As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take lives and plague economies around the world, people remain hopeful of effective cures for the disease. China, where the new coronavirus likely originated late last year in a wet marketplace where wild animals were for sale as food, has just approved a cure to treat infected patients: bear bile.
The country’s National Health Commission now recommends the use of “Tan Re Qing,” a traditional medicinal formula that contains powdered bear bile, goat horn, and some medicinal herbs. The move is in line with President Xi Jinping’s push to promote traditional medicine, which he calls a “treasure of Chinese civilization,” along with scientific treatments.
Ursodeoxycholic acid, which can be derived from bear bile, has been widely used in China and countries like Vietnam to treat liver disease and dissolve gallstones. However, it has not been shown to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19. Furthermore, much of traditional Chinese medicine is not science but superstition of rank. It is also a scourge in exotic wildlife.RELATED
After the new coronavirus outbreak, China banned the sale of exotic animals for food, but the country’s continued confidence in healer medicine fortified with parts of exotic animals means that critically endangered animals such as sun bears and moon bears will continue to serious risk.
According to a new report by the environmental group World Animal Protection, some 24,000 bears are kept in cages in China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and South Korea so they can be raised for their bile in traditional medicine. In China alone, around 20,000 endangered bears are kept for this purpose, and this in a country that is promoted as a brave protector of panda bears.
“This should sound the alarms following the spread of COVID-19, since 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and it is believed that 70% of them come from wild animals,” warns the non-profit organization. profit.
There is also the great suffering that all these thousands of unfortunate bears must endure on bear farms, where conditions are invariably dire. “Bile is extracted from live bears suffering from unhealthy bears, and it is one of the most extreme forms of animal abuse in the world,” says World Animal Protection.
“The bears are largely bred in captivity, trapped in small, sterile cages under industrial farm-style conditions for the duration of their long and miserable lives. They suffer unthinkable trauma on a regular basis, “he adds. “Most commonly, its bile is drained from its gallbladder using a metal tube through a surgically created opening in the bear’s abdomen.”
The irony of using wildlife products to combat a virus that has leaped us from exotic animals is not lost on conservationists.
“We shouldn’t rely on wildlife products like bear bile as the solution to combat a deadly virus that appears to have originated in wildlife,” emphasizes Brian Daly, a member of the Animals Asia Foundation.
“The promotion of bear bile has the propensity to increase the amount used, affecting not only captive bears, but also wild ones, which can compromise an already endangered species in Asia and around the world” he adds.
It’s also not just bears that continue to feel the brunt of the constant demand for exotic animal parts in China and elsewhere. Pangolins are also at risk of being looted to extinction only so that their scales can be used in traditional Chinese medicine. These flakes, which are made of keratin, have no real medicinal value.
According to a new report from the Wildlife Justice Commission, 206 tons of pangolin scales were seized in 52 seizures between 2016 and 2019, from Africa to Asia. And that, he says, “is only a fraction of the total trafficking since a significant proportion of the smuggling is likely to go undetected.”
It has been suggested that the deadly new coronavirus causing COVID-19 may have originated from pangolins as it bears a strong genetic similarity to a virus found in these plastic anteaters.
Meanwhile, pangolins face the possibility of becoming extinct throughout their range in Africa and Asia. In just 10 years, more than 1 million animals have been poached, most of them in Africa, where criminal gangs often operate with impunity in the face of lax law enforcement.
Unless the demand for its parts in traditional Chinese medicine decreases, pangolins and other critically endangered animals may be doomed.
By Daniel T. Cross. Article in English
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