Bear Protection Act Aims to Stop Poaching and Export for the Bear Bile Trade


We need to protect bears from being killed for their gallbladders!

Across the United States and around the world, bears and their cubs are killed by poachers who take only their gallbladders, and sometimes their paws, leaving the rest of the bear behind. The gallbladders fetch a high price due to their use in traditional Chinese medicine. The trade is heavily centralized in China and South Korea, where bears are farmed for their bile in what amounts to a horror show, with bears kept in small cages for years with a tube inserted directly into their gallbladder to obtain bile until they eventually die from infection and agony. As Asian bear populations have dwindled, now bears in the United States are being targeted too.

Shockingly, the Chinese government has included injections containing bear bile on a list of recommended treatments for COVID-19, giving false hope to those suffering from the virus and perpetuating  unnecessary cruelty to bears.

The Bear Protection Act (H. R. 2264/S. 3196) aims to end bear poaching by prohibiting the import and export of bear viscera as well as their sale, barter, purchase, possession, transport, delivery or receipt. Legal hunting will not be impacted. This legislation is needed to help Animal Wellness Action’s (AWA) effort to crack down on wildlife trafficking and stop contributions to this cruel global trade. AWA is an animal advocacy and welfare organization based in Washington D.C. and is joined by a coalition of other animal protection organizations committed to getting the Bear Protection Act passed.

Sloth bears are one of the Asian bear species in decline due in large part to poaching. Image credit Smithsonian’s National Zoo, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Killing bears for their gallbladders has been linked to large organized crime networks, and bear populations are at risk around the globe due to the growing and unsustainable trade in bear gallbladders. In the late 1980’s, poachers began targeting bears in the U.S., where bear populations are very healthy. Hunters and park rangers began finding dead bears missing only their gallbladders, which led to investigations that uncovered evidence of large organizations dealing in the poaching and smuggling of bear parts. 

While 40 states have laws on the books to address this trade, protections vary widely from state to state. A trafficker in Colorado may face up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, while a trafficker in Kentucky may receive only a $100 fine.

AWA and thousands of supporters strongly believe that federal action is needed to put an end to the poaching of American bears. 

To help in this effort, please click here to send a note to your representatives asking them to cosponsor this important legislation.

Featured image: a brown bear, one of the wild bear species targeted by poachers in the United States. Image credit Beverly & Pack, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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