A campaign to end the cross-border trade of bear bile from China to South Korea is being launched on Wednesday 27 June by Animals Asia and the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), at a ceremony in Seoul, South Korea. The public awareness campaign will inform tourists and travel agencies in South Korea that bringing bear bile into the country from China, is illegal.
Every year, 300,000 South Korean tourists visit bear bile farms in China, according to information from local travel agencies, and 30 percent of these purchase bear bile and bring it back with them to South Korea. This is despite the import of bear bile to South Korea being illegal under Section 269 of the domestic import tariff.
The campaign will see the animal welfare groups working with local travel agencies to inform the public that they should not purchase bear bile and bring it into South Korea. The campaign will discourage tour companies from including bear farm trips as part of their itineraries and encourage tourists to refuse to purchase bear bile should they be taken to a bear farm.
Hyecho adventure travel, a South Korean travel agency will take part in the launch ceremony and join the campaign by informing their clients of the illegality of importing bear bile. They will promote the rescue and protection of bears.
Travel Times Korea, a weekly trade newspaper for the travel industry, and Travie Magazine, the monthly travel magazine in South Korea, will join the ceremony and provide free advertising for the campaign. Travel Times Korea is distributed to all travel agencies in South Korea, and Travie is widely read by the public.
The animal welfare groups will then approach other travel companies in South Korea, providing leaflets and posters, and inviting them to join the campaign.
Toby Zhang, China External Affairs Director, Animals Asia commented:
Animals Asia is an animal welfare group that campaigns to end bear bile farming, and the only organisation with a bear sanctuary in China. The Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears from the bear bile industry since 1994. KAWA is a government-registered non-profit group in South Korea that supports and promotes animal welfare and was founded in 1991. KAWA works to reduce suffering and create change for all animals through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, and protest campaigns.
In addition to the animal welfare and public health concerns, bear bile farming is also a conservation issue. Asiatic black bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) lists Asiatic black bears in appendix 1, the most critical category of endangerment.
Leading conservationists believe that bear bile farming is having a negative impact on the Asiatic Black Bear population, with many farmed bears found to have been illegally caught in the wild. The bear farming industry promotes the use of bile, and drives demand, which in turn is thought to lead to the capture of more bears.