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Bear bile farms, which exist in some Asian countries like Vietnam and China, are a terrible reality for Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus).
The bears spend their lives confined in tiny steel or concrete cages. They are "milked" through permanent holes in their side that allow bile to be extracted from the gall bladder.
Research - Journal - Animal - Welfare - Stress
My research, published in the journal Animal Welfare, investigated the chronic stress created by these conditions. We found that with care and rehabilitation, rescued bears in animal sanctuaries can readjust to a normal lifestyle with a reduction in stress – a highly encouraging result.
What's so precious about bile?
Bile - Fluid - Liver - Humans - Vertebrates
Bile is a greenish-brown fluid produced by the liver in humans and most vertebrates. Bile acid aids digestion of fats – and one particular bile compound, called ursodeoxycholic acid, could have potential pharmaceutical applications.
Because of this, bear bile is highly sought in traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed to reduce gall stones and improve indigestion, among other things. However, non-animal-derived and synthetic alternatives exist for urosodeoxycholic acid and other bile components.
Use - Asiatic - Bears - Sources - Bile
The use of Asiatic black bears as primary sources of bile is a significant animal welfare problem that needs global awareness. Most of the bears are introduced to the trade upon poaching from the wild, and cubs as young as a few months are caged and held captive for up to 30 years.
I worked with the international welfare organisation AnimalsAsia, which runs rescue and rehabilitation programs in Asia and has moved hundreds of bears into sanctuaries.
Research - Rehabilitation - Bears - Experiences
My research investigated how successful this rehabilitation is, and whether rescued bears can recover from their experiences.
Stress is defined as any unpleasant physical or psychological change that creates an uncomfortable feeling and negative outcome.
Bears - Farms - Vietnam - Levels - Stress
Not surprisingly, bears at bile farms in Vietnam have significantly higher levels of stress hormones than bears living in sanctuaries. This is the...
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