Moonbears like this cub, pictured at the Endangered Species Preservation Centre in South Korea, are commonly used in Asia for their bile.

How you're phasing out bear bile farming in South Korea


Bear bile is one of the most horrendous forms of animal cruelty, but thanks to your support we're so close to ending this cruel industry in South Korea.

The global trade in wildlife and wild animal products enables cruel industries like bear bile farming. As we work to tackle some of the largest issues of animal suffering and cruelty, we must also address the root cause.


Timeline of how you are ending bear bile in South Korea:



Joined with Green Korea United (GKU) to start the critical campaign to end the South Korean bear bile industry. This process began as we investigated the conditions on bear bile farms in China and South Korea. Traditional medicine markets, online markets, and other aspects of the trade are also investigated.


GKU published the results of the 2003 investigation: The Report on the Actual Conditions of Bear Bile Trade. The report highlights the illegal trade in bear bile and related products in South Korea and neighbouring countries. The findings are presented to the government.


GKU, with World Animal Protection support, commission and publish two surveys one of which, showed that 87.1% of Koreans were against bear farming for the purpose of bile extraction.

Momentum gained in our campaign as the Wildlife Protection Act is enacted and enforced by the Government. It replaces the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Act. This allows for more consistent monitoring of bear farms by the government.

The legal age limit on slaughtering bears for their gallbladder is reduced to 10 years of age, where the legal limit was previously 24 years.

Lastly the Ministry of Environment develops Guidelines for Farmed Bear Management. These guidelines allow for regular inspection of bear farms by regional Ministry of Environment officers.


Public awareness and support grow through several different educational campaigns and petitions that often fell on National Bear day in Seoul, such as the Cage Dreams of Freedom event in 2005 and We Love Bears concert in 2008.


As our campaign continues a GKU survey of bear farmers shows that 80% agree with abolishing bear farming and will cooperate with the government for reasonable compensation.


A survey with GKU shows 89.5% of surveyed South Koreans are against bear farming for the purpose of bile extraction, indicating continued strong public sentiment against the practice.


Together with GKU we managed a landmark agreement between the government of South Korea and Bear Farmers Association of South Korea to develop a voluntary exit plan from the industry for bear farmers. This included a sterilization program, which involved encouraging bear farmers to have their captive bears sterilized, to stop the breeding of new bears for the industry.


Sterilization project for captive bears is completed.


Number of bears left in captivity decreased from approximately 1,400 in the mid 2000’s to 423 at present.

The work still continues in South Korea. You and other donors are supporting the monitoring of potential illegal breeding of bears to ensure that the bear bile industry is phased out for good.

 Gilbert Sape, head of our bears and traditional medicine campaign said:

“We campaigned long and hard with our local partner Green Korea United (GKU), and have worked with the South Korean Government and bear owners to bring about this landmark achievement. It’s also been a tireless campaign by the South Korean people, who since 2005 have led events and activities to help raise awareness and reduce demand for bile.”

It takes time, research, persistence and lots support to change public opinion, government regulations and clamp down on illegal activity. But thanks to your support, we expect the bear bile industry in South Korea to be completely phased out in the next decade.

Thank you for your continued support to make this achievement possible!

Header image credit: The Endangered Species Restoration project, S. Korea 

After years of relentless campaigning, we could be the generation to end the cruel and unnecessary bear bile industry. - Gilbert Sape, head of our bears and traditional medicine campaign.

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