Lifestyle & Belief

Bear bile farms confronted in Vietnam


Sun bears, listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are captured and farmed for their bile. David, above, was rescued by Animals Asia in Vietnam.


Joel Elliot

If your young grandson took a spill on his bike and badly scraped his knee, you might dab on some neosporin and apply a band-aid.

The grandmother in this Vietnamese PSA has a different remedy: bear bile.

Bear bile?

Yes, bear bile (active ingredient: ursodeoxycholic acid) is believed to be something of a wonder cure-all in traditional Asian medicine. It's reputed to cure stomach ailments, kidney problems and much more.

The problem with bear bile is that it comes from drugged bears jammed in cages barely larger than their bodies. Like China and South Korea, bear farming is illegal in Vietnam.

Still, the country's bear farms have persisted through more than five years of often half-hearted government crackdowns. The demand for bear bile attracts tourists from around Asia who are brought to farms on package tours. (They prefer to witness the bile's extraction, which reassures them it's legit.)

But as the DPA reports, the government is now going after bear bile tours.

A GlobalPost report on bear bile farms from last year described caged bears missing fur and teeth, their organs severely damaged and their behavior suggesting "an ursine version of madness."

According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, South Korean tourists are particularly keen on bear farms. The latest crackdown, however, may strip tour agencies who lead groups to bear farms of their license.

As for the Vietnamese grandma in the PSA?

Thankfully, the kid's mom steps in to explain to grandma that bear bile is not "magic medicine." The video, produced by Education for Nature-Vietnam, ends with depressing video of caged bears and disturbing growls.