Illegal products from Vietnam’s horrific bear bile farms reach Australia

Despite effective alternatives in the form of synthetic replacements, bear bile is used as an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 


Australian customs have seized close to 130 shipments of suspected bear bile products in the past five years (2012–2016) in contravention of Australian and international law. At least seven of these shipments originated in Vietnam where the horrific practice of bile extraction continues despite the sale and consumption of bear bile being outlawed in the country for over a decade.

International trade in bear bile products is prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a convention to which Australia and Vietnam are both signatories.

Shocking new footage of ‘bile extraction’ on Vietnamese bear farms has sparked an international call on the Vietnamese government to bring an end to bear farms. International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS will support the government with stricter enforcement and is building a sanctuary where rescued bile bears will spend the rest of their lives in humane conditions.

“In 2005, the Vietnamese government took the commendable step to ban the sale and consumption of bear bile. Despite this, around 1,300 bears still live in extremely cruel conditions in tiny metal cages on approximately 400 ‘bear farms’ across Vietnam, and our research suggests many of these bears are still used for bile extraction and that it is easy to illegally obtain bear bile in large quantities on the internet and throughout Vietnam.”

Jeroen van Kernebeek,  FOUR PAWS Australia, Managing Director

Footage shows anaesthetised bears in tiny cages having bile extracted under horrific conditions. After locating the gallbladder with an ultrasound unit, a long needle is injected through the bear’s abdominal wall into the gallbladder and the bile is extracted through a catheter. FOUR PAWS has seen footage of bears who were inadequately anaesthetised and suffering and distressed during the painful 'milking' procedure.

Both the moon bears and sun bears used for extraction are on the brink of local extinction as a result of relentless illegal poaching, trading and demand for their parts and derivatives.

Often caught in the wild, the bears spend their days in a vegetative state, half-starved and dehydrated, suffering from infections caused by crude and unhygienic bile extraction processes and equipment. Regular bile extractions and lack of care and veterinary treatment result in diseases such as abscesses, sepsis and liver cancer. The extremely confined living conditions on bear farms cause chronic behavioural disorders that even lead to animals mutilating themselves in severe cases.

FOUR PAWS aims to cooperate with the Vietnamese government to achieve a sustainable and animal-friendly solution for the remaining captive bears and to protect wild bear populations.

Bear bile is used as an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Despite the existence of effective alternatives, bear bile is still used to treat ailments ranging from eye diseases to hematoma and digestive disorders.

People around the world can sign a petition to encourage the Vietnamese government to take the necessary measures to end bear farming:

Professional photographs and rough cuts of footage of the extraction and sale of bile, as well as images of bears on Vietnamese bear farms, are available for publication upon request.

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FOUR PAWS press contact

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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