Animals Asia has announced that over 1,900 Chinese pharmacies have joined its Healing Without Harm programme – pledging to turn their backs on bear bile products. The news was released to the Chinese and international media at a press conference today (Monday, September 15th, 2014) in China’s Hunan province.In the past year, the campaign has increased the number of bear bile free shops and pharmacies from around 260 in August 2013 to 1,945 today. Key new signees include chain pharmacies Hunan Yang Tian He Pharmacy Group (870 stores) and Hunan Qian Jin Pharmacy (372 stores), as well as pharmaceutical manufacturers Hunan Fang Sheng Pharmaceuticals and Changsha Qing Er Kang Biological Technology. Changsha Maria Hospital has also joined the campaign.
This year’s conference was organised by Animals Asia and the Hunan Drug Industry Trade Association, with the Changsha Wildlife Conservation Association as co-organiser. Pivotally, the conference was attended by the director of Changsha City’s Food and Drug Administration. This marks the first time the previously industry-only platform of Healing Without Harm has broadened to a governmental level, and is in-line with Animals Asia’s commitment to seek win-win solutions for all parties toward the goal of ending bear bile farming.
Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said. “We’re delighted that people are pushing to be a part of this campaign now. Healing Without Harm is a key part of our efforts to end bear bile farming and this initiative has seen an unprecedented rise in traditional medicine doctors and pharmacies supporting alternatives to the use and prescription of bile. It’s fundamentally important to reduce the market and the availability if more bears are going to be helped, and this is just what we are seeing here.”
More than 10,000 bears are still kept on bile farms in China in tiny cages. The bears regularly suffer painful bile extractions, as their bile is a prized ingredient in traditional medicine. Animals Asia’s Deputy Manager of the China Bear Programme Susan Xu said:
“Having contacted many pharmacies and pharmaceutical factories over the past year, we have been overwhelmed by the number who agreed to abandon bear bile products as they and their customers have come to know more about bear bile farming.
“Increasingly pharmacies, traditional medicine practitioners and pharmaceutical leaders are interested in hearing more about the alternatives and no longer want to be a part of the bear bile industry. There is a real momentum behind the cause right now as awareness increases and more and more practitioners are supporting Healing Without Harm.”
While medical practitioners and pharmacists remain key recipients of the campaign’s message, demand for the products is also being reduced by awareness raising campaigns. Actor Zhang Yi is one of the latest big names to lend support. He starred in Healing Without Harm posters recently seen at Hangzhou Airport, which serves 23 million passengers annually. Jill Robinson added:
“Traditional medicine practitioners consistently tell us that bear bile farming is against the very ethos of traditional medicine which advocates harmony with nature. Every bile extraction causes unimaginable suffering for a bear, so fewer products on the shelves translates very simply into less pain. Every item containing bear bile cleared from a pharmacy’s shelves equals less cruelty.
“We thank all those people who are joining the campaign. What was a trickle has become a flood. So many people in China recognise that bear bile farming has had its day.”
Bear bile is extracted using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infection in the bears. This practice continues despite the availability of a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives. Most farmed bears are kept in tiny cages, sometimes so small that the bears are unable to turn around or stand on all fours. With the reckless use of antibiotics, bears can be made to endure these painful conditions for up to 30 years. Most farmed bears however are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them.
Animals Asia runs sanctuaries in China and Vietnam and has rescued over 500 bears including those at a bear bile farm in Nanning which it is also converting into a sanctuary.