Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

China Recommends Bear Bile to Treat COVID-19, Worrying Wildlife Advocates

Animals
China Recommends Bear Bile to Treat COVID-19, Worrying Wildlife Advocates
Bears stand by a wall at a bear farm of Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a company making medicine using bile extracted from live bears, on Feb. 24, 2012 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province of China. Getty Images

Even though China recently banned open air markets that trade wildlife, the government has issued guidelines for treating COVID-19 that include medicines containing bear bile, according to National Geographic.


A list of medicines to treat COVID-19 that the Chinese government put out included both traditional and Western medicines. The list was compiled and published by China's National Health Commission, the government body responsible for national health policy. One of the alleged cures from traditional Chinese medicine that the government recommends for treating severe and critical cases of COVID-19 is an injection of Tan Re Qing, which contains bear bile, as National Geographic reported.

Wildlife advocates are alarmed by the disconnect of a comprehensive ban on trading wildlife for consumption in open air markets but allowing and promoting the use of wildlife in traditional Chinese medicine, according to the International Business Times.


"Restricting the eating of wildlife while promoting medicines containing wildlife parts exemplifies the mixed messages being sent by Chinese authorities on wildlife trade," said Aron White, a China specialist at the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency, in a statement. "Aside from the irony of promoting a wildlife product for treatment of a disease which the scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded originated in wildlife, the continued promotion of the use of threatened wildlife in medicine is hugely irresponsible in an era of unprecedented biodiversity loss, including illegal and unsustainable trade."

The use of bear bile in Chinese medicine dates back at least 1,300 years. Bile is secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Bile from bears tends to be high in ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, which is helpful in dissolving gallstones and treating liver disease. A synthetic version of ursodeoxycholic acid has been available for decades, according to National Geographic.

There is no evidence that ursodeoxycholic acid cures or relieves symptoms of COVID-19. The World Health Organization has repeatedly insisted that there is no known cure for the novel coronavirus, but pain relievers and cough medicine can provide relief from the symptoms, according to the International Business Times.

"The use of the threatened wildlife is traditional medicine in totally unnecessary, especially given the availability of acceptable herbal and artificial alternatives, and many traditional medicine practitioners and users want to see an end to use of wildlife products," said White in a statement.

Furthermore, extracting bear bile is a brutal process that requires inserting a catheter, syringe, or pipe into the gallbladder. All these avenues are invasive and "cause severe suffering, pain, and infection," according to Animals Asia, a nonprofit dedicated to ending bear bile farming, as National Geographic reported.

As Mongabay reported, animal advocates are hopeful that China will soon move to a complete ban on the wildlife trade, which would stifle the illicit market around the world since China is one of the largest purchasers of trafficked animals.

"At this moment in history, as the world is crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, the public health and environmental risks of wildlife trade are rightly receiving unprecedented attention," said White in a statement. "There could be no better time to end the use of the parts of threatened wildlife in medicine, especially as recent surveys conducted in China showed the vast majority of respondents were opposed to use of wildlife in medicine. In doing so, China could become a genuine leader in conservation and we hope other countries would follow its example."

Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Seabirds often follow fishing vessels to find easy meals. Alexander Petrov / TASS via Getty Images

By Jim Palardy

As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures. Hollie Adams / Getty Images

By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

Read More Show Less
A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less