The three tractor-trailer containers sat in a row, divided with metal partitions into 19 tiny, sweltering cells.
Massive claws and furry black noses poked between the iron bars: 19 rare Asiatic moon bears awaiting their next gall bladder milking. Their bile is a coveted traditional medicine ingredient used to treat everything from hemorrhoids to epilepsy.
Bear bile has been used for thousands of years in Asia to treat fevers, pain, inflammation and many other ailments. In the 1980s, China began promoting bear farms as a way to discourage poaching. The bears were housed in small cages, and the green bitter fluid was sucked from their gall bladders using crude catheters, sometimes creating pus-filled abscesses or internal bile leakage.
Another option is to use bile taken from slaughtered pigs or rabbits, which contains lower concentrations of ursodeoxycholic acid, or use artificial bear bile, which has a similar chemical makeup and produces the same medicinal effects.
"We found some animal bile and plants have better effects than bear bile in some diseases," Feng said. "Given all these, people in China should accept these alternatives. Of course, some people in mainland insist that no matter how close those substitutes can be, it is still not as good as the real ones."
Oh, fuck off with your witchcraft, people.
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