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The bile from the gallbladders of bears (principally Moon bears) has been used, along with other animal products, in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. But it was only used occasionally. And then only when a wild bear could be captured and killed.

However, in the 1980s the Chinese government became concerned about the large number of bears that were being killed for their bile. So they decreed that, in order to preserve the bear population, it was acceptable to keep a bear in a cage. And, rather than kill the bear, its bile could be drained again and again.

Thus began bear ‘farms’, where a number of bears are kept permanently in cages and their bile drained and sold. And what the Chinese government didn’t count on was the utterly cruel ways that the bears are kept: often in tiny cages where a bear can hardly move; where the bottom of the cage is made of only bars, so that the bear’s feet become crippled; with never enough food and water; and with a tube permanently rammed into the bear’s gallbladder. A bear can suffer like this for up to 30 years.

In China alone it is estimated that there are over 9,000 bears kept in these horrible conditions.

All this would be bad enough. But it isn’t even necessary to use bear bile in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many TCM alternatives, both natural and synthetic, that do what bear bile is claimed to.

And, (quite literally) to add insult to injury, over-production means that people have now turned to producing non-essential products in order to utilize the surplus, such as bear bile throat lozenges, bear bile shampoo, bear bile  toothpaste, bear bile wine and bear bile tea, in. These products have absolutely no benefit to health.


There are also considered to be over 4,000 bears in bear farms in Vietnam (as featured in the companion film by Martin Guinness:(Moon Bears: The Hidden Truth).

The condition these bears are kept in is just as cruel as in China. The fundamental difference is that, rather than having a catheter permanently imbedded, the bears are first anaesthetized with the illegal substance Ketamine, and then repeatedly punctured with a large needle to draw out the bile. This frequently results both in infection and in other organs being damaged.   

PLEASE NOTE: Cages of Shame is not meant to be a criticism of Traditional Asian Medicine, but refers to the shameful practice of bile extraction initiated by bear farmers throughout Asia. There is hope - in Vietnam, the Government has made bear farming illegal.