Bears are tortured in 247 "farms", licensed by the Chinese government over the past twenty years, to extract 7,000 litres of bile per year. Bear bile is used to produce remedies, wine, shampoo and aphrodisiacs… despite the synthetic substitutes that exist. Over 100,000 litres of synthetic bile are consumed each year.
The situation today
Despite being listed in annex 1 of CITES, Asiatic black bears (moon bears) are captured in the wild, and illegal trade in bear gall bladder and bile products is developing outside China. The Chinese government is now campaigning to have bears declassed to annex II of CITES to allow legal trade in bile. Meanwhile, bear farmers claim their activity helps preserve bears in the wild. In reality, the mortality rate on the "farms" is so high, more and more bears are being captured in China, Russia and even Canada.
The distress of the farmed bears is so acute that certain she-bears kill their cubs at birth. This does not prevent the "farmers" from using cubs that have been captured in the wild to pursue their evil trade.
Poachers wait until the she-bear leaves the den in search of food to capture new-born cubs. The she-bear is often killed, while countless cubs die as a result of this trauma.
Surviving cubs are crammed together in enclosures, a means of breaking them in to their future life locked in a narrow cage. At the age of three they undergo a surgical operation that will mutilate them for life. The "farmers" insert a catheter into the bear's gall bladder to milk the bile. The catheter is never removed, creating an open wound that becomes permanently infected. Four out of five bears die during or shortly after the operation to insert the catheter.
he surviving bears are transferred to cages that are so small they cannot move or stretch out. All they can do to show their distress and suffering is bang their head against the bars or gnaw at their paws until they bleed, resulting in further serious infection.
Cramped inside these cages, often to the point that their organs are crushed, the bears are milked for their bile twice a day. This torture takes place during feeding time when more bile is produced. The bears moan and writhe in pain.
The farms' barbaric practices do not end there. Bears that manage to rip out the catheter are immobilised in an iron corset. Farmers cut off live bears' paws to sell them to restaurants. When bears are no longer able to secrete bile they are abandoned in another cage until death comes through sickness or starvation. They are less than fifteen years old. In the wild, they would have lived to twenty-five or thirty.
Action by One Voice
Negotiations are scheduled for November at the CITES meeting in Chile. One Voice has written to the CITES headquarters in Geneva, and to the French Minister for Ecology, Mrs Roselyne Bachelot, asking her to support our requests to protect the bears.
A report for the authorities and the media
We have commissioned a report on the situation of the bears in China, the role of animal rights organisations there, and other short-term and long-term action that must be taken to close down China's "bear farms." One Voice will send this report to the Ministry of Ecology in France, to the Chinese Embassy in France, and to the media.
Inform the public
As part of the campaign launch, One Voice has bought advertising space in the press to inform a wider public of the suffering endured by bears on these farms.
Pressure on the Chinese government
In 2008 the Olympic Games will be held in China. This is also the deadline that One Voice and other international organisations such as WSPA have set for an end to bear farms and trade in bear bile. To close these 247 farms would have no impact on the economy of such a vast country. With your help, we will show the Chinese government that instead their existence undermines the country's image.
One Voice will begin negotiations with the Chinese authorities in 2003. At the same time we will promote the many synthetic alternatives to bear bile.
Releasing bears can hide another reality
The Chinese government has accepted to release five hundred bears and promised to reduce the number of bear farms. However, reports show that in 1992 there were 601 farms with 6,632 bears while in 1998 there were 247 farms with 7,002 bears. China plans to concentrate thousands of bears on fewer farms. In 2002, some 5,200 bears (three quarters of farmed bears) are held on just 27 farms.
China's ministry of traditional medicine and other bodies support bear farms by promoting the development of new markets for bear bile. Dr Fan Zhiyong, the official CITES representative in China, recently announced that China wished to begin exporting bile products. The five hundred bears that the government has agreed to release come from small farms that are winding down their activity. These bears are lucky. Meanwhile, thousands of cubs will be captured in the wild or bred for exploitation on the large bile farms.
Two sanctuaries exist in China. The biggest is run by Animals Asia Foundation. Seventy of the five hundred bears have found refuge there. One Voice supports the work of AAF as a means of informing the world of the suffering inflicted on bears. We also pay tribute to the courage of the Foundation's president, Jill Robinson.
As well as assisting AAF, One Voice and WSPA intend pursuing a far-reaching campaign that will lead to a permanent ban on the bear bile trade.
A demonstration will be held in January in front of the Chinese Embassy. One Voice is in the process of inviting personalities to join the event. The date will be finalised in early January (for information, call +33 (0)2 51 83 18 10).
This campaign is just beginning. Our goal goes beyond gathering signatures or diffusing information in these pages. We will work together to make bear farms a thing of the past. Having assessed the immensity of this task, One Voice is determined to see this battle through to the end.
What you can do
• Write to the Chinese Embassy at 11, rue George V, 75008 Paris, to express your support of One Voice's requests:
– give bears class-one status under China's wildlife protection law and ban the capture of cubs in the wild;
– immediately outlaw the breeding of bears on the farms;
– prevent farmers from promoting bear bile in new markets;
– outlaw sales of bear bile to foreign tourists;
- ban bear farms throughout China before the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games in Peking.
• Write to President Jacques Chirac at Palais de l’Élysée, 75008 Paris, asking him to:
– oppose any attempt by China to legalise international trade in bear bile as part of CITES;
- use his influence to encourage China to put an end to bear farms.
• If you use traditional Chinese medicine, refuse products that contain bear bile and instead use herbal or synthetic alternatives.
• If you are travelling to China, refuse to buy products that contain bear bile and tell us which products on sale in airports contain bear bile.
• Hand out leaflets and gather signatures. More information is given in our report (€10).
• Buy a teddy bear, put your name and signature on its label, and send it to One Voice. The first bears will be given to the Chinese Embassy at the demonstration in January. Then, and until all the bear farms have been closed, each day One Voice will send a bear to the Embassy, signed with the name of an animal welfare activist. We will keep up the pressure in France and China for as long as necessary (in partnership with local and international organisations).