Bile Extracted from Living Black Bears in Southwest China

June 22, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 22, 2006 12:00 am

According to a report by Jianghuai Morning News, a villager in Minjiang Village of Dujiang City, Sichuan Province, is holding captive many black bears, from which workers extract bile daily.

“Such a scene is really cruel. Sometimes, you can even hear the black bears' miserable wails at night,” said a villager from the same town, Li, who first made the news public.

Bear bile is in high demand in Asia for its use as an ingredient in traditional medicines. It is used for treating illnesses such as fever and liver failure. After it was discovered that more bile could be extracted from a living bear's gallbladder than that of a dead bear, some bear raisers in China adopted the method of periodically extracting bile from the bears by inserting a catheter into their bodies. This method, however, often causes the bears' death from wound infections.

In order to verify Villager Li's claim, a reporter from Jianghuai Morning News went undercover as a customer for bear bile and was granted access to the bear farm. The reporter witnessed the bile extraction process from live bears in person.

According to the reporter, the bear house was dim, damp, and filled with an unpleasant odor. The place was filled with metal cages, and more than a dozen black bears were kept in two rows of metal cages. Upon hearing human voices, some bears would hit the cages with their heads while others pushed the metal bars with their paws, and some even made piercing wails—they were all restless.

Three shirtless workers washed pliers, catheters and other tools in tap water when preparing to extract bile from a bear. One worker fed the bear sugar water while another worker stood under the bear cage and inserted a catheter into the bear's belly. As a result, the bear suddenly stood up, wailed, and ran around its cage, sometimes hitting its head into the cage as the tube was still hanging from its belly. In order to tame the bear, the workers beat it with metal sticks. Soon, the bear was subdued and laid down in the cage.

When extracting another bear's bile, the catheter failed to go in successfully. A worker suggested using a metal tube if the plastic one did not work.

The workers later attempted to extract bile from a baby bear using the same methods as on the first bear. The moment the duct was inserted into the bear's body, it stopped breathing. The bear later looked up at the reporter and seemed helpless and afraid. Afterwards, the bear went back to drinking the sugar water. Meanwhile, the worker under the cage continued to insert the catheter. After the tube was inserted, dark green bile flowed through the tube into a vessel the worker was holding. A few seconds later, the bile dried up. The worker pulled out the catheter and sterilized the wound on the bear's belly with iodine.