How will the end of bear bile farming in Vietnam influence consumer choice?

  • Free the Bears
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The Vietnamese Government committed to closing all bear farms in the country by 2022. Some researchers have expressed concerns that ending the commercial farming of bears while demand for bear bile persists could lead to increased hunting pressure on wild bear populations. In this article, we use mixed methods of questionnaires, discrete choice experiments (DCEs), and interviews to investigate current consumer demand for bear bile in Vietnam, with a specific aim of understanding the potential for consumers to seek out wild bear bile. We sampled at seven areas across the country of Vietnam (total respondents = 2,463). We found that when directly estimated, the use of farmed bear bile in the past twelve months was over 20% in only one site; in all other study areas the use of farmed bear bile was lower than 5%. The same site had the highest level of wild bear bile use, at 5%; all other sites were lower. Despite widespread beliefs in farmed and wild bear bile’s efficacy, we found through qualitative interviews with bear bile consumers that there was general apathy about the continued use of bear bile, with respondents saying that they would use another product once bear bile farms were fully gone. Coupled with a strong preference for using synthetic bear bile over wild and farmed bear bile found in the DCEs, we posit that bear bile consumers in Vietnam will be willing to use non-animal-based products, including bear bile plant and Western medicine, to treat future ailments.

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... As most bears in farms are captured from the wild or from neighboring countries (Crudge et al. 2018), the commercial market provided by the bear farming industry, and demand for bear bile drives the decline in bear population in Vietnam (Nguyen 2006;Drury 2011;Crudge et al. 2016;Wilcox et al. 2017). Despite regulations and efforts to end the extraction of bile in bear farms by the Vietnamese government, the bear farm industry is still active (Crudge et al. 2018) and bears are still demanded at unsustainable rates (Davis et al. 2019(Davis et al. , 2021. ...
... We used a semi-structured interview guide to elicit deeper information about respondents' motivations and behaviors, informed by past qualitative efforts exploring use of bear bile in the region (Davis et al. 2020(Davis et al. , 2021. The guide was structured to begin with demographics questions such as age, education, ethnicity. ...
... Despite the decline in bear bile consumption in current years, there is still a persisting demand for bear bile in Vietnam and especially in Hanoi and Nghe An province (Davis et al. 2019(Davis et al. , 2021. Based on our findings, we believe that such demand for bear bile is influenced by the exchange of bear bile as gifts within the social network and the availability of bear bile in the countryside. ...
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The illegal wildlife trade is the major cause for global loss of diversity. In Southeast Asia regions and particularly in Vietnam, the consumption of wildlife products is mostly driven by the demand for food and traditional medicinal products. However, consumers’ motivations are poorly understood. In this study, we use mixed social science approaches and social network analysis to understand the social network influence on the consumption of bear bile through gift-giving practices in Hanoi and Nghe An. The study also provides a deeper understanding of how bear bile is consumed as gifts and the current information on bear bile usage. We found that 97.5% of all interviewees have given or received bear bile and the most common occasion for gift-giving is during visits between closed social circles of family and friends. Other reasons for giving bear bile include illnesses, gratitude, drinking among males, and ulterior motives.
... There is uncertainty over the preference consumers may have for wild vs. farmed tiger products (Coals et al., 2020;Hinsley and 't Sas-Rolfes, 2020), with wild tigers possibly being prized more for their power and strength (EIA, 2017). Stronger preferences for wild vs. farmed animal parts have been reported for other species, such as bears farmed for bear bile (Dutton et al., 2011), but these preferences are dynamic and can shift based on access and availabilty (Davis et al., 2021;Rizzolo, 2021). This uncertainty raises questions about the relationship between tiger farms and demand for tiger parts and products (Song and Yao, 2021). ...
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Conservation practitioners routinely work within complex social-ecological systems to address threats facing biodiversity and to promote positive human-wildlife interactions. Inadequate understanding of the direct and indirect, short-and long-term consequences of decision making within these dynamic systems can lead to misdiagnosed problems and interventions with perverse outcomes, exacerbating conflict. Participatory system dynamics (SD) modeling is a process that encourages stakeholder engagement, synthesizes research and knowledge, increases trust and consensus and improves transdisciplinary collaboration to solve these complex types of problems. Tiger conservation exemplifies a set of interventions in a complex social-ecological system. Wild tigers remain severely threatened by various factors, including habitat constraints, human-wildlife conflict, and persistent consumer demand for their body parts. Opinions differ on whether commercial captive tiger facilities reduce or increase the threat from poaching for trade, resulting in policy conflict among diverse stakeholder groups. This paper explains how we are working with international conservation partners in a virtual environment to utilize a participatory SD modeling approach with the goal of better understanding and promoting coexistence of humans and wild tigers. We highlight a step-by-step process that others might use to apply participatory SD modeling to address similar conservation challenges, building trust and consensus among diverse partners to reduce conflict and improve the efficacy of conservation interventions.
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