The majority of investment and consulting managers interviewed by this reporter believe that the bear bile trade that was built by the bear raising industry is contrary to public interest, and that, under the law, a company may be barred from public listing for such a social disconnect.
Bile Products Promote Cruelty to Black Bears
Fujian Guizhentang Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. (Guizhentang) reportedly received provincial approval to go public. The company intends to use funds raised through the listing to reach annual targets of 4,000 kg of bear-bile-powder production, 1,200 black bears on hand, and 200 black bears bred.
According to public data, Guizhentang was founded in 2000, with registered capital of 60 million yuan. The company completed share restructuring in 2006.
Hua Ning, China program director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, explains bile extraction: “When bears are caught, a hole is made in their abdomen and a barbed metal catheter is inserted into their gall bladder. Gall bladder fistulation is done to facilitate bile extraction. In addition, in order to prevent bears from mutilating themselves or pulling out the catheter, they are forced to wear an 'iron vest.'”
In recent years, government ministries have issued a series of regulations to limit the development of an industry based around the extraction of bile from live bears, and restrict the usage of bear bile. The Ministry of Health, for example, stipulated clearly that it will no longer approve healthcare products made with bear-bile powder. Moreover, starting with the 2010 edition, Chinese Pharmacopoeia no longer includes any medicine whose ingredients are derived from endangered wild animals, and removes references to tiger bone, rhinoceros horn, and bear bile. The book now reasonably prescribes the replacement of animal-derived materials like musk and tiger bone with man-made substitutes. Hua Ning believes that “extracting bile from live bears is extremely cruel, and some bear farms, both legal and illegal, likely endanger public health.” She says “we need to let the public know that what lies behind the exaggerated effects of bear-bile medicine is a cruel reality.
Hong Kong–based Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) says “products made with bile extracted from live bears may threaten the lives and health of people using them. Bears' deep abdominal wounds are constantly exposed to filthy conditions, and the repeated collection of bile causes injury and infection of the bear’s wound, gall bladder and liver.”
Guizhentang IPO: Bling or Bust?
Guizhentang reportedly applied for a pre-IPO (initial public offering) inspection from the Fujian Provincial Department of Environmental Protection in May 2010. As part of the application, the company submitted a technology report, its IPO prospectus and supporting materials. The department found Guizhentang in general compliance with the environmental requirements for listing, and made its findings available to the public from May 5 through 20, 2010.
Despite government approval, Guizhentang's plans to become a listed company have reportedly incurred considerable public resistance. An “online movement” of petitions calling for an end to both bear-bile harvesting and raising bear has cropped up on the forums of many popular websites. (Black bears are already listed among species with the highest risk of extinction by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).)
Zhang Xiaohai, AAF China director of external affairs, says AAF went to the Fujian provincial agency of securities regulation to express that “extracting bile from live bears is an unsustainable practice for both its cruelty and lack of necessity. Furthermore, the safety risk of medicine produced using bear bile is extremely high. If a drug safety problem were to arise, the impact on the industry's future would be disastrous.” Zhang told the agency that he “[does] not believe that a company whose main business is extracting bile from live bears should be approved to go public.”
The majority of managers in the investment and consulting industry that this reporter talked to expressed surprise that Guizhentang was considering going public. They said waters were still choppy following the controversial IPO of bear-bile-medicine maker Shanghai Kaibao Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. in 2010. They further stated that the bear bile trade that was built by the bear raising industry is contrary to public interest, and that, under the law, a company may be barred to go public for such a social disconnect.
During the writing of this report, repeated calls were made to Guizhentang, but, by the time of press, staff had not answered any of the questions posed.
Translator: Cui Yafeng
Proofreaders: Allegra Fonda-Bonardi, Megan Ko