Hawaii has joined a growing effort to protect bears from being plundered for traditional Chinese medicine.
Earlier this week, KHON2 reported that Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 2296 into law, which will prohibit the “purchase, sale, transportation and delivery of any item containing bear bile or gallbladders.”
Bear gallbladders and bear bile are still used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as other products. An investigation by HSUS found traces of bear gallbladder and bile in eye drops, lotions, and shampoos for sale in Honolulu’s Chinatown.
Last year, the state of New York enacted legislation that bans the “possession, sale, barter, offer, purchase, transportation, delivery or receipt” of bear gallbladders and bile.
Like other animal parts used in traditional Chinese medicine, there is no need to use “ingredients” sourced from bears.
However, in the case of bear bile, which does contain an active ingredient, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), it is available as a synthetic and there are at least 50 herbal alternatives to bear bile.
According to Animals Asia, moon bears, Malayan sun bears, brown bears, American black bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears and polar bears have all been used in the medicine trade.
The horror of bear ‘farms’
In China and Vietnam, an estimated 14,000 bears are confined to filthy cages for their entire lives and “milked” for their bile by inserting catheters into their bodies. These cages are so small that the bears are unable to turn around.
In addition to bears, tigers are commercially “farmed” in China, and increasingly in Vietnam, for their bones and body parts.
Photo: Steve Hillebrand/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service