HANOI — The Vietnamese government has agreed on a plan which will close all of the country’s bear bile farms over the next five years, animal rights group Animal Asia said Thursday.
Around 1,000 bears, whose bile is used in traditional medicine, are believed to be in captivity in the country. They are now to be moved to sanctuaries.
The farms are notorious for their harrowing conditions, with rows of bears kept caged their entire lives, punctuated by the painful harvesting of bile from their gall bladders.
The agreement was signed Wednesday, Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director for Animals Asia, told dpa Thursday, after the group spent more than three years working with the government.
“At the moment, it is difficult to save wild bears as they can catch a wild bear to bring it back to bear farms and claim the wild one is a captive one, but after shutting down all the farms by 2022, no bears will be kept,” he said.
Bear bile is used in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese medicine to treat liver and gallbladder conditions, although a synthetic version of the active ingredient is commercially available at pharmacies worldwide.
While Vietnam outlawed bile farms and abolished the trade in 1992, around 1,000 black bears are still kept on farms in the country, as as a result of a legal loophole allowing them to raise the animals as pets.
Bear bile farming reached its peak in Vietnam in 2005, with over 4,000 bears in captivity. Since it became common practice in China and Vietnam in the 1980s wild populations have been decimated, according to Animal Asia.
“Crucially, the government has agreed to close the loophole that has allowed bile farming to persist for the last decade,” Animal Asia said in an statement.
But at the signing on Wednesday, Cao Chi Cong, deputy director of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, said the government still faced “difficulties finding funds to prevent and stop the hunting and rescue of wild animals.”