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  International Herald Tribune 1 Mar 07
Singapore fines traditional Chinese medicine shops over bear bile products
The Associated Press

The New Paper 2 Mar 07
Chinese Medicine Shops Busted In Bear Goods Sting
Tortured bears in volunteers’ minds when they’re posing as customers…
They say of sting: Hardest part is pretending to be happy
By Teh Jen Lee

The Straits Times 2 Mar 07
Fewer TCM shops selling illegal bear products
By Tania Fong

Today Online 2 Mar 07
What's that red label in the TCM shop?
Scheme aims to stamp out sale of endangered species products
Gracia Chiang gracia@mediacorp.com.sg

BY THE end of this month, the public will be able to tell if a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop is selling endangered species products. Under a new voluntary labelling scheme launched yesterday, shops committed to not selling such products will place the red-coloured label (picture) at their entrance.

Organised by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Singapore TCM Organisations Committee (STOC), the "Acres and STOC Endangered Species-Friendly TCM Label" will cover three endangered species, namely bears, rhinoceroses and tigers.

These three species are currently given highest protection under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement of which Singapore is a signatory.

Mr Lee Tiong Sa, chairman of STOC said: "Even though this scheme does not guarantee 100 per cent that TCM shops will not sell such products anymore, it's a form of psychological pressure because, by putting up the label, you have to set a good example."

Nine TCM companies representing more than 10 retail outlets have signed on so far. Mr Ng said that Acres and STOC would be holding joint seminars at the TCM College of Singapore and issuing circulars to STOC members in order to increase that number to 500 within half a year.

There are currently more than 800 TCM retail outlets in Singapore.

This new scheme comes on the back of a recent Acres undercover investigation into the illegal trade in bear products for TCM in Singapore which was conducted from May to October last year. Five pairs of undercover investigators visited 115 TCM shops to inquire if they sold bear products ranging from bile pills to gall bladders.

Some 20 per cent of shops were caught on tape, down from 73.5 per cent from a similar 2001 investigation. Although the significant drop is encouraging, director of investigations Ms Charlene Tan said the aim is to "completely wipe out the trade in endangered species".

Based on this tip-off, government regulatory body, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) made their own rounds at 100 TCM shops this year and found 14 shops offering illegal bear products for sale.

Out of these, two samples were tested to be genuine bear bile products and these shops were fined $3,000 and $5,000. The remaining 12 shops that offered bear products, which turned out to be fakes, were fined between $500 and $1,000.

AVA's head of wildlife regulatory, Ms Lye Fong Keng, welcomed the use of the labels. She said: "This scheme supplements AVA's outreach programmes and continual efforts in stamping out illegal wildlife trade."

International Herald Tribune 1 Mar 07
Singapore fines traditional Chinese medicine shops over bear bile products
The Associated Press

SINGAPORE: Singapore has fined 14 retailers for illegally selling traditional Chinese medicine made with or claiming to contain bile from endangered bears, authorities said Thursday.

The bitter, green bile extracted from the gallbladders of endangered bear species usually found in China, have long been used to treat eye, liver and other ailments in Chinese tradition. About 70 percent of Singapore's 4.5 million people are ethnic Chinese.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, or AVA, issued a statement saying that in the past two months it has found two shops selling genuine bear bile products. It said it also discovered that a dozen others were offering medicines said to contain bear extracts that turned out to be fake.

The statement did not specify which bear species the bile came from. The shops were each fined between 500 Singapore dollars (US$327; €247) and S$5,000 (US$3,276; €2, 479).

In Singapore, selling or advertising products containing parts of endangered animals draws a maximum penalty of S$50,000 (US$32,756; €24,786) and two years in prison.

"Today, the percentage of (traditional Chinese medicine) shops offering bear products for sale has dropped to 12 percent," Lye Fong Keng, head of the AVA's wildlife regulatory department, said in the statement. In 2001 and 2002, 92 percent of traditional Chinese medicine shops sold bear products, the agency said. It did not give figures for subsequent years.

Bear bile pills can sell for up to S$10 (US$6.55; €4.96) each in Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state. A bear's gall bladder is worth up to S$4,000 (US$2,620; €1,983), according to the Singapore-based Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or Acres.

The New Paper 2 Mar 07
Chinese Medicine Shops Busted In Bear Goods Sting
Tortured bears in volunteers’ minds when they’re posing as customers…
They say of sting: Hardest part is pretending to be happy
By Teh Jen Lee

There were five of them, all women volunteers. They came from different backgrounds- one was a housewife, another a teacher. But they were determined to expose the illegal trade in bear products.

So they went undercover, complete with hidden video cameras. They posed as buyers and approached traditional Chinese medicine shops.

The sting operation, by the Animal Concerns research and education Society (ACRES), found one in five TCM shops here offering bear products for sale. ACRES is a registered charity working to improve animal welfare. Some of this shops have now been fined or warned by the authority.

One of the women, Amy (not her real name), said they had to prepare for the mission, which would last three to six hours. “We had to sound believable when telling the shopkeepers the we wanted to buy bear products for a sick relative,” said Amy, who is in her late 20s.

“At first we were nervous but after a while, we got good at acting. No-one called our bluff.” She said it was physically tiring, but the hardest part was hiding their emotions. “Although we feel very strongly against the illegal trade, we had to pretend to be happy when the shops said they could order more bear products.”

“But at the end of the day, we were glad to send this warning to the TCM shops- if you are involved in the illegal wildlife trade, you risk getting caught on film.”

When asked for the bear products for the treatment of liver disease, 23 of 115 randomly selected TCM shops had something to offer. The items included bear gall bladders or pills, sachets and powder made from the bear bile.

Caught in the act

Video evidence from the operation, carried between May and October last year, was given to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). When the AVA investigated 100 TCM shops this year, including the 23 spotted by ACRES, 14 were found offering illegal bear products for sale.

Products from two shops- both caught on film by ACRES- were found to be genuine bear products. The shop owners were fined $3000 and $5000. Items from the other 12 turned out to be fakes and the shop owners were fined between $500 and $1000.

The Endangered Species Act 2006 states that it is an offence to advertise the sale of bear products even if the goods are fake.

The 115 shops the women went to were located all over Singapore, and were randomly selected from the telephone directory. The prices they quoted ranged widely- from $1 for a bile pill, to $380 for a box of bile sachets (which can be used for tea bags), to a whopping $4,000 for a whole gall bladder.

Of the 23 shops which sold alleged bear products, 19 did not openly display them. And five shopkeepers were caught on video saying that trading in bear products has been outlawed.

One man said: “Bear bile completely not allowed for sale. I only sell to regular customers. We cannot give you a receipt and you cannot say you bought it from here.”

Another said: “Cannot import from China. Bear bile is illegal. For very long time now.”

China has banned the export of bear products and prohibited the setting up of new bear farming for the extraction since the 1990s.

Eight shopkeepers mentioned that the bears were protected species and two admitted that bear farming for bile was “very cruel.”

One said: “They keep the bears in cages, insert the needles in their liver to extract (bile). Not supposed to do this to protected animals. It is very cruel.”

Those who openly displayed their bear products claimed they had a licence from the Ministry of Health to sell them. But there are no such licences.

The sale of bear products here is completely prohibited because they involve bear species listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

As a signatory of Cites, Singapore outlaws all commercial trade of Appendix I species. Yet, one shopkeeper told the Acres investigator:

“No licence, you cannot sell because bears are now protected. We can openly display because we have a licence.”

Five shopkeepers even said they could order more bear products. One was recorded saying: “If you want a lot, you must order. You can get the stock immediately or within two to five days from China.”

Still, there is some good news- the percentage of shops found offering bear products here has dropped from the first time Acres did such an undercover survey.

In 2001, 50 of 68 TCM shops (74 per cent) were found offering bear products.

Mr Dave Eastham, head of wildlife at the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said in a press release yesterday: “The level of cooperation the authorities have shown in response to the investigation is a credit to the AVA and an example to other countries struggling to cope with the global trade in bear parts.”

New TCM label scheme to fight illegal trade ACRES and the Singapore TCM Organisations Committee (Stoc) yesterday launched the Endangered Species-Friendly TCM Labelling scheme.

It aims to discourage the selling of TCM products made from endangered species, in particular bear, rhinoceros and tiger.

The use of bear parts in Chinese medicine dates back over 3,000 years. Since the 1980s, bile has been extracted from live bears. The Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), which is funding the scheme, says bears are crammed into cages for up to 22 years. Bile is collected daily through rusting metal catheters stuck into their gallbladders or via permanently open infected holes in their abdomens.


Ursodeoxycholic acid, the active ingredient in bear bile, can successfully treat some liver problems.

But there are more than 50 different herbal alternatives, said Acres director of investigations Charlene Tan. She pointed out how one shopkeeper recommended herbal alternatives instead of bear products during the Acres undercover operation.

“It was very encouraging to hear that. We look forward to working with Stoc to promote the herbal alternatives,” said Ms Tan.

Most of the 800-plus retail medicinal halls in Singapore are members of Stoc. Stoc chairman Lee Tiong Sa said: “The labelling scheme will create more awareness among the traders as well as the general customers of the need to protect endangered species.”

AAF founder Jill Robinson said the aim is to “educate consumers that by buying bear bile and other endangered animal products, they are directly contributing to the suffering and demise of a range of species.”

Acres executive director Louis Ng said he plans to get 500 TCM shops to have the label within six months. The nine companies that have joined the scheme are listed on www.acres.org.sg

Mr. Ng said : “We urge the public to only go to TCM shops with the label. The strongest body is not Acres, Stoc or AVA- it’s the consumers. “Once demand stops, supply will stop as well.”


Anyone found possessing, selling, offering, advertising or displaying for sale any endangered species (whether authentic or claimed to be authentic), which had been imported without a permit, faces a compound fine of up to $5,000.

If convicted in court, the fine is up to $50,000, and the maximum jail term is two years. AVA will also confiscate all illegally acquired or imported products that contain or purport to contain endangered species.

Ms Lye Fong Keng, head of AVA’s wildlife regulatory branch, said it will continue to monitor the sale of bear bile and other protected-species products in TCM shops and “take the necessary enforcement action”.

Anyone with information on the sale of such products can call AVA at 6227 0607.

The Straits Times 2 Mar 07
Fewer TCM shops selling illegal bear products
By Tania Fong

Fewer shops dealing in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are selling bear bile products, which are illegal, and even those who did, sold fakes. Apart from penalties, public education on the cruelty to bears, an endangered species, has helped turn the tide.

Local animal welfare charity, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) even went “undercover” to monitor and review the situation. Yesterday, Acres announced its findings.

Between May and October last year, it found that only 23 shops, or 20 per cent, of the 115 TCM shops sold bear bile products. It carried out a similar stake-out in 2001. Then, it had found that 50- or 73.5 per cent- of the 68 shops monitored sold the products. Acres executive director Louis Ng said the latest figures showed a “significant and positive achievement”.

Bear bile products and bear gall bladders, also illegal, have been used in TCM to treat such ailments as fever, haemorrhoids, conjunctivitis and liver problems.

But public education has drawn attention to the cruel facts: bear abdomens are punctured so that bile can be drawn into metal pails. The bears spend their lives in bile farms in China and Vietnam.

Of the 23 errant shops in last year’s stake-out by Acres, nine offered bear gall bladders. They can cost up to $4,000 each, while bear bile pills cost between $1 and $10 each.

Acres later alerted the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which carried out checks on the shops. The AVA seized the bear products from the 23 shops. Six shops were fined, while the 17 others were issued warning letters.

Mr lee Tiong Sa, president of the Singapore Chinese Medicines and Health Products Merchant Association, said: “There is no need to consume bear gall bladders, as there are more than 50 herbal alternatives to bear bile.”

Acres and the Singapore Traditional Chinese Medicine Organisations Committee have launched labels to identify TCM retail merchants who do not sell products of endangered species.

There are about 800 TCM retail shops here.

The import and export of protected wildlife, their derivatives and parts are regulated here because Singapore has signed the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which controls these items.

Anyone who possesses, sells, advertises for sale, or displays endangered species on the Cites list can be fined up to $50, 000, or jailed up to two years, or both.


Acres undercover investigation in the illegal trade in bear parts on the Acres website

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