A spokesman for the forestry administration Wednesday defended the country's efforts to improve the welfare of wild animals in response to what he said were unfair foreign media reports.
Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said the country has taken effective measures to better regulate the raising of wild animals and made obvious achievements in protecting them.
"There have been huge improvements in wild animal welfare in China," he told a press conference yesterday.
He was speaking in response to reports by some foreign media that said it is "inhumane" to extract bile from the gallbladders of farmed bears.
Calling the reports "unfair and incomplete", Cao said they failed to give a full picture of the country's efforts to improve animal welfare.
He said the artificial cultivation of wildlife had played an important role in wildlife conservation.
And, as the government body in charge of wildlife conservation, the SFA has taken a series of measures to improve captive wildlife welfare, he said.
For example, standards had been introduced to improve such things as sanitation and feeding at wildlife cultivation centers, Cao said.
In addition, 16 wildlife first-aid stations have been established and more than 300 medical centers have been set up by local people to care for sick and injured animals and help them return to the wild.
Previously tolerated, the feeding of small animals to predators in zoos has been banned, Cao said, while circus operators have been given strict guidelines on the treatment of animals.
The SFA has also cracked down on the illegal trade in cultivated wildlife, especially monkeys bred for use in experiments.
At the end of 2005, just 23 laboratories nationwide were licensed to trade in monkeys and these had to pass an annual examination, Cao said.
Chinese scientists began experimenting with the extraction of bile from farmed bears in the mid-1980s as a way to stop the endangered animals being hunted for it.
The bile is considered an essential ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine by its proponents and its efficacy is unmatched by any substitute, they say.
Early bile-extraction tech-nology involved implanting metal or plastic tubes into the bears, which caused them tremendous pain.
However, since the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Law in 1988, improved methods have been adopted, such as the use of tubes made of bear tissue, to make the process painless.
"Although the technology of extracting bile from live bears has been improved, it is still hard to say how much impact it has on their health," an animal expert who asked not to be named, told China Daily.