The Asiatic black bear, commonly known as the moon bear, continues to be exploited and denied a natural life in the name of ancient medicine. The black bear with a cream colored crescent moon shape on its chest, is native to the western parts of Asia, including parts of China, Korea and Viet Nam. For many a century, the playful beast has been hunted down, captured or killed for its magical healing powers. Moon bears are being milked for human ailments at the cost of their own lives.
Chinese traditional medicine has found ways to extract the bile from the moon bears in various ways. The moon bear bile has long been used to treat human ailments, as it is believed to possess a substance that can aid in an abounding list of health issues. The bile of the moon bear does in fact contain ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which can yield many health benefits.
Ancient Chinese traditional medicine has used the moon bear bile to treat such conditions as eye problems, wounds, inflammation, gall stones, convulsions, toothaches and even low libido and cancer, in some cases. It has been viewed as a miracle cure for human ailments for centuries and is only available by prescription by practicing doctors.
Bile is a fluid manufactured in the liver. It is stored in the gall bladder and is a key component in the digestive process. The dark green to yellowish-brown liquid is made up mostly of water, salts and fats and is continuously replenished as needed.
The bile from moon bears was discovered to be useful over 13 centuries ago. At that time and until recent history, the bear was killed, simply for its gall bladder. The bile was extracted and prescribed, bringing in nice profits from its use. The rare, almost bewitching potion is still being used today at the continued extortion of the moon bear. Sadly, more bile is collected than is actually used, continuing the abuse of the moon bear. The change is slow, but it is starting to happen with more awareness. Also, the availability of herbal and synthetic drugs, pills and remedies have helped decrease the need for actual bear bile, even within the realm of Chinese traditional medicine.
In the 1980’s, establishments of moon bear bile farms gained more popularity in the Asian nations of China, North and South Korea, Laos, Viet Nam and Myanmar. Moon bears were captured in the wild and brought to farms for the sole purpose of extracting their bile. Although not killing the bear, the animal was doomed to live the rest of its life in a small cage.
At bear bile farms, the animal is poked and prodded, injected, attached to tubes and donned with catheters in the effort to milk the precious substance. Sometimes a permanent metal apparatus is used for regular collection. Artificial openings, created in the abdomen of moon bears, are called fistulae. They allow for easy insertion of tubes or free dripping of bile. The open wounds can easily and often become infected.
The daily routine for a moon bear in captivity for the purpose of treating mild human ailments, consists of milking the bile from the bear, who survives with little sleep or proper diet. The usual lifespan of the moon bear in captivity has been whittled down from a normal 30 to 35 years to a mere five to ten years, if lucky.
Many animal activist groups including PETA Asia Pacific, have been working to make a change to save the moon bears. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Asia Pacific is an affiliate of the U.S. organization and has representatives traveling between Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Jining. In addition to working on the cause of the moon bears, they oversee many animal projects involving strays, improving animal shelters and helping get legislation passed to benefit all types of animals.
Rescuers like Animals Asia, have been making a real difference since 1998 in saving the moon bear from the grim realities they have been facing. Several rescue centers have been set up in the area and success stories are now being talked about. The following video is just a couple of free and happy bears, saved from confining lives they once lived. The treatment of human ailments should no longer be at the expense of an animal such the Asiatic black bear, the moon bear, or any other creature.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon
Journal of Chinese Medicine