Public urged not to use bear bile, help end bear farming in Vietnam

Ha Noi (April 17, 2018) – Education for Nature – Vietnam has released its latest Public Service Announcement (PSA) urging the public to give up the outdated practice of using bear bile as a form of traditional medicine.

This PSA features a teacher who learns of the cruel and illegal origins of bear bile from a student after she offers the boy bear bile to remedy his bruised arm. What seems like a kind and nurturing gesture to provide relief to one of her students, becomes a lesson in understanding what bears endure to supply this perceived “miracle medicine”. Enlightened by what she has seen, she interrupts her lesson to tell other students in the class what she has learned; that bear bile is a thing of the past and that modern medicine is the way forward.

In Vietnam, bear bile has been used as a traditional medicine to treat bruises and other ailments for generations. However, its use stimulates demand for bile from bear farms, consigning bears to live a lifetime of cruel existence being exploited for their bile.

A little over a decade ago, there were more than 4,300 captive bears on hundreds of farms throughout the country. However, in 2005, the government made a commitment to phase out bear farming in Vietnam, and after 13 years of efforts targeting better enforcement and improved monitoring, strengthening laws and policy, and carrying out a sustained and determined effort to reduce consumer demand, the government and its NGO coalition partners have achieved substantial progress. The demand for bear bile has decreased 61% since 2009 (according to an ENV study published in 2015). More and more bear owners are voluntarily handing over their captive bears to authorities, indicating a significant shift in the awareness of bear owners that bear bile farming is a thing of the past.

Most importantly, the number of bears on bear farms has decreased substantially to around 900 bears as of 2017.

Still, bear bile farming remains the driving force behind the continued poaching of bears. Many people continue to believe that bear bile is a miracle medicine and opt for using this traditional remedy rather than the numerous other effective alternatives that modern medicine has to offer. The outdated and illegal exploitation of bears for their bile will end only once the demand for bear bile has stopped, after which, wild bear populations will have the chance to recover in nature, without the risk of being killed or captured to support consumer demand for bear bile in Vietnam.

“It’s high time for us to eliminate this illegal business of exploiting bears for their bile and build a society in which wildlife is not considered a commodity,” says Nguyen Phuong Dung, ENV’s Vice Director. “Many scientifically-proven modern medicines that are equally effective, accessible, and inexpensive, make it unnecessary to keep bears for medical purposes.”

Dung called on the public to lend a hand in ending bear bile farming for good in Vietnam. “We are modern people, and modern people show respect for nature and the environment that we live in. We do not use bear bile. Sadly, its use today is a reminder of the past when we did not know better.”

Mrs. Dung urged the public to “stand up and get involved” by committing not to use bear bile, encouraging others to protect bears, and taking action, such as educating others and reporting bear crimes to ENV’s Wildlife Crime Hotline 1800-1522.

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