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Bear bile products and alternatives

Approximately, 1,300 bears are still kept under appalling keeping conditions on Vietnam's bear farms.
© FOUR PAWS | 2016

Bear bile is a popular ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The substance that is sought after is ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) which is part of the digestive juice, produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder of all mammals.  UDCA has been used by TCM practitioners for millennia for the medical treatment of diseases ranging from inflammation to headaches or hemorrhoids. Whole gallbladders are also highly sought after and used for the same TCM purposes as liquid bile.  


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Although demand for bear bile and other bear products is declining, it remains fairly strong with dominant markets in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. Bear bile products have also been found in Australia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, the USA, and Canada.


Unnecessary cruelty with alternatives within TCM

Today, it is possible to completely substitute bear bile using cheap and effective herbal and synthetic ingredients. In fact, these alternatives have been readily available since the 1950s. Considering the detrimental effects of bear bile farming on the conservation of wild bears, as well as the extremely cruel methods of bile extraction and poor keeping conditions, bile from farmed bears can be described as a highly unethical und a totally unnecessary product.