Lifestyle & Belief

Conservation group urges Vietnam to ban bear bile massage oil


A caged bear is raised for bile extraction at a private restaurant in Van Dinh town, northern province of Ha Tay, November 23, 2006. Keeping bears caged for commercial purposes has been banned in Vietnam for nearly two years. But experts say 4,000-5,000 remain caged, many feeding the illicit trade, sometimes in battery facilities with hundreds of animals.



Vietnam should ban a type of massage oil that contains bear bile extract, says an international conservation organization that monitors trade in endangered species.

The secretariat of CITES, the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, has written to the Vietnam Drug Administration requesting the ban of a massage cream known as Misa Bear, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports.

The bear bile massage oil claims to provide "soothing relief from minor arthritis pain, aching and strained muscles and backache," and is sold in Vietnam and China, Thai Truyen of CITES's Hanoi office told DPA.

While the commercial trade of bear products is banned in Vietnam, the use of bear bile remains widespread, DPA reports. The practice originated in China 2,000 years ago, and then spread to other East Asian countries.

The bile is extracted from the gall bladder of live bears — usually Asian black bears — and is believed to cure fevers, hemorrhoids, liver ailments and muscle injuries. It is sometimes used as an aphrodisiac.

The bears are often kept in tiny extraction cages, called "crush cages," where they suffer mental stress and their muscles atrophy.

The Asian black bear, also known as the “moon bear” because of the crescent-shaped white marking on its chest, is listed as a vulnerable species in the Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits international commercial trade in the species, its parts and derivatives.

A recent report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, found that poaching and illegal trade of bears remains widespread, largely due to the continuing demand for bear bile.

The TRAFFIC report said that bear bile products were mostly found in mainland China, as well as in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Burma and Vietnam.