The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vietnam cannot have both Bears and bear bile

Ha Noi, November 23th, 2010 – Twenty-two percent of Vietnamese people said that they have used bear bile in the past, according to the findings of the study by Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) on attitudes associated with bear bile use in Vietnam.
A total of 3,032 people were surveyed in three cities in Vietnam: Hanoi (north), Da Nang (central) and Ho Chi Minh City (south). The participants were randomly selected and interviewed by telephone to analyze the motivation behind bear bile consumption and evaluate demographic differences between respondents in their attitudes toward the use of bear bile.

The survey results suggested that:
·         Bear bile is considered as a magic medicine that can cure a range of health problems including muscle complaints, bruises, digestive problems or even cancer. Bear bile is mainly used to treat specific health problems (73%). Bear bile is also used for general health improvement (24%) and entertainment purposes (14%).

·         Hanoi has a much higher percentage of bear bile users than Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City.  Thirty-five percent of survey participants in Hanoi claimed that they have used bear bile in the past, while only 16% of those in Ho Chi Minh City and 15% in Da Nang said that they have used bear bile.

·         The percentage of men using bear bile is higher than the percentage of women in all three cities. Almost 1/3 of all male survey participants (29%) claimed to have consumed bear bile in the past compared to 17% of all women surveyed.

·         People with higher education levels (college degree or higher) are more likely to use bear bile than people with lower education levels (high schools or lower levels). Bear bile consumption also rises with age and the use of bear bile is different between age groups.

Vietnam is home to two species of bears, the Asiatic Black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). Both species are being pushed to the edge of extinction, mainly due the illegal hunting and trade to support the demand for bear bile used as a traditional form of medicine. Bears are usually captured as cubs in the wild and sold to bear farms where they are raised and used to extract bile from the gall bladder. Currently, there are about 3,500 bears in farms in Vietnam, most of which originated from the wild.  

Vietnam’s bears are in trouble,” says Ms. Vu Thi Quyen, founding director and the author of the report. “Urgent and tough measures are needed to put an end to bear farming and trade in Vietnam.”
Based on the findings from this study, ENV recommends following actions:

·        A long-term and sustained awareness campaign must be carried out in order to dispel the belief that bear bile is a form of magic medicine. The campaign should promote medical alternatives to bear bile (both herbal and western medicine) and highlight its perceived ineffectiveness as reported by former users.

·        Stronger laws and more effective law enforcement are critical to efforts to phase out bear farming and eliminating bear bile consumption.  All unregistered bears discovered by authorities should be confiscated and the owners appropriately punished.

·        Studies should be carried out to identify major wild populations of bears in Vietnam where protection and recovery efforts should be prioritized; an analysis of commercial farming of bears and other endangered species and its impact on species conservation should be conducted.

The results of ENV’s study will help authorities and conservation organizations to develop more effective measures to address bear bile consumption and trade in Vietnam and enhance protection for what may be Vietnam’s last remaining bears in the wild.  

“We need to face a tough choice,” says Ms. Quyen, “Vietnam can’t have wild bears and bear bile too.”

The full results of the study have been compiled in a report, An Analysis of Attitudes and Bear Bile Use in Vietnam (Vietnamese and English version).  ENV wishes to thank the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) for supporting this important study.

Related Links

Bear campaign TV Public Service Announcements
Bear extinction guaranteed PSA:
Younger generation Say “No” PSA:

About Education for Nature - Vietnam

Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) was established in 2000 as Vietnam’s first non-governmental organization focused on conservation of nature and the environment through education.  Our mission is to foster greater understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about environmental issues of local, national and global significance, ranging from protection of wildlife and natural ecosystems to climate change. We employ creative and innovative strategies to influence attitudes and behavior, not only highlighting the need to protect Vietnam’s rich natural heritage and the living world around us, but also encouraging greater public participation in achieving this important and challenging task.

ENV’s efforts to protect Vietnam’s endangered bears

ENV has been working for more than five years to end bear farming and trade, carrying out a range of activities including investigations and surveys of bear farms, working with authorities to confiscate illegal bears, and combating consumer crimes such as selling bear bile and products made from bears, ENV’s legislative and policy arm works to build support amongst key government decision-makers and leaders to improve policy and strengthen legislation aimed at protecting Vietnam’s bears, and ensure that current laws are enforced effectively, while ENV’s public awareness and education unit carries out campaigns with the aim of reducing the consumption and use of bear bile and bear products. Recent campaigns have include airing public service announcements on TV and radio, campaigning through the media, billboards and advertising on buses, and public events throughout Vietnam  hosted by ENV’s mobile awareness unit.

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