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8 Mar 07
China Delegate Says Bear Bile Farming in Bad Taste
Story by Lindsay Beck
BEIJING - It is pandas her province is famous for, but for one delegate to China's parliament, cruelty to black bears is the real concern.
While the notoriously slow-breeding panda hogs the limelight in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Zhou Ping has brought a proposal to phase out the farming of bear bile, used in traditional Chinese medicine.
"People say this is an ancient Chinese traditional form. But in the past, the methods of extracting bear bile were very different," Zhou told Reuters on the sidelines of Sichuan's provincial group meeting.
Now, she says, the common methods of making an incision in the bears' abdomen to "drip" the bile out is cruel and causes undue suffering for the estimated 7,000 bears on farms around the country.
The method also causes infections that could taint the bile and harm human health, said Zhou, one of the thousands of delegates in town for the annual session of parliament.
The two-week meeting is largely a rubber stamp, but delegates also use it as a chance to raise proposals for internal government debate and flag issues to China's leaders.
Bile from black bears' gallbladders has been harvested for thousands of years in Asia and is believed to cure fever, liver ailments and sore eyes. But as Western countries embrace traditional Chinese medicine, activists say they are unwittingly fuelling the illegal trade in endangered species.
Zhou thinks such practices are also hurting the image of China's traditional medicine industry and says substitutes made from herbs have similar healing properties.
Acres undercover investigation in the illegal trade in bear parts on the Acres website
Chinese Medicine Shops Busted In Bear Goods Sting Tortured bears in volunteers’ minds when they’re posing as customers… They say of sting: Hardest part is pretending to be happy By Teh Jen Lee The New Paper 2 Mar 07
Scheme to stamp out sale of endangered species products in traditional chinese medicine shops Gracia Chiang Today Online 2 Mar 07
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