Korea displays commitment to end bear farming

An Asiatic black bear caged for its bile in a bear farm

WSPA welcomes the news shared by our partner organisation, Green Korea United (GKU), that the Korean National Assembly has demonstrated political will to end the cruel bear faming practice.

The Budget Committee of the National Assembly recently voted through a proposal to “prepare measures to end the practice of bear farming through investigation of the current status of bear farming and its management plan”. The approval of this proposal means the government has cleared a budget of 200 Million Korean Won (about US$175,000) to ascertain the current situation of bears on farms in Korea, and design ways to end the practice.

The approval of this proposal is a compelling sign that the Korean government recognises the need to end the cruelty of bear farming as well as the growing support for the cause, both within Korea and internationally.

 “The Korean National Assembly has made a great beginning towards ending this cruel practice,” said Chris Gee, WSPA Wildlife Campaign Manager, “The news will be welcomed by the Korean public – 90% of whom showed their support for ending bear farming in a 2011 poll funded by WSPA  – as well as our vast network of partner organisations, hundreds of whom lobbied the Korean government last year. It is clear that this pressure delivered by WSPA and local partner Green Korea United was crucial and powerful, as the Ministry of the Environment chose to reference the results of campaigning in their budget submission to the National Assembly.”

This is the first time that the Korean Ministry of the Environment has publicly stated its desire to end bear farming in Korea and demonstrated a clear commitment to work up details of how this will be done. 

Green Korea United and WSPA aim to work with officials from the Ministry of Environment to ensure the research project obtains all the evidence needed and that the research phase is completed as quickly as possible.

What does this mean for the bears?

A logical next step to this proposal would be a ban on captive breeding of bears, meaning that no new bears will be born into a life of suffering on Korean bear farms. WSPA would like to see this happen as soon as possible and we hope to work with government officials for this. 

In South Korea, bears are raised till the age of 10 and then slaughtered for their bile to be ‘harvested’. Although extraction of bile from live bears is illegal, there have been some cases of bile extraction as witnessed and exposed – in footage some readers may find distressing – by media such as SBS TV. With less than 20 bears left in the wild in South Korea, all the bears currently in farms were born there, in captivity.

As part of the international campaign to end bear farming, WSPA has delivered petitions, including thousands of photos collected via a photo action, from over 160,000 people worldwide to the Korean government, achieved pressure from international governments on Korea including the UK Foreign Office Minister in 2011, provided evidence of the lessons learnt from Vietnam (the first government to pledge to end bear farming) to Korea and provided the Korean government with advice from WSPA and a range of welfare conservation NGOs about why the practice needs to end.

“Without the positive action being initiated by the South Korean government, thousands of bears could be born into lives of untold suffering,” added Emily Reeves, Director of Programmes for WSPA Asia Pacific, “Once this process is complete and bear farming ended in South Korea, the country would be setting a great example for those other countries in Asia where unfortunately this cruel practice is still tolerated by governments.”

Click here to read more about our work to end bear farming.

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