A black bear farm in south China′s Guangxi, where bears are raised for their bile, will be turned into a rescue center under an Animals Asia project.
The animal welfare group made the announcement jointly with the Nanning-based Flower World Bear Farm in Beijing on Tuesday.
Bear farms profit from taking bile from live bears and selling it to drug stores. The practice, which inflicts pain and damages the health of bears, has drawn criticism from animal rights activists and the public.
Under the Animals Asia project, the organization will invest 5 million U.S. dollars to send 28 sick bears raised in the farm to Animals Asia′s bear rescue center in southwest China′s Sichuan Province for treatment. Over the next three years it will also transform the Flower World Bear Farm, where 130 bears live, into its second rescue center in China.
"We are providing a sustainable model that shows how bile farms can be converted to sanctuaries," said Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of Animals Asia.
Bear bile is held in traditional Chinese medicine theory as a cure for ailments such as eye and liver problems. But doctors believe there are at least 50 herbs that can be used as a substitute in herbal pharmaceutical products.
Eight Chinese pharmacy chains announced last year that they have stopped selling bear bile products, as they joined Animals Asia′s campaign to end bear farming. The pharmacy chains have 151 drugstores in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.
Yan Shaohong, general manager of the Flower World Bear Farm in Nanning, regional capital of Guangxi, said the company chose to cooperate with Animals Asia because the executive board considered that the bear farming business had become increasingly unacceptable to the public.
There are an estimated 10,000 bears raised in pens for their bile. According to Animals Asia, the bears are tortured for bile extraction while living in cages with damp floors.
Animals Asia, founded in 1998, is devoted to ending the "barbaric practice of bear bile farming." According to its figure, it has rescued 285 black bears from Chinese bear farms.