China criticised for 'tiger wine'

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Via the Beeb:

China criticised for ‘tiger wine’

China has come under fire for allowing tigers to be bred for the production of so-called “tiger bone wine”.

The drink is reportedly made by steeping tiger carcasses in rice wine. Those who drink the wine believe it makes them strong.

Chinese delegates at the International Tiger Symposium in Nepal are arguing for the lifting of a current ban on the trade in tiger bones and skins.

But other Asian nations with threatened tiger populations want the ban to stay.

Emotive issue

There has been a forceful exchange of views on the issue at the symposium, according to the BBC correspondent in Kathmandu, Charles Haviland.

Experts say there are several reasons why tiger numbers have drastically declined, but just one has grabbed the limelight, our correspondent says.

The argument centres on the existence of so-called “tiger farms” in China, which have bred thousands of captive tigers with the ostensible purpose of entertaining visitors.

But the conservation group WWF, which is chairing the symposium, says these farms are fronts for the production of tiger bone wine.

WWF also says the captive tigers cannot survive in the wild, and believes the production of wine and underhand trade in skin and bones also threaten to make wild tiger poaching more lucrative.

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Related – Via the Guardian:

Bred for the freezer: how zoo rears tigers like battery hens
Jonathan Watts in Guilin
Friday April 13, 2007

Carcasses kept in storage as Beijing looks to lift ban on sale of exotic animal parts

The padlocked freezer at Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village attracts little attention from the tourists who throng to the park each day.

Most are more interested in the bloody spectacle of tigers savaging live cows, the monkey bicycle race or the highwire displays by bears and goats. But it is the freezer rather than the freak shows that will soon be at the centre of a fierce international debate on the trade in endangered species.

Xiongsen is the world’s biggest battery farm for rare animals. Located just outside the southern Chinese city of Guilin, it is smaller than Regent’s Park but holds 1,300 tigers – almost as many as the whole of India – as well as hundreds of bears, lions and birds.

The stock is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in China, where consumers pay high prices for remedies, tonics and aphrodisiacs made from rare species. But until now the park has only been able to bank its assets in cold storage because of a ban on tiger products.

All that could be about to change. After a decade of lobbying by Xiongsen, China is preparing to call for a lifting of the ban. Next week it will send its first ever delegation to the Global Tiger Forum in Kathmandu. In June, at a conference in the Hague of signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), it is expected to push the issue. In a paper to Cites, China says the global ban has failed to halt the decline of the wild tiger population, despite a cost of £2bn to the Chinese economy and damage to China’s traditions and medicinal culture.

Conservation groups warn that relaxing the ban could be disastrous. According to the World Wildlife Fund there are only 3,500 tigers left in the wild, compared with more than 6,000 in captivity. “This move could mean the end of wild tigers for China and could mean the extinction of many other tiger populations in Asia,” said Grace Gabriel, Asian regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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