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Chengdu stores ban bear bile (2)

By Yang Yao (China Daily)    08:04, August 09, 2013
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Zhong said that he is contributing to the progress of animal welfare in the country, which depends on raising awareness of the issues.

He said the company has suffered some loss in business but not much. He said that he has not received any form of subsidy or compensation from the government or any other organization.

According to Zhong, very few customers come to stores asking for bear bile products these days. When someone asks for such products, his sales assistants explain the reason why they stopped selling it, and most customers seem to understand.

"There are five or six different medicines of this kind, but they can all be replaced with others,"he said, giving the example of bear bile eyedrops, which can be replaced with a product made from pearl powder.

Liu Zhengcai, a prominent traditional Chinese medicine doctor, is a leading supporter of the campaign.

He said that he never uses bear bile in medicines, preferring alternative herbal medicines like European verbena and heartleaf houttuynia.

However, he is still in a minority among doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.

The China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine announced on Feb 16 last year that bear bile is not replaceable.

Fang Shuting, president of the association, also said in a press release that the previous reports about the practice of drawing bile from live bears had greatly exaggerated the animals' suffering and certain organizations had used gory photos to mislead the public and malign the bear bile industry.

He said that the philosophy of the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine was scientific conservation, rational use and sustainable development, a view echoed by Yan Xun, deputy head of the Wildlife Animal Conservation Authority under the State Forestry Administration.

"Human society relies on animals to grow. One cannot simply emphasize protection,"said Yan.

He said that before this method was introduced from Democratic People's Republic of Korea to China in the 1980s, people killed bears to extract bile, which was more cruel.

The administration has no plans yet to ban the industry. However, public discontent has been moving faster than the policymakers.

Guizhentang, China's largest manufacturer of bear-bile products and the biggest owner of captive black bears in southern China, was planning an initial public offering last year. But due to increasing opposition and criticism, the company withdrew its plan on June 2 this year.

The company gave no response to Thursday's boycott in Chengdu when contacted by a China Daily reporter.

The new boycott in Chengdu does not signal an end to the battle between traditional medicine lobbyists and animal rights campaigners.

For animal welfare advocates, the challenge is to convince Chinese consumers that the cruelty of bile farming outweighs the medicinal benefits and there is also a health risk associated with consuming bile from sick bears.

According to the Animals Asia Foundation, a charity in Hong Kong that campaigns against the bear bile industry, there are an estimated 20,000 bears being kept on nearly 100 bear farms in China.

The charity has managed to provide a new life for some bears already, creating a wildlife sanctuary with the help of forestry authorities in Sichuan, and setting the animals free there. Most of them came from farms closed by the authorities because they had fewer than 50 bears, a violation of industry rules.

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(Editor:WangLili、Chen Lidan)

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