Press Release

Animal Wellness Action Says the Global Trade in Bear Parts Must End

Group Applauds Reps. Lieu, Davis, Kuster, and Thompson for Introducing the Bear Protection Act

Washington, D.C. — Today, Animal Wellness Action applauded lawmakers for introducing legislation to stop the exploitation of bears, seeking to end the killing of the animals for their gall bladders. Today, Representatives Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Ann Kuster, D-N.H., and Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., introduced the Bear Protection Act to crack down on the killing of bears in North America and throughout the world for their internal organs.

Bear gall bladders are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in China, there are bear “farms” where the animals are housed in concrete pits and “milked” for their bile, in a demonstrably inhumane circumstance. The Bear Protection Act would forbid any interstate transport or sales of bear galls and other viscera and forbid any imports or exports of these body parts. There are eight species of bears in the world, and once gall bladders are extracted from the body of a bear, they are visually indistinguishable in terms of species type.

“We shouldn’t be killing rhinos for their horns, elephants for their tusks, or bears for their bladders,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of Animal Wellness Action. “Wildlife trafficking is one of the greatest threats to rare species throughout the world, and the Bear Protection Act is a vital effort to take a bite of the bear gall bladder trade.”

“This legislation will proactively help protect the dwindling bear population in our country and ensure they are around for future generations,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis. I am proud to join my colleagues to bring an end to the inhumane practice of poaching and selling bear parts.”

The Bear Protection Act prohibits importing/exporting bear viscera, and the sale, barter, offering for sale or barter, purchasing, possessing, transporting, delivering, or receiving of bear viscera (gall bladders) in interstate or foreign commerce. Lawful hunting is not impacted.

Across the nation, bears and cubs are killed by poachers who take only their gallbladders, and sometimes their paws, leaving the rest of the bear behind. The gallbladders are easy to conceal and fetch a high price (exceeding $1,000 per gallbladder) due to their use in some 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 — bears are kept in small cages for years with a tube inserted directly into their gallbladder to obtain bile, often until the bear dies from the effects of this invasive and dangerous process. Asian Bear populations are in particular trouble, while other species of bears throughout the world face threats from the trade in their parts and the effects of other human activities.

There are 40 states have laws on the books to address this trade, revealing the emerging consensus to address this problem. The Bear Protection Act is needed to make a global statement about the trade from the United States, and to address gaps or inconsistencies in state laws. 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. Federal sentencing guidelines dictate that the market value of the item must be at least $350 for a prosecution under the federal Lacey Act, but the courts attribute the value of a gallbladder to only $280.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, now the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, last introduced this bill in the 111th Congress. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a Senate version of the Bear Protection Act two decades ago and his bill passed the Senate twice, but it was not acted upon by the House.

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News

Animal Wellness Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.