Published: Thursday 31 August 2000

The Chinese government has agreed to end black-bear farming. Wildlife Conservation Association, a government-affiliated environmental group, and the Sichuan Forestry Department have decided to close bear farms in the Sichuan province and rescue 500 bears in five years. This is a result of a seven-year long campaign by the Jill Robinson, who is the founder of the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation.

The authorities also plan to implement the programme in other provinces within 10 years and a sanctuary is being built in Ziyang city, Sichuan, for the rescued animals.

China has been practising bear farming since the 1980s and around 7,000 bears have been kept in 247 farms across the country. Black bear farming was encouraged by the government mainly to satisfy the demand for bile, which is a very useful traditional medicine used for healing sore eyes, liver-related illness and high fever. "Due to more supply and less demand, bear bile is now being used for non-essential uses such as making wine, shampoo and tea," says Robinson. All bear bile products can easily be replaced by herbs or synthetic alternatives, she added.

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