Anger over Chinese drug firm selling bear bile

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A CHINESE pharmaceutical company that wants to build business links in Scotland has been condemned by animal rights groups for using bile from bears’ gall bladders in its products.

The Beijing headquarted Tong Ren Tang Group is one of ten Chinese companies due to meet with Scottish business leaders in Edinburgh tomorrow in an event promoted by Scottish Development International (SDI). But animals rights campaigners and opposition politicians said the company should not be allowed to develop its business interests in the UK unless it stops using bear bile in a range of medicines.

The use of bear bile for traditional medicine cures is a growing industry in China but animal rights groups want an end to bear farming because of the appalling conditions the animals suffer. Bile from bears is a key ingredient in a number of remedies, including the curing of hangovers.

One method of extraction is cutting a hole in a bear’s stomach so bile can drip from the gall bladder and the holes are left open, leading to infection and disease.

Lib-Dem MSP Jim Hume, said: “It would seem that Scottish Government cash is being used to promote a company with a questionable attitude to animal welfare. We know that the Chinese market is a real opportunity for Scottish businesses and SDI is doing some fantastic work in boosting our trade links but ministers must recognise that a dose of due diligence over just how taxpayer money is being spent is required.”

Toby Zhang, of Animals Asia, said: “Tong Ren Tang sells a number of products containing bear bile. The industry sees thousands of bears surgically mutilated and held in cages. Bile is extracted despite the availability of a number of effective herbal and synthetic alternatives. We hope that Tong Ren Tang will show social responsibility and leadership by stopping the production and sale of products that contain bear bile.”

Mimi Bekhechi, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: “Asian black bears spend up to 30 years in cages so small that they can’t even stand up. The bears chew on the bars of their cages, breaking their teeth. They suffer from malnutrition, ­infections, dehydration, severe muscle atrophy and unimaginable mental anguish, leaving them to beat their heads against their cages in frustration and despair. All these ailments can easily be cured with synthetic medicines.”

The SDI is a government-funded body with a role in encouraging inward investment and promoting Scottish business overseas. The SDI event is being held in a venue at the Edinburgh BioQuarter area at Little France and businessmen are being invited to meet a range of Chinese companies in the pharmaceuticals industry.

An event notice says: “Ten Chinese companies mainly in the pharmaceutical sector will visit Scotland on 8 July with the objective of doing business with Scottish companies and learning about opportunities within the sector.

“There will be presentations on opportunities in both China and Scotland and a chance to speak with companies over a working lunch.”

Julia Brown, director of chemical and life sciences at Scottish Enterprise, said: “None of the companies involved received financial support from SDI in relation to this visit. Our focus is to help Scotland’s life sciences community identify new opportunities.

“We have provided a venue for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to host an event at Edinburgh BioQuarter to explore potential trade 
opportunities with Scottish companies.”

Tong Ren Tang did not respond to requests for a comment.