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The terrible fate of Vietnam's bile bear


Although the Vietnamese Government has taken firm legislative steps to end bear farming, there are still approximately 1,300 so-called "bile bears" - mainly Asiatic black bears - living under poor keeping conditions on roughly 400 bear farms. Almost all of the bears were born in the wild, but brutally snatched at a young age by poachers, who it is believed, often killed their mothers. Many of these bears suffer in tiny metal cages, spending their days in a vegetated state, half-starved and dehydrated. Recent FOUR PAWS research revealed that many of the bears are still used for bile extraction and the illegal trade of bear bile is still at large in Vietnam. Therefore today, we ask you to please add your voice in calling on the Vietnamese government to end bear farming.


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Bile extractions are still happening

In addition to being kept in tiny cages, not bigger than one or two square metres, some of these bears are still having their bile extracted or "milked" from their gallbladders for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products. It is believed that the bile of bears is a cure to many health issues. Despite the sale and possession of bear bile being made illegal along with further steps taken by the Vietnamese government in 2005 to end bear farming, there is still a trade and a welfare crisis for approximate 1300 bears on the farms.  

Former bile bears kept on a farm in Vietnam

The painful extraction of the bile

The painful procedure involves anaesthetising the bear then using an ultrasonic or simply a "stab in the dark" to locate its gallbladder. The bile is then pumped out through a catheter, or extracted with a syringe. In Vietnam this procedure is often done in unhygienic conditions and performed by individuals who are obviously not trained in veterinary care.   

Former bile bear on a farm in Vietnam
© FOUR PAWS | Education for Nature Vietnam

Many rescued bears suffer from the long-term effects from their miserable lives on bear farms. Often, they need their gallbladders removed due to the damage of constant bile extraction over many years. Many of them also have only a few teeth left after years of improper nutrition and constantly biting the bars of their cages, a sign of psychological damage. .  Even when rescued bears are safe and enjoying life in a sanctuary, they still  have to cope with problems such as muscle damage  due to years of confinement in tiny cages. Other bears have missing limbs as a result of wild capture or the illegal sale of their body parts, rendering them permanently disabled.

Bear farming in Vietnam

Vietnam has a history of keeping bears in captivity but is now one of the few countries in Asia to take firm legislative steps against the keeping of bears for bile production. In 2005, the Vietnamese government launched efforts to phase out the keeping and farming of bears for their bile. The first step to this process was designed to stop any new bears entering the trade through the enforced registration of all captive bears within Vietnam.


After this initial process, the second part of the plan was for all unregistered bears to be confiscated and their owners prosecuted. However, enforcement difficulties and conflicting new regulations (or loop holes in legislation) have undermined this effort and led to numerous cases of illegally held bears being registered and left in the hands of private owners. 

Help Vietnam's saddest bears!

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