Brutal conditions at bear bile farms in Vietnam

2014-12-11 12:27

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Hanoi - Bears kept on farms in one of Vietnam's most famous tourism destinations, Ha Long Bay, are being kept in "shocking" conditions in order to extract their bile, an animal rights group said on Thursday.

The report comes a month after the local forestry protection department for the first time allowed staff from Hong Kong-based Animals Asia to inspect 49 bears at the three farms operating in the area.

Over half of the bears were classed as "emaciated" and many were missing limbs and had wounds on their bodies, the group said.

"It was a shocking scene," Vietnam director of animals Asia Tuan Bendixsen said.

It is illegal to extract bile - often used to manufacture traditional medicines - from bears in Vietnam but the animals can still be kept on behalf of the government as pets or tourist attractions.

The government launched efforts to phase out bile extraction in 2005 by microchipping 4 000 bears to ensure no more were taken from the wild. However, poor government supervision allowed the farms to continue.

All of the animals at the farms were microchipped and under the law it will be difficult to prove bile extraction takes place, the rights group said. However, action can still be taken against the farm owners because of the poor conditions.

"Essentially these are government-owned bears registered with farmers who provide their care," Bendixsen said. "The farm conditions and the fact that bears are dying is clear proof the farmers aren't upholding their side of the deal."

In October local non-governmental organisation education for nature Vietnam said the bear farms in Ha Long Bay had closed down following pressure from local authorities. It said no visitors had been taken to the farms since May.

However, Animals Asia refuted these claims, saying the bile trade would only end in the area when there were no more animals on the farms.

In recent years activists have ramped up public awareness campaigns highlighting the cruel conditions on the farms and reducing the consumption and use of bear bile and bear products.

Bear numbers on Halong Bay bear farms have dropped from 280 in 2007 to 49. Many bile products are sold to tourists, mostly from South Korea.

Across the country nearly 2 000 bears remain in bile farms, Animals Asia said.

Read more on:    vietnam  |  animal abuse

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