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Endangered Moon Bears Are Being Farmed in South Korea for a COVID-19 Cure

Bears used for extracting bile are held in captivity in tiny cages. The bile is extracted using a catheter into the bear’s gallbladder, which is very painful and can lead to infection.

MIN JI KOO: Moon bears, also known as Asian black bears, have historically been prized throughout Asia for their bile, which is commonly used for traditional medicinal purposes. Their bile has been especially sought after in Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has been promoted as a possible coronavirus treatment.

According to National Geographic, moon bears are the most common species of bears farmed for their bile in Southeast Asia. The bile from these bears contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, which has been shown to be effective in helping treat certain liver and gallbladder conditions in humans.

Beyond its medical value, bear bile has also historically been promoted across Asia as a way to cure hangovers or treat acne, according to Animals Asia, an animal welfare group headquartered in Hong Kong, though these claims remain scientifically unproven.

According to Animals Asia, bears used for extracting bile are held in captivity and are kept in tiny cages. The bile is extracted using invasive methods, like inserting a catheter into the bear’s gallbladder, which can be painful to the animal and lead to infection.

Though the practice has been widely condemned over the years, the farming of bear bile remains in South Korea. According to a June 2020 report from the Korean Animal Welfare Association, over 430 bears used for their bile are currently being held in cages across 30 South Korean farms…

The owner of the biggest moon bear farm in South Korea sparked renewed interest in the controversial practice in June, telling the Korean Broadcasting System, South Korea’s national public broadcaster, that the bear’s bile “cures all diseases, such as the coronavirus.” South Korean animal rights activists, who have long fought to end bear bile farming, have taken note of enhanced interest in the practice, and have reiterated its cruelty.

Kim Su-jin, an activist at Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), told VICE News that the conditions of the bears kept for farming are extremely poor and that most cages, which are usually three to six feet in size, are too tiny for the bears. When cases are larger, up to ten bears share the cramped space…

Several South Korean animal rights activist groups, such as KAWA, have urged the government to enact legislation to end the bear farming and place the bears in proper sanctuaries. But activists, including Kim, have acknowledged that freeing the bears may result in a loss for farmers, making it a tough sell. SOURCE…


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