Ending the bear bile industry

"Some bears have been known to endure this suffering for 20 years before their abused bodies finally give out."

Why is bile is extracted from bears' gall bladders? It is a practice which began in the Chinese Tang Dynasty (659 A.D.) for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine due to its' alleged healing powers.

The industrialisation of this process was introduced by North Korea to China in the 1980s, and since then bears have been kept in captivity in Asian bear bile facilities, particularly Vietnam, Korea, China, Laos and Myanmar.

bear bile infographic

Why use bear bile products?

A range of ailments including stomach and digestive disorders, and kidney problems are treated using bear bile products. Our researchers have identified 32 herbal alternatives to bear bile already included in Traditional Chinese Medicine texts.

Which calls into question the true purpose of this industry, given that all methods of extracting bile from live bears cause severe distress and pain. And open wounds from extractions can lead to infections, chronic illness and death.

Bear living conditions

  • Many bears spend 24 hours a day in a cage and are fed insufficient and unhealthy food.
  • A 2000 study found that most captive bears kept on Asian bear farms were in a state of very high stress and suffering and conditions failed to meet internationally recognised standards.
  • Bears endure extreme mental and physical suffering, with some wounded or scarred from repeatedly rubbing or hitting themselves against the bars in frustration. Often these captive bears suffer from bone deformities, surgical wounds, parasites and other ailments.
  • Asiatic black bears need to roam and forage for food to stay healthy. In captivity, they are unable to express their natural behaviours – leading to severe distress. 


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Image attribution: Hero Image and Blog Image: Nguyen Van Tuyen; Elephant in Donate Image: World Animal Protection / Nick Axelrod