By Allen Ai and Fan Huang
Fang Shuting: ”The process of extracting bear bile is like turning on a tap: natural, easy and without pain. After they’re done, the bears can even play happily outside. I don’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary! It might even be a very comfortable process!”
Animal rights groups and over 70 Chinese celebrities are protesting the decision by a company specializing in the extraction of bile from Asiatic black bears raised on their private farm to seek a public listing. The Fujian-based Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co. is making a second bid to list publicly, after their first attempt was thwarted last year by public criticism last year.
A letter written by the Beijing Loving Animals Foundation and signed by celebrities including professional snooker player Ding Junhui and singer Han Hong was delivered to the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), asking the commission to deny Guizhentang’s request for a public listing.
The foundation claims Guizhentang’s bid for a public listing demonstrates the companies desire to expand their business, which would be in violation of China’s policy of limiting the use of wild animal organs for medicinal purposes.
Bear bile, which can sell for more than 250 yuan per gram and has ursodeoxycholic acid as its active ingredient, is produced in the liver and extracted from the gall bladder of Asiatic black bears. The bile serves as a common ingredient in Chinese medicine, and is said to help reduce fever, improve eyesight, and break down gallstones, among other uses.
The company’s decision to go public is endorsed by the Chinese Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (CATCM), which claims “the method of bile extraction doesn’t harm bears.” Previously, the CATCM declared NGOs to be a “hostile force”.
On Wednesday, the CATCM held a press conference on the topic of bear bile extraction, during which a CATCM staff member told the Beijing News that photos of the extraction process provided by the Asia Animal Foundation (AAF) were obsolete. Furthermore, the CATCM said bears were being saved from illegal bear farms, and that the more painful extraction method were no longer being used.
The chief of CATCM Fang Shuting said, ”The process of extracting bear bile is like turning on a tap: natural, easy and without pain. After they’re done, the bears can even play happily outside. I don’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary! It might even be a very comfortable process!”
Since bear farms are not open to public, NGOs regularly question the truth of such claims and make requests to visit bear farms. Zhang Xiaohai of the AAF said 200 bears saved by his organization had suffered bile extraction, including bears which Guizhentang claimed were subjected to a “tubeless extraction” procedure. Pathological changes were detected in the gall bladders of the rescued bears in various degrees.
Photos circulating online show bears enclosed closed in small cages, with tubes inserted into their bodies. Experts say bear bile can be substituted with other medicines, and that ursodeoxycholic acid is found in the bile of all mammals.
In 2011, Beijing’s Midi School of Music raised public awareness of bears used for bile extraction at major popular music festivals in Beijing, Shanghai and Shandong.