Animals Asia, an organization dedicated to animal welfare, has been rescuing bears from bile farms in Vietnam and China for years. These farms keep bears captive and extract their bile, a valuable substance used in traditional medicines. Despite being banned in many Asian countries, the trade remains profitable in China despite the horrific conditions in which these bears are kept, including malnutrition, hair loss, and broken teeth. Efforts to eliminate bile farming have been challenging due to its profitability and consumer preference for real bear bile. While synthetic alternatives exist, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) still relies on bear bile for various ailments. However, there is no scientifically recognized evidence to support its effectiveness for these uses. Bears used for bile farming, particularly Asiatic black bears, suffer immensely from the extraction methods employed. In Vietnam, bears endure invasive procedures, while in China, surgery is performed to create a tube for bile extraction.

In Vietnam, a legal loophole allows farmers to keep bears by claiming they are not extracting bile, despite evidence of ongoing extraction. Instead of aggressive measures, activists and authorities are adopting a softer approach by working with local communities to convince farmers to voluntarily surrender their bears. China’s bear bile industry is legal, regulated, and widespread. The country has a large market for bear bile products, which are perceived as legitimate medications. The number of bile bears is increasing, and farms house thousands of bears for breeding and extraction. While some experts question China’s claim that bile farms reduce poaching, conclusive evidence is lacking. Researchers have been unable to determine the precise impact of bear farming on the consumption of wild bile.