Shortly after China took steps to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals, the Chinese government has recommended using Tan Re Qing, a drug derived from bear bile, to treat the most serious cases of COVID-19. Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Invasive and very painful techniques are used to extract the fluid from various species of bears.
Animal Asia, a nonprofit dedicated to ending bear bile farming, describes the heinous cruelty as bears are kept in small cages for decades. Their bile is routinely extracted by inserting a needle into their gallbladders. The process is invasive and causes severe pain, suffering and infection. Consumers risk ingesting the bile from sick bears contaminated with urine and feces and blood.
According to the Environment Investigation Agency, (EIA), it has become one of a number of recommended treatments published by China’s National Health Commission, although wildlife experts argue it is contradictory to their latest announcements banning the live trade in animals used for food.
Bear bile contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, known as ursodiol, and has been clinically tested to treat liver disease and gallstones. It has been available as a synthetic drug around the world for decades. Traditional Chinese medicine uses Tan Re Qing to treat upper respiratory infections.
There has been no proof that bear bile is an effective treatment for coronavirus. The use of bear bile from captive animals in China is legal, however it is banned from wild animals as is the import of bear bile from other countries. The illegal trade continues even though Asiatic black bears are protected from international trade under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
It is feared the bile trade will now increase.
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