A rescued bear is fed in Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province
A SHARE-LISTING plan by a company that sells tonics made with bear bile is provoking a storm of online criticism in China from animal rights groups, celebrities and ordinary Chinese.
Dozens of well-known entertainers, writers and other celebrities have signed a petition to the China Securities Regulatory Commission urging it to withhold approval for the initial public offering by Guizhentang, a Chinese medicines maker. The company is awaiting approval for a share listing in Shenzhen.
Hundreds of thousands of comments on “weibo”, the Chinese version of Twitter, blasted the company for extracting bile from the bears.
A photo on the front page of the state-run newspaper China Business News last Friday showed a satirical photo montage of a caged bear, its nose bloodied, with a picture of the head of the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicines, Fang Shuting, quoted as saying that bears are “very comfortable” while the bile is extracted.
Animal rights are gaining increasing attention in China, with public figures such as basketball star Yao Ming and actor Jackie Chan speaking out against eating shark fins and other customs that many view as cruel or a threat to endangered species.
The petition to the stock watchdog from more than 70 celebrities and environmental protection groups urges the use of synthetic substitutes for bear bile.
The main active ingredient in the bile is ursodeoxycholic acid, which is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory and is used to treat gall stones and liver ailments.
At a news conference last week, Mr Fang defended Guizhentang’s bile-collecting practices.
“Collecting bile is like turning on a tap. It’s painless, natural and simple. I didn’t see bears suffering in the process,” he said.
“After the bile is extracted, bears can still drink milk and honey and have fun in the farm.”
The reports cited Fang as saying China has 68 licensed bear farms and more than 10,000 bears farmed for their bile, which can cost up to 4000 yuan ($590) a kilogram. The bears are confined to small cages and milked of bile through catheters inserted into fistulas, or permanent wounds, in their gall bladders.