In recent years there has quite rightly been increasing concern about the threat posed to endangered species by their exploitation for use in traditional medicines.
In addition to the more high-profile cases of tiger bone (hu gu), rhinoceros horn (xi jiao) and, more recently, the over-harvesting of seahorses (hai ma), there are several other animal and plant species on which the impact of the traditional medicines trade has been considerable.
As well as the exploitation of wild populations, there is also so-called ‘bear-farming’, where bears are kept in terrible conditions for the extraction of their bile (xiong dan).
As a professional practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine, I believe it to be unethical to support the illegal trade in endangered species. I also consider the conditions in which captive bears are kept in ‘bear-farms’ to be indefensible.
It has always been my policy, therefore, never to prescribe, nor to use in my practice, any products which are derived from endangered animal or plant species, as defined by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species); nor to prescribe nor use products containing bear bile.
In 2008, I was among the first group of herbal practitioners in Australia to be officially certified by DEWHA as being ‘Wildlife Aware’, under the Australian Government’s Endangered Species Certification Scheme.