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Mon, Nov 20, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan activists campaign against China's bear farms

ENDANGERED SPECIES Animal rights supporters are targeting bear farms in China, where up to 7,000 bears are kept in tiny cages so their bile can be extracted


Joining a worldwide campaign against bear farming in China, Taiwanese animal rights activists yesterday started distributing postcards to be sent to Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民).

The postcards, issued by the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (動物社會研究會), are part of a campaign launched by the UK-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

The campaign is targeting China's 200-plus bear farms, which house an estimated 7,000 bears in cages so small that the animals cannot move, sit up, or turn around, according to the WSPA Web site.

The farmers also do not allow their bears to hibernate, as they would naturally, despite winter temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees in some parts of China, according to the WPSA.

The WSPA is also critical of the way bear bile is extracted. The farmers cut an opening through the animal's abdomen and insert a tube into the body to tap the bile. Between 10ml and 20ml of bile is tapped from each bear twice daily during feeding, impeding the bear's ability to digest food, the WSPA said.

When the bears fall sick or stop providing bile due to failing health, they are often left to die or killed for their gall bladder and paws, the WSPA said.

Bear paws are eaten as a delicacy in China and Southeast Asia. A bear paw dish may fetch as much as 3,800 yuan (US$470) in China's metropolitan hotels, according to the WSPA.

To absorb the overproduction of bear bile, the Chinese government is continuing to promote its use in an expanding array of products.

In 1998, China's bear farms produced 7,000kg of dry bile, of which only 4,000kg was actually consumed. Just 500kg was used for medicinal purposes, while the majority was used for products such as wines and tonics, according to WSPA statistics.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora lists China's bears as an endangered species, effectively banning the export of bear products.

However, the WSPA claims that Chinese bear farms have exported their products to other Asian countries, including Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Seven out of 10 traditional medicine stores surveyed by the WSPA sell bear bile and gall bladders, the WSPA said.

The WSPA said the campaign against bear farming has now spread to 13 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Thailand.

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