Bears are not able to produce offspring in captive living conditions, which means that all the bears in Vietnamese bear farms have been caught by our local hunters, or smuggled in from Lao and Myanmar. Bears are dying on a daily basis in terrible conditions, confined in narrow and stinking steel cages, made unconscious and prodded with needles to have bile extracted repeatedly each month, and contracting diseases such as liver cancer and being given huge doses of antibiotics to keep them alive.
There have been some scientific studies warning that bile from bred bears is not beneficial to health as otherwise advertised, instead suggesting that it might be harmful because it contains blood, narcotics and antibiotics. Nowadays we have many kinds of alternative medicines to bear bile so why do we need to kill innocent animals for our health?
To highlight just how bad the problem is, bear farm owners have cooperated with travel agents to bring foreign tourists to visit their farms and buy bear products such as paws, bile and bile wine. A bear farm owner freely announced: “Our farm has the right to do that despite the prohibition of the laws against all actions regarding the exploitation of bear bile and trading. Everyone knows what we are breeding bears for.” Many farms like those are located only a hundred meters away from the districts’ Forest Protection Department (FPD), but the authorities ignore it. Some people are reaping huge benefits from “black business”, but the country suffers a serious loss.
Breeding bears for bile could eventuate in the extinction of bears in Vietnam and neighboring countries as it encourages more and more hunting. Extracting bear bile is an act not only breaking Vietnam’s laws in protecting endangered species, but also violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, otherwise known as CITES. Moreover, Vietnam could face the protest of world public opinion, which could place embargoes on our legal export products such as crocodile, python and turtle and make our farmers suffer.
If we do not deal with bear farm owners more strictly, it will weaken and invalidate laws regarding forest protection, environment conservation, and Biodiversity. Halong is an invaluable heritage area, not only to Vietnam but the rest of the world, a sparkling crystal on the East Sea. If we are not logical in our management of Tourism and Services, it will stain the beautiful image of the area and leave a lasting negative impression on travelers who love to visit Ha Long.
NGUYEN DINH XUAN
(Science, Technology and Environment Committee of Parliament)
Translated by Le Anh Quang on Sep 16th 2009; Edited by Simone Nance on Sep 18th 2009
Please note: Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV