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12 Oct 05
China Bear Bile Farmer Eaten by own Animals
BEIJING - A Chinese man who raised bears to tap them for their bile, prized as a traditional medicine in Asia, has been killed and eaten by his animals, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.
Six black bears attacked keeper Han Shigen as he was cleaning their pen in the northeastern province of Jilin on Monday, Xinhua said. "The ill-fated man died on the spot and was eaten up by the ferocious bears," it said, citing a report in the Beijing News.
In practices decried by animal rights groups, bile is extracted through surgically implanted catheters in the bear's gall bladders, or by a "free-dripping" technique by which bile drips out through holes opened in the animals' abdomens.
More than 200 farms in China keep about 7,000 bears to tap their bile, which traditional Chinese medicine holds can cure fever, liver illness and sore eyes. Bear farming was far more widespread before the cruelty involved came to light and Beijing introduced regulations to control the industry in 1993.
Animal welfare groups have called on China to completely ban bear farming, arguing that traditional herbal medicines can serve the same purposes as bear bile.
Xinhua said police sent to the scene of Monday's killing injected one of the bears with tranquillisers "but failed to tame the mad animal". Police then threw meat into the bears' pen to distract them so they could recover Han's remains, it said without elaborating.
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