On April 9th an extensive article appeared on theguardian.com with the title Is the end of 'house of horror' bear bile factories in sight? It states that Kaibao, the largest producer of bear bile and responsible for 50 % of all bear bile within the Chinese market, is currently developing a synthetic alternative for bear bile. This alternative is based on poultry bile and ‘biotransformation technology’. The company is receiving Financial support from the Chinese government for this development. Organisations such as Animals Asia and TRAFFIC have responded with tempered enthusiasm, but do raise a few comments. Such as the fact that there are already a lot of good herbal alternatives. And in the US a synthetic alternative has already been produced. TRAFFIC director Chris Shepherd believes the odds for success depend entirely on the willingness of the doctors in Traditional Chinese Medicine to prescribe the new product instead of bear bile. That chance is bigger though than the American product, as it is developed by the biggest supplier and is home based. It is ironic that this synthetic alternative will be based on an animal. Although Kaibao has not made an official statement regarding this issue, it is believed that they will use already farmed poultry.
All in all the announcement has created a positive vibe, now that the bear bile industry itself has noticed that the current situation cannot be maintained, because of the immense suffering of the estimated 12.000 bears living in bear farms. On top of that the bear farms form a great threat for the wild populations as many bears in bear farms are taken from the wild. As main sponsor of the motion that was carried during the 2012 IUCN congress (WCC-2012-Rec-139: Bear farming in Asia, with particular reference to the conservation of wild populations), Alertis has started the phasing out of all bear farms. Soon research into the effect of bear farms on the wild bear populations will start. The research will be carried out by famous (IUCN) bear experts together with the Chinese government. That the biggest supplier of bear bile started developing a synthetic alternative, is another step in the right direction.
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