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For Immediate Release: 01/12/12

Born Free USA Leads Initiative to Protect Vermont Bears

Vermont Is One of Only Six States Left With Largely Unrestricted Sale of Bear Gallbladders

Throughout the United States, bears are killed for their gallbladders and bile. Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is urging Vermont lawmakers to join the majority of states in the country that prohibit the trade in bear gallbladders. Vermont is one of only six states (Maine, Rhode Island, New York, Wyoming and Idaho) that freely allow the trade, which encourages bear poaching, puts bears everywhere at risk, and compromises bans already in place in neighboring states.

Born Free USA has helped draft a landmark bill introduced late Wednesday, Jan. 11 (House Bill 528) that would protect bears from poaching and profiteering by prohibiting the commercial trade in bear gallbladders and bile in Vermont.

“We need Vermont to join the majority of states in banning this trade once and for all,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “Bear poachers and gallbladder profiteers avoid prosecution by simply claiming that their wildlife contraband came from a state where commercialization is legal — like Vermont. The Vermont Legislature should act responsibly and without delay to protect bears and help wildlife law enforcement across the region. In nearby Maine, there are recent documented cases involving illegal commercial trade in bear gallbladders. Conservationists and law enforcement officers across the country know that the bear gall trade is an ongoing problem.”

Sponsored by Representatives Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) and David Deen (D-Westminster), the bill would make it illegal to buy, sell or receive bear gallbladders or bear bile or their derivatives. Transporting or delivering these products with the intent to sell them would also be prohibited. Lawful hunters would still be able to legally possess one bear gallbladder per season. As the majority of bear hunters in Vermont leave the gallbladder in the field, banning the trade would not impose a burden on the lawful hunter. At the request of the Vermont Department of Fish and Game, the bill also prohibits the intentional feeding of bears, an issue that also imperils black bears throughout the state.

“This bill is narrowly crafted to aid law enforcement with another tool to protect wild bear populations and successfully prosecute violations. It sends a strong message that we do not want poachers to come to Vermont to profit from their illegal activities,” Webb said.

Bear gallbladders and bile are highly sought after in the black market wildlife trade. The parts can sell for thousands of dollars on the black market here and abroad. Because the Asiatic bear is endangered, poachers turn to the United States to supply market demand. Bear gallbladders and bile have been increasingly found for use in non-medicinal applications such as shampoos and hemorrhoid creams. While American black bears are poached in the wild to supply the gallbladder trade, Asiatic black bears are kept in coffin-like cages, constantly “milked” for their bile. There are reportedly as many as 54 known herbal substitutes to the use of bear gallbladders and bile that still conform to traditional medicinal applications.

Roberts added: “It is time for Vermont to create a sensible policy against the trade in bear gallbladders and bile. We commend Representatives Webb and Deen for their leadership on this important issue.”

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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