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July 31, 2009

Congress Aims to End Black Market in Bear Parts

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Reps. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and John Campbell, R-Calif., introduced bipartisan legislation that would help stop the illegal poaching of bears and conserve global bear populations. The Humane Society of the United States and Born Free USA called on Congress to swiftly pass the Bear Protection Act of 2009, which would prohibit the import, export and interstate commerce in bear parts such as the gallbladder and bile. 

"The lucrative black market trade in bear parts drives the illegal killing of these creatures from coast to coast across America and throughout the rest of the world," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of The Humane Society of the United States. "Passage of the Bear Protection Act would send a strong message to poachers and illicit wildlife dealers that we will not stand idly by, watching our wild bears unnecessarily slaughtered for their internal organs."

Adam Roberts, senior vice president of Born Free USA, added, "The bear parts trade is truly global in scope, putting endangered Asiatic black bears and our own American black bears at equal risk of merciless slaughter. Congress must act now before bears meet the same tragic fate as wild tigers or other species that have been decimated to supply the trade in their parts." 

Wild American bears and highly endangered Asian bears are slaughtered for their gallbladders and bile, which are consumed domestically or exported illegally as traditional folk remedies.  Meanwhile, Asiatic black bears are entombed in coffin-like cages in China and elsewhere in Asia, where they are cruelly milked for their bile with a steel catheter. When the bears outlive their bile-producing years, they are slaughtered, their paws are lopped off for high-priced soups and their gallbladders are ripped out for sale.

"This legislation is a simple but vital effort to deter poachers from slaughtering bears for their parts," Rep. Grijalva said. "The Bear Protection Act will not affect the lawful sport hunting of American bears, but will ensure that poachers do not indiscriminately wipe out this important natural resource."

"Some cultures around the world cruelly exploit bears for their internal organs," said Rep. Campbell. "This has created a market for gallbladders (and bile) that has resulted in the killing of many bears in America – including California – where the bear is killed, the gallbladder removed and the carcass left behind. This practice is not only disgusting, but it is also inhumane. The Bear Protection Act would prohibit the import, export and interstate commerce in bear gallbladders and bile, hopefully deterring poachers and smugglers from engaging in this dreadful practice."

Thirty-four states ban the sale of bear parts, but the absence of a strong federal law dealing with interstate and foreign commerce makes enforcement difficult. Some estimates suggest that the illegal poaching of black bears may even exceed the legal take by hunters, which is approximately 35,000 per year in the United States. Legislation similar to the Bear Protection Act twice passed the U.S. Senate unanimously — in 2000 and 2001 — but did not receive action in the House.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org

Born Free USA was founded to carry on the work of the UK-based Born Free Foundation, started by the stars of the legendary film, Born Free. We work to alleviate animal suffering, protect threatened and endangered species in the wild, and encourage everyone to treat wildlife everywhere with respect and compassion. On the web at bornfreeusa.org.

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