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Public outrage at the extraction of bear bile has been growing in recent years. But it hasn't stopped the industry from expanding. The reason lies in the importance of the substance in the eyes of the traditional medical industry.
This is bile. Extracted from a bear.
China's healers have been using it for more than 13 centuries. It's rare, so is considered of great importance.
Industry studies show that bear bile does have some virtues. It can act as a pain killing, reduce inflammations, protect the liver and help dissolve gall-stone.
The China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine says it's important to the development of the Chinese medical industry.
Fang Shuting with China Association of TCM said: "Traditional Chinese medicine owns intellectual property rights and is very competitive in the world's medical industry. As one of the rarest elements of Chinese medicine, bear bile's medical value is irreplaceable."
Modern bear bile extraction methods were introduced in the 1980s. Currently there are 68 legal bear farms across the nation. They hold about 10-thousand bears. A good two-thirds of them have their bile extracted.
Professor Gao Xuemin from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine said: "153 kinds of Chinese medication contain bear bile."
In 2007, there were reports that a replacement for bear bile had been discovered. But five years on and medical authorities still haven't endorsed it. Some say this is to blame for large scale bear farming.
Yet, traditional Chinese medical doctors deny this.
Gao said: "Urso is one of the more than 40 elements in bear bile. It can't replace the whole bile. The rule of replacement is equality in function, and safe for human."
Some pharmacies have stopped selling bear bile products as a result of the dispute. But until a ban is placed on animal cruelty, the only way for people to oppose the industry is to boycott it.