AN industry association's statement backing a drug firm's IPO plan failed to quell opposition from animal activists who accuse it of torturing bears to extract their bile.
The China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicines argued that harvesting bile is painless for bears raised by Fujian Province-based Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Development Co Ltd at a press conference held in Beijing yesterday.
The industry association showed its support in a bid to soothe public outrage over the drug company's attempts to become publicly listed. Guizhentang, which keeps 470 bears to extract bile to make Traditional Chinese Medicine, appeared on a list of 220 companies awaiting approval to trade on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
"Collecting bile is like turning on a tap. It's painless, natural and simple. I didn't see bears suffering in the process," said chairman of the association Fang Shuting after visiting Guizhentang's bear farm.
"After the bile is extracted, bears can still drink milk and honey and have fun in the farm," Fang added, as quoted in Caijing magazine.
His claims were refuted by animal-rights groups and aroused overwhelming criticism.
"As far as we know, bile extraction involves inserting a catheter into a live bear's abdomen and leaving the cut open until the bear dies, causes great suffering and life-long infection," a project manager of Ta Foundation under the animal welfare group Beijing Loving Animals Foundation, surnamed Lin, told Shanghai Daily yesterday.
"Even if the process is painless, it still does great harm to bears. Research found all bears whose bile was collected had gallbladder disease, and 30 percent had cancer," Lin said.
There are currently 68 licensed bear farms in China and more than 10,000 bears are bred. Between 6,000 and 8,000 bears get their bile extracted everyday, Fang said, claiming "raising bears is the best way to protect them."
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, bear bile helps cure ailments including eye and liver problems. Bear bile powder can sell for as much as 4,000 yuan (US$635) a kilogram.
According to Guizhentang's website, the company plans to use the cash raised by the IPO to expand the size of its farm and increase the number of its bears to 1,200.
Ta Foundation filed a petition to the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, trying the block Guizhentang's fund-raising attempts. The foundation is calling for synthetic substitutes for bear bile.