Legislation to Combat Bear Parts Trade Introduced in U.S.

file photo
file photo

By The Maritime Executive 01-15-2020 06:52:58

U.S. Senators John Kennedy, R-La., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have introduced legislation to stop the exploitation of bears, seeking to end the killing of the animals for their gall bladders. The Bear Protection Act is a companion bill to H.R. 2264, introduced in 2019 by U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Ann Kuster, D-N.H., and Glenn Thompson, R-Penn in 2019.

Bear gall bladders are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in China, South Korea and Vietnam, there are bear “farms” where the animals are “milked” for their bile in inhumane conditions. 

Wild bears, including in North America, are also known to be poached just for their gall bladders. There are eight species of bears in the world, and once gall bladders are extracted from the body of a bear, they are visually indistinguishable in terms of species type.

The Bear Protection Act would forbid any interstate transport or sales of bear galls and other viscera and forbid any imports or exports of these body parts. 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the Bear Protection Act two decades ago, and his bill passed the Senate twice by Unanimous Consent, but the measures were not acted upon by the House. 

Across the United States, bears and cubs are killed by poachers who take only their gallbladders, and sometimes their paws, leaving the rest of the bear behind. The gallbladders are easy to conceal and attract a high price (exceeding $1,000 per gallbladder) due to their use in some traditional Chinese medicine. 

There are 40 states have laws on the books to address this trade. The Bear Protection Act is needed to make a global statement about the trade from the U.S., and to address gaps or inconsistencies in state laws. A trafficker in Colorado may face up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, while a trafficker in Kentucky may receive only a $100 fine. Federal sentencing guidelines dictate that the market value of the item must be at least $350 for a prosecution under the federal Lacey Act, but the courts attribute the value of a gallbladder to only $280.

“For years, legal loopholes have allowed the abuse and trade of wild bears to continue,” said Kennedy. “I’m proud to partner with my friend Senator Booker to help prevent the slaughter and sale of innocent creatures through a commonsense solution.”  Louisiana has a subspecies called the Louisiana black bear, and the populations are small and fairly isolated.

Animal Wellness Action has lauded Kennedy and Booker for their actions. “We shouldn’t be killing rhinos for their horns, elephants for their tusks, or bears for their bladders,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of Animal Wellness Action. “Wildlife trafficking is one of the greatest threats to rare species throughout the world, and the Bear Protection Act is a lever to protect several species of bears from reckless and warranted commerce in their parts.”