded with both anguish and gentleness. She died the next day. In a world where dignity is sometimes only delivered by death, this bear was the lucky one. She died after three years of living on that farm. But more than 12,000 other bears will serve up to ten years of their lives in similar farms throughout Asia where they are milked for bile to meet the region’s unsatiable demand for its healing properties.

Solitude, pain and fear drive bears mad “This farm had 29 bears in cages just large enough for them to stand up,’ Ng said. ‘All you hear when youS walk inside is the constant banging of heads against those cages.’ Solitude, pain and fear have literally driven the bears mad. Their only outlet is to ram their heads against their tiny prison cells or starve themselves to death. At this point anything is preferable to the horrific procedure of having their gall bladder drained of bile twice a day.

The medical use of bear bile dates back to the Tang Dynasty in 659 AD. Its only therapeutic component is ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) which makes up 15 per cent to 39 per cent of bile in bears compared to five per cent in humans. Bear bile was traditionally used for gastric bypass surgery and to treat minor ailments such as sore throats, sprains, as well as epilepsy. As the bile was taken from the intact gall bladders of bears killed in the wild, the absence of torture eased consumers’ minds.

Asiatic Black Bear Cub – Image by Justin Delaney

Often they end up chewing off their own limbs But the supply was meagre and led to high prices on bear bile medicines. But then, in the 1970s, South Korea invented a method of extracting bile from live bears. It was cruel, excruciating and the golden ticket to a booming trade. ‘The bile is removed from the bear by inserting a catheter tube through a permanent incision in the abdomen and gall bladder,’ Ng said. ‘Sometimes a permanently implanted metal tube is used.’ Imagination eliminates the need to describe the pain that comes with this practice. Most bears are too weak or crazed to protest but those that do face a worse punishment.

‘One cub took a swipe at the farmer,’ Ng said. ‘The height of its cage was halved so it could only lie on its back. It soon started gnawing on its own paw which is what happens when bears lose their minds. Often they end up chewing their own limbs off.’ A 2010 report by wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, found that while China is the prime origin for bear bile products in Asia, Malaysia is among a string of Asian countries that play the dual role of producer and consumer.

What most concerns Matt Hunt, chief executive of Free The Bears Fund in Australia, about the report is that a significant number of Malaysia’s TCM shops were found to be selling wild-sourced bear gall bladders. ‘This means that sun bears in Malaysian forests are being hunted to feed this trade,’ he said. Gall bladders cost as much as a packet of heroin According to Ng, the price of a gall bladder costs as much as a packet of heroin in the black market. Consumers fork out about £150 for 127g while one milligram of bile is priced at £12.50. Each extraction from a live bear yields 10 milligram of bile.

Malayan Sun Bear – Image by Reinagnoma

Malaysian shopowners and staff interviewed by TRAFFIC Malaysia revealed that a majority of the gall bladders sold were wild-sourced and that they were aware of its illegal status. This ambivalence is bad news for the Asiatic black bears, sun bears and brown bears, the three species who are hunted for their parts. Ng is now setting up a rescue centre in Laos on a five-hectare site with a 12-room building for volunteers and two enclosures measuring one hectare each to accommodate 29 bears.

Not only will the bears be rescued but they will also be put through a rehabilitation process to help them adapt to a community after being in solitary confinement for so long. The £320,000 facility is expected to be ready for volunteers by June. It will be a big step forward on a still long road towards saving Asia’s bear population.

This article was written and published by Wild Life Extra

close
Vanished - Megascops Choliba by Jose Garcia Allievi

Discover hidden wildlife with our FREE newsletters

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Supertrooper

Founder and Executive Editor

Share this post with your friends

  • 187
    Shares


Facebook Comments

11
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
avatar
Janet Abbey

Activists are going to have to be more active.When US Weekly was trashing Kristen Stewart in 2012 I would go to Walmart and smear pages in the copies so they couldn't be sold.Jelly, chocolate,etc works fine.Activists need to mess up the bear bile being sold. That stuff is mostly at those herbal places run by older Chinese.All this suffering and it is just a placebo. Ghastly.

Frank
Frank

Any person who would treat a bear like this deserves to get prisonfucked in the cornhole until they’re dead.

Edpriyam
Edpriyam

The news of this Malaysian situation makes my skin crawl. I would not want to be anyone who abused these marvelous beings because those that abuse get it back in spades. I am going to help as much as i can. I became hysterical & enraged with the news of first learning of this unconscionable practice in China years ago when I was young. But I felt I was not in a a position of power to help then… It makes me not want to be in the human race anymore. Thank you for all you do to help, Ng.

jonquil
jonquil

I trust that Mr. Ng will also have strong security measures as well!

vonnie
vonnie

….The ignorance and greed of the human is beyond belief…

Patricia Cruse
Patricia Cruse

Keep rescuing wildlife / animals all over the world. The only humane thing to do. so glad the bears will be rescued and hopefully the practice will be stopped for eternity!

Rachel
Rachel

How can a nation of people who are considered so smart be stuck on something that has no medicinal purposes? It’s going to be the death of all of us…

Walter Nussbaumer

Long past due for China to step up and join the 21st Century and modern society. Take immediate action to prevent cruelty to all animals would be a good first step. Until the Chinese People change their mid-evil policies, I will continue to boycott anything coming from China and I hope others do the same.

Nichola
Nichola

@ wally N Whilst it IS China, and the Chinese diaspora, that is the market for this & other products, you might want to reread the article. The bear farm is in Laos. Laos is not in China, it’s a completely different country. Your rant about China therefore comes across as more than a little bit racist, in light of the fact that the entire food industry in the west (and indeed a fair bit of the beauty industry) is founded upon the systematic torture of animals. Yes, this is appalling. But it’s not appalling because China is “mid-evil” (by… Read more »

Val Gall
Val Gall

All these products like bear bile, rhino horn etc are bought by idiots with more money than sense. The sooner they are educated & realise the products are useless the sooner this cruelty will end.

Nic Slocum

This vile trade joins the long list of cruelty endured in pursuit of often meaningless end products, rhino horn consumed in China driving Africas rhinos to extinction, fur farms in China, Foie Gras production in Europe and Canada….and these and many other practices appear to be getting more widespread rather than less.