Chinese bile farms. I’m expecting that I won’t be the only person who saw that for the first time and had no idea what it meant. But thanks to an article from Planetsave (13 Asian Black Bears Rescued From ‘Bile Farms’) I am now aware of this almost thirty-years-old practice.

Bile farming is the Chinese practice of extracting the bile of moon bears by extracting it from their gall bladders. The bile is then used in traditional Chinese medicine. Here’s the description from Planetsave:

Bear farming began in the 1980s as a way to collect bile from moon bears without killing them. To harvest bile from the gallbladder, a connection (or fistula) must be made between the gallbladder and the skin’s surface. The connection is usually a metal or plastic tube that is often installed by untrained individuals. These impromptu surgeries commonly lead to internal and external scarring. After the ‘fistula’ is established, the animals are confined to a cage hardly larger than the body in order to keep the connection open. Such severe confinement leads the bears to develop disfiguring injuries from lack of movement. One of the rescued bears had spent approximately 25 years confined in a cage and suffered stunted bodily growth as a result.

So essentially these bears are living lives similar to those of livestock in factory farming. They can’t move in the same way that pigs can’t turn around in their small, tight cages. The difference is that because these animals aren’t killed, they are forced to endure years of repeated “tapping.” I’m not saying their pain is any worse than the pain of animals in factory farms, just that it’s important for non-animal rights activists to realize that a long life of pain is just as bad as a sort time experiencing pain. We all know there are people in this would who would call these bile farms “animal friendly” simply because the bears aren’t being killed.