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Bear Parts Trade


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CASE NUMBER: 5

CASE MNEMONIC: BEAR

CASE NAME: Bear Protection

I. Identification

1. The Issue

Bear gallbladders are prized in many Asian countries for their medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. In countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China, bear gallbladders sell for astronomical prices and are often considered more valuable than gold. Because bear parts commanded high prices in Asia, this demand diminished the bear populations with the rise in incomes there. With the decline in Asian bear populations, Asian merchants came to North America to procure gall bladders of the North American black bear. Reports indicate that an increasing quantity of bear gallbladder used in such medicines and aphrodisiacs are originating in the United States, from such places as the Shenandoah Valley or the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. Legislation has now been enacted to protect the bear in North America. In response, China has set up bear farming operations in many parts of the country to produce bear products. China is now are an exporter of bear products to other Asian countries.

2. Description

In the late 1980s, U.S. and Canadian park rangers began finding carcasses of American black bears, missing only their gallbladders and paws or claws. It was not until months that law enforcement officials began to realize the nature and scope of the problem: American black bears were slaughtered to meet demand in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. In these countries, the bile from bear gallbladders is considered to have great medicinal qualities. In China and elsewhere, bear paws are a gourmet delicacy, often used in soups.

The Asian bear population is declining rapidly. All five of Asia's bear species are so rare that captive animals are being farmed for their valued parts and their bile. Overall, all but two of the world's eight bear species are in danger of extinction. As Asia increases its level of economic development, the demand for bear parts will most likely increase. In fact, officials from the World Wildlife Fund claim that the demand for bear parts is every bit as severe as the demand for elephant ivory.

Augmenting the problem is the fact that international trade in American black bear parts is largely unrestricted because eight states -- New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Idaho, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine -- allow the sale and export of the bear parts. Conservationists say that because it is impossible to tell an American black bear's gallbladder from that of a protected species, traders can claim the organs come from legally hunted animals. It is these eight states in which sale and export of black bear parts are allowed that was causing the poaching problem.

Conservationists and wildlife organizations are beginning to approach the problem. At the 1992 annual meeting of the 113 signatory nations to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora bears were listed in Appendix II, the category in which regulated trade is permitted.

Under the existing CITES treaty, trade is outlawed in all Asian bear species except the brown bear. Conservationists have also found an ally in Congresswoman Helen Bentley of Maryland who introduced H.R. 4427 of Representatives which would outlaw the export of bear body parts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service objected to the CITES proposal on the grounds that U.S. black bear populations were healthy; furthermore, implementing the legislation would be too costly and that American black bears would be better protected by interstate cooperation rather than by international treaty. International outrage by governments and private groups over bear poaching forced the Chinese to seek alternatives. Thus, the Chinese have begun to "farm" bears and "milk" the bile from them. Most of these bears come from the Yunan province in China, with about 8,000 currently in captivity.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) launched campaigns against the trade in bear gall bladders, claws, and paws. However, the farming, permissible under Annex II of CITES, circumvented their efforts. Now these groups focus on the horrid conditions under which these animals are kept and the threat to extinction that the capture of wild bears holds for farming purposes.

The IFAW visit to the Zhuhai bear farm in 1993 (located near Hong Kong in China) sparked the international movement against the bear farms. The bears have tubes inserted into their stomachs in order to extract bile several times a day. While these bears are not immediately killed as in poaching, their lifetimes are still rather short. The bears are kept in cages so small that the animals must put their arms and legs outside of the cages. One IFAW official noted that "many of the bears...appear sick with their faces covered in scabs...several of the larger animals have one paw missing." There is a restaurant just outside the farm that sells paws; customers tour the farm to select their meal.

Bear farms are nonetheless a booming industry in China, with over 500 farms housing over 8,000 bears. China is now a major exporter of bile. The bile is a key ingredient in Chinese medicine, part of over 80 types of prescriptions that cure everything from cancer to athlete's foot. Few have any documented medical purpose. The bile is taken directly with wine, or mixed with Chinese herbs and rubbed directly on the skin. These prescriptions are often sought in lieu of proven medical treatments for maladies.

In June 1993 IFAW launched a campaign to save the bears. It encouraged its 1.3 million members to write letters to China's embassies protesting the practice. IFAW produced a videotape documenting the practice and offered to resettle the bears. On a site visit to the Jiang Li, China bear farm by Jim Lee in August 1994, there were approximately 500 bears kept on the premises along with one Amur tiger. About 50 bears were kept in one large open pen, with the others held in solitary cages for milking the bile or for breeding and cubs held in a nursery. Next door, a shop sold bear wine, bear potions, and bear powder products. The shop was located inside a government tourist bureau.

The Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC), a watchdog initiative was formed through the joining of World Wildlife Fund and The World Conservation Union. This was the powerful joint force involved in getting the black bear added to the CITES list. The WWF and the WCU continue to pressure the Canadian government for tighter crackdowns on offenders of the Canadian Wild Animal and Plant Protection Act. Recently, Canada's Bear Watch spokesperson, David Baker, called for increased fines and penalties for conviction of trade in illegal parts of British Columbian black bears.

Experts argue that while the British Colombian bear population remains at a healthy 300,000 to 400,000 now, up to 40,000 bears are illegally poached per year. In this same article, Mark Hayden stated, "The penalties (a maximum fine of 10,000 Canadian dollars or 7,500 U.S. dollars) are only enough to deter small-time poachers. We need penalties to deter the hard core." Conservationist organizations throughout British Columbia continue to press for harsher fines and even the institution of jail sentences for traffickers in illegal bear parts.

3. Related Cases

VEAL case

ECFURBAN case

BABYSEAL case

SHARK case

SWIFT case

ORANG case

TUNA case

HARP case

TIGER case

TIGERIND case

MEDICINE case

      Keyword Clusters         
 
      (1): Forum                    = CITES
      (2): Bio-geography            = TEMPerate [TEMP]
      (3): Environmental Problem    = Species Loss Land [SPLL] 
 

4. Draft Author: Tung-Lin Wu and David DiLuciano, Updated by Beth Walsh, November, 1997

II. Legal Clusters

5. Discourse and Status:DISagreement and Allegation

6. Forum and Scope: CITES and MULTIlateral

Bears are protected under the CITES treaty. The forum of this case includes the U.S. House of Representatives where related efforts were undertaken. H.R. 4427, 102nd Congress, second session, "Export of Black Bear Viscera (March 11, 1992), required the establishment of "a computer information system in Fish and Wildlife Service to record data on [bear] exports and imports."

7. Decision Breadth: 107 (CITES signatories)

CITES signatories voted to require the U.S. to impose medium level protection for the American black bear, home also in Canada and Mexico, over U.S. objections. Other members agreed that U.S. bear populations are doing well at the same time Asian bears were being decimated.

8. Legal Standing: TREATY

III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

One geographic site where the conflict between trade and the environment is occurring is North America, specifically the Shenandoah Valley and the Berkshire Mountains. It is in these two areas that bears are being killed so that their parts could be sold to Asian clients. The primary site now is in China and the neighboring Asian countries that supply the bears for farming operations.

a. Geographic Domain : ASIA

b. Geographic Site : East Asia [EASIA]

c. Geographic Impact : CHINA

10. Sub-National Factors: No

11. Type of Habitat: Temperate

IV. Trade Clusters

12. Type of Measure:Import Ban

The type of measure proposed is a trade ban that would stop the export of American black bear viscera to foreign countries. In addition, the proposed bill calls for the Secretary of the Interior to prepare and submit to Congress a report that describes (1) the effectiveness of the computerized information system of the Fish and Wildlife Service or the U.S. Customs Service that records data on the importation or exportation of body parts of the American black bears; and (2) whether the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to monitor the illegal movement of body parts of the American black bear. This report is to be submitted no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of H.R. 4427. A further ban has been proposed on the importation of bear bile. The Hong Kong Agricultural and Fisheries Department restricted the trade in bear gall bladders and bile, but not on bear bile products.

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Direct

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

      a.  Directly Related          : YES  BEAR
      b.  Indirectly Related        : YES  PHARMaceuticals
      c.  Not Related               : NO
      d.  Process Related           : YES  Species Loss Land [SPLL]
 

15. Trade Product Identification: Bear Parts

16. Economic Data

High demand and rising incomes have led to outrageous prices. The bile sells for $540 a spoonful or $150 a gram. The owners of the bear farm at Zhuhai (it is a public-private joint venture) grossed $402,000 in 1993.

17. Impact of Trade Restriction: Ban

18. Industry Sector: Food

19. Exporters and Importers: China and Many

Other bear exporters include Canada, Russia, and Vietnam, and importers include China, Taiwan and Korea. China is now an exporter of bear bile or its products to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Land

21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

Name: Bear (Ursus Americanus)

Type: Animal/Mammal/Carnivore

Diversity: 36 mammals per 10,000 km/sq (U.S.)

22. Resource Impact and Effect: HIGH and PRODuct

23. Urgency and Lifetime: HIGH and 30-40 years

No specific data is available on when the black bear or the bears in Asia will become extinct; however, reports from wildlife officials would indicate that the urgency of the problem is high. Only polar bears and certain brown bears are not considered in danger of extinction.

24. Substitutes: Synthetics

Scientists have already make synthetic products that contain properties similar to bear bile. Further, "the bile may contain some hormones, but you do not need to kill wild animals to get that, it can be bought from a chemist."

VI. Other Factors

25. Culture: Yes

Culture plays a critical role in the trade of bear parts and bile. Traditional Asian medicine has used such input materials for thousands of years to treatment a wide variety of ailments, although little scientific evidence exists suggesting that there are substantial curative properties in the products. Although synthetics do exist, there has been resistance to adopt them, consumers instead relying on "the real thing."

26. Trans-Boundary Issues: No

27. Rights: Yes

28. Relevant Literature

 "Animal Farms: Campaign to Stop Bear Killing Launched."  Window
 (June 18, 1993).
 
 "Elephant Skin and Bones."  The Economist 322 (February 29,       
 1992): 48.
 
 Griffin, Kathy.  "Bid to Stop Suffering of China's Black Bears."  
 South China Morning Post (June 29, 1993): 7-9. 
 
 Griffin, Kathy.  "Restrictions on Rare Species Medicine Trade."  
 South China Morning Post (January 28, 1994): 3.
 
 Griffin, Kathy.  "Fake Bear Gall Bladder Scam."  South China      
 Morning Post (January 27, 1994): 2.
 
 H.R. 4427.  Congressional Record (March 9, 1992): E582-585.   
 Laxton, Andrew.  "Progress Made in Curbing Animal Parts Trade:    
 Protection Efforts Praised."  South China Morning Post, (February
 6, 1994): 4.
 
 Mills, Judy.  "Milking the Bear Trade."  International Wildlife   
 22 (May/June, 1992): 38-45.
 
 Sharma, Yohova.  "Environment-Hong Kong: Ban on Tiger Parts and   
 Bear."  Inter Press Services (January 28, 1994).
 
 Tefft, Sheila.  "Hong Kong is Smuggling Hub for Banned Animal     
 Parts."  Christian Science Monitor (November 30, 1993):       11.
 
 "U.S. Cites Nations for Failing to Halt Trade in Tiger and      
 Rhinoceros Products."  National Wildlife 32 (December      
 1993/January 1994): 29.
 

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