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Bear Bile Farming

A Debate over Traditional Medicine and Its Role in Conservation


Author(s)

Tyler C. Leary
Center for Conservation Medicine
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
tylerleary22@gmail.com
Whitney E. Smith
Center for Conservation Medicine
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
wesmithsw@gmail.com
Tara T. Francis
Center for Conservation Medicine
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
tarafrancis@me.com

Abstract

Bear bile is a prized ingredient used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, but the means by which bile is collected from live, captive bears has recently become a topic of controversy. This case study challenges students to examine how vulnerable species such as Asiatic black bears are used to supply bear bile farms and to unpack the ethical dilemma involved with their treatment in captivity. The overall goal of this case is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the commercial bear bile farming industry and the far-reaching impacts it has around the globe economically, culturally, socially, and environmentally. To conclude the case, students outline a comprehensive plan that would regulate and potentially eliminate bear bile farming and consumption in China while taking into consideration the stakeholders involved. The case is designed for high school and undergraduate students in ecology, conservation biology, environmental science, wildlife biology, or other related fields.


Objectives

  • Describe the cultural and historical components that have influenced bear bile consumption.
  • Understand the role of gender in bear bile consumption.
  • Identify key stakeholders involved in the bear bile industry and understand the role each plays.
  • Analyze China’s economic role in the bear bile industry and why it is a key stakeholder.
  • Examine the many roles Asiatic black bears play within the ecosystem and what changes would occur if they were removed
  • Compare and contrast potential solutions to bear bile farming and the consequences of each.

Keywords

Bears; traditional Chinese medicine; wildlife trade; wildlife conservation; China; bear bile; stakeholders; endangered species; poaching

Topical Areas

Ethics, Legal issues, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Ecology  |   Economics  |   Environmental Science  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Science (General)  |   Wildlife Management  |  


Date Posted

09/06/2021

Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below is an optional game show quiz that may be played to test the knowledge of the students to see what they have learned.

  
  bear_bile_sup.ptx ~1 MB

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

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