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Bear bile products and alternatives

Approximately 800 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, Canada, and the U.S.

Unnecessary cruelty with alternatives available

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 and a totally unnecessary product. 

Organizations pledge their support for our bile bear campaign

A number of TCM organizations around the world support the use of alternatives to bear bile and our campaign to truly end all bear bile farming in Vietnam. FOUR PAWS also received high level political support from embassies in the U.S. and Europe. 


In the U.S., organizations such as the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the Vietnamese-American Community of Massachusetts responded positively to our campaign, saying they are against the use of bear bile in TCM and support FOUR PAWS’ work in Vietnam.


TCM organizations outside the U.S.

In August 2017 at the international congress ICTAM IX (9th International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicine) in Kiel, Germany, FOUR PAWS informed the attendees about our work in Vietnam and the use of bear bile in TCM. Once they heard about our work many doctors, experts, and practitioners decided to support our goal to end bear farming in Vietnam. They include:


Prof. Detlev Ganten MD, Phd, President, World Health Summit; Co-Chair, InterAcademy Partnership for Health


"Animal welfare is important in every culture – this is why we should all use alternatives for bear bile in Traditional Chinese Medicine."


Dr. Geoffrey Samuel Past President of IASTAM - International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine


Prof. Dr. Angelika C. Messner Host and Co-Chair of ICTAM IX; Director of Chinese Studies at Kiel University, Germany


Dr. med. Rainer Nögel

President of SMS, Societas Medicinae Sinensis, Internationale Gesellschaft für Chinesische Medizin e.V.


“We do not agree with the use or need for bear bile in TCM medicine. The keeping of the bears and the cruel extraction of their bile is against all ethical norms. Furthermore, it is not necessary for medical purposes, due to other good alternatives available. The use of bear bile has never played a role in Germany or other European countries, therefore we believe it is unnecessary for the continued use and extraction of bile in countries like Vietnam or China. Instead, the practice should

be banned and discontinued, which is why the work of animal protection organizations like FOUR PAWS or Pro Wildlife is very important and they receive our full support.”


In Switzerland, the Fachverband Schweiz, an important organization in the field of TCM, agreed to support our campaign and speak out against the use of bear bile.

Political support for FOUR PAWS’ work in Vietnam to end bear farming

In Vietnam, the ambassadors from Austria, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States expressed their support of our work and agreed to share our campaign message with their Vietnamese counterparts. FOUR PAWS is very grateful for all of their support.


FOUR PAWS was invited by the U.S. Embassy to present our work at a meeting of the Wildlife Support Network that was held at the British Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam.


FOUR PAWS also met with the Vietnamese Ambassador in Germany. The Ambassador of The Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Germany, S.E. Mr. Doan Xuan Hung, welcomed FOUR PAWS’ President Heli Dungler and the Country Director of Germany Rüdiger Jürgensen to the embassy in Berlin. The Ambassador gave his support for FOUR PAWS’ work in Vietnam to end bear farming.