For over forty years, my dad worked for the U.S. Forest Service. He would often bring me pencils, books, stickers, and all kinds of neat things regarding Smokey the Bear. Sometimes he would even get to dress up and wear the Smokey the Bear costume. As a kid, I thought it was a pretty big deal. I think back to those days and recall them like it was yesterday. Today, I am bringing bears in the spotlight for a different reason. As a vegan blogger, I often write about factory farming and animal cruelty. I have written about the abuse that animals endure daily in slaughterhouses, and then I found out about the heartbreaking abuse that bears suffer in Vietnam. I definitely had to write about it.
Animals are not meant to be caged. They should be free to live, grow, and thrive in their natural habitats, but many bears in Vietnam only know life within four walls. What is it that people are after? Bear bile. Bear bile has been used for thousands of years as an elixir in Chinese medicine. It is used in products like toothpaste, shampoo, and tea. Although there are many cruelty-free alternatives with the same healing properties, it is still widely used to treat liver and gallbladder conditions, because of its high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA).
It is a multi-million dollar industry that thrives off of bears that are confined to cages the size of their bodies, bears that are often deprived of food, water, and mobility, and bears that suffer chronic pain, abuse, infection, and live with holes in their abdomens and other physical forms of trauma.
So how is bear bile extracted?
According to Animals Asia, there are five ways the bile is extracted: Latex Catheter, Metal Jacket, Metal Catheter, Free-drip, and Fake Free-drip. Each method is cruel, and brings misery to the poor animals. This is how the bile is extracted using the metal jacket method.
A rubber pipe is surgically connected to the bear’s gall bladder and attached to a fluid bag inside a metal box. To hold the box in place against the bear’s abdomen, the bear is fitted with a metal jacket weighing more than 10kg.
The global nonprofit FOUR PAWS is now looking to close all bear farms by 2020 and ensure the transfer of all remaining bears to sanctuaries. You can get involved by signing the petition to end bear farming.
Please checkout the microsite of FOUR PAWS asking “How much can you bear,” which tests the endurance of viewers and urges them to take action.
I was only able to watch for a few seconds of the raw video.
Unfortunately, the practice is legal in China. Although it is illegal in Vietnam and was outlawed in 1992, loopholes in the law and lack of enforcement of regulations have allowed thousands of bears to be illegally used for bile extraction today.
There is still hope! On July 17, 2017, the Vietnamese government agreed to a plan to finally end bear bile farming in the country.
Although the Vietnamese Government has agreed to end the horrific practice, according to FOUR PAWS, "there are still approximately 1,300 so-called "bile bears" - mainly Asiatic black bears - living under poor keeping conditions on roughly 400 bear farms."
FOUR PAWS is in the forefront of helping the Vietnamese government truly end bear bile farming and is currently working with the government and in coalition with local partners Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) in implementing a plan to end the practice by 2020.
Please sign the petition, and let your voice be heard today.
If you're looking for a location in Georgia for an animal sanctuary, please check out this amazing property.
About Tabatha James
Tabatha James is a wife, mom, and children's book author navigating her way through a vegan way of life!