Inside the bear factories

Rows of caged bears in an Asian bear factory, kept for their bile

There are many thousands of bears being held captive in the bile industry across East and South East Asia. During the extraction process they are often restrained cages the size of a telephone booth, in which they are unable to stand and can only turn around with difficulty.

The bears in these factories are visibly in severe distress. They are often hurt or scarred from repeatedly rubbing or hitting themselves against the bars of the extraction cages.

Factory workers prevent bears from hibernating – they are often kept in spares concrete yards that provide no comfort.

Painful surgery

Bear bile can be accessed in a number of inhumane ways. All are likely to be carried out by untrained factory workers, with no veterinary experience.

Depending on the region, bile factories will use one of three methods: 

  • A tube leading into the gall bladder is created, allowing bile to be extracted. To stop the tube closing up, the abdominal wound is reopened up to three times a day. 

  • Ultrasound equipment is used to locate the gall bladder, before a syringe is inserted deep into the bear’s body to extract the bile.

  • Bears are caged, left to reach a certain age and then killed. The bile is extracted once the bear is dead.

Lifelong suffering

A caged bear with bile extraction wound

A caged bear with bile extraction wound


If those bears subjected to operations do not die after the first procedure, they suffer from serious health problems.

Infections to the open wounds, tumours, internal abscesses, gallstones, and other related illnesses are common. It is a life of unremitting pain and distress.

Bears may stop producing bile after only a few years. They are then left to die or are killed for their paws or gall bladder.

Protect the bears

You can help WSPA end  the bear bile industry.