Some good news today on the Al Jazeera network; a report that South Korea plans to make the farming of “bile bears” illegal, starting in 2026.
The Asian black bear – also known as a moon bear or white-chested bear – is traditionally characterized as “mountain man” (yamaotoko). Being a largely solitary creature, the moon bear also is portrayed as “lonely person” (sabishigariya). Source: Wikipedia.
Sadly, an estimated 12,000 moon bears are “farmed” in China, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Again, Wikipedia reports that bile bears are “kept in small cages which often prevent them from standing or sitting upright, or from turning around . . . lead[ing] to physical injuries, pain, severe mental stress and muscle atrophy. Some bears are caught as cubs and may be kept in these conditions for up to 30 years.”
The bears are kept in captivity to harvest their bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, which is used in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). Bear bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid, which is used to treat hemorrhoids, sore throats, sores, bruising, muscle ailments, sprains, epilepsy, reduce fever, improve eyesight, break down gallstones, act as an anti-inflammatory, and reduce the effects of overconsumption of alcohol.
Not surprisingly, animal rights groups have long protested the inhumane conditions under which bear bile is harvested – an estimated $2 BILLION global industry.
Hundreds of bears in South Korea now will be able to live out their lives in sanctuary. However, the poaching of bile from thousands of bears around the world continues.
Save the mooon bears!