Chinese government recommends bear bile as coronavirus treatment

Bile extraction from a bear Cruel and pointless: bile is extracted from a bear (© Lapis2380 / shutterstock.com)

Mar 26, 2020

Oh, the irony: the Chinese government recommends injections of “Tan Re Qing” – a traditional “medicine” containing bear bile – to treat COVID-19, a virus that made the leap from animals to humans via wildlife products.

Bile, a digestive fluid “harvested” from captive bears, is apparently traditional Chinese medicine’s answer to the COVID-19 coronavirus – a pandemic that broke out in a Chinese wildlife market. This was reported by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), citing a list of treatment options published by China’s national health administration on March 4. The list includes “Tan Re Qing”, a remedy that contains bear bile, as a treatment for “serious” and “critical” cases of coronavirus.

Faced with the crisis, China shut down its wildlife markets in February – but only with regard to food, not traditional medicine. Instead of decisively combating the trade in wild animals, the Chinese government is creating incentives to keep it alive.

Even though bile is usually harvested from captive-bred bears, many users prefer bile from wild bears, thus posing a danger to wildlife. Pangolin scales, tiger bones and antelope horn are some of the other wildlife products used for medicinal purposes in China. The vast majority of Chinese people, however, reject traditional medicines based on wild animals.

Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) are classed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Numerous experts and conservationists are speaking out for an end to the wildlife trade, in China and worldwide. Please sign our petition calling for a worldwide ban on wildlife markets.