The Bear Bile Controversy

4 Mar

It is commonplace for companies in China to seek a public listing.  With that comes the possibility for additional capital and faster growth.  Each month, dozens of companies go through the process and publish the required paperwork.  Along with going public comes the additional scrutiny of the public and that is where the story of bear bile begins.

The Chinese language news and the English language news in China can be two very different things.  I stay connected in my own way – a mix of western and eastern media, but for the true inside scoop I normally count on Li to fill me in.  One day last week he asked if I had heard about the most controversial publicly listed company in China. He said it was all over the net, in the news – there were protests going on – all about bear bile.

Now, I have heard of bear bile.  I know that it is considered a special type of Chinese medicine.  It has properties including fever reduction, improving eyesight, eliminating gallstones and many others.  I’ve also discovered that there are other alternatives including different herbs that can provide the same effect.  It is literally the bile from a bear – the digestive juices from the gall bladder, that is in a way “milked” from bears.  As far as I know, I have never eaten it.  In my opinion, it’s pretty gross.

But, I had never considered that a company with the main purpose of producing and selling bear bile powder would seek to become publicly listed.  That however, was the case. The Guizhentang Pharmaceutical company from Fujian province, which specializes in this potent ingredient is trying to do just that.

Even the English language media has picked up the story.  The BBC and The China Daily both have focused on a recent tour to the bear bile factory.  Yao Ming, the famous basketball star, has gotten involved – going to Fujian to try to “save the bears.”  The company has recently given a tour of its farm to try to quell the negative publicity, but instead it has fanned the flames further.  The China Daily reports that the company still expects that its application will eventually be accepted.

There has been another set of protests going on in Shanghai over the last couple of years about sharkfin soup – this seems to be of the same type.  I don’t know if the protests will eventually work or not, but I consider it a step that they are getting publicity at all.  Given the market economy that exists here, as long as there are people willing to buy bear bile powder or shark fin, these practices will continue to exist.  You could see this as a continuation of the protests against foie gras in the US or anti-modified food in France.  If anything major changes, I’ll be sure to comment on it here.

Do you think bear bile farming should continue?  Have you ever had shark fin soup?  Any thoughts?

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One Response to “The Bear Bile Controversy”

  1. valerie March 6, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    No and No! Glad to hear the protests are making the news and people are talking about these issues over there. Hopefully the discussion of these issues doesn’t end!

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