Is China going to eat up the whole world?


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


(Bihar Times)Whole species in India are disappearing and their parts fetching up in China. From scorpions to sharks and tigers, our neighbour is poaching our wild life furiously. Our border states have not even a single crow left. Our plants are under threat.


 All this in the name of traditional medicine.

 Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses plants, animal parts and minerals. It believes that the health of a body can be restored by allowing the vital energy Qi to move through the body. It depends on a book Neijing written in the 3rd Century BC.

 It uses over 1,000 plants, 36 animal and over 100 insect species, most of which come from us. In the last year more than 50 rhinos have been shot and their parts taken to China. It is illegal to catch seahorses but ships full of lakhs of seahorses have been caught bound from Chennai to China. We have lost all our wild bears to the Chinese demand for bile. The few that exist are in shelters.

 In the last 100 years our tigers have dwindled from 1 lakh to 1,000 – a genocide. At least 60,000 or more have been killed for China. Tiger and leopard skins are sold openly in Tibet. What medicine is our glorious tiger used for? In TCM its bones are used in plasters to treat arthritis and joint ailments, its eyes are eaten for epilepsy, whiskers for toothache, penises for virility, and the paws are cut and hung over doors to scare ghosts. Now that the Chinese have finished off the tiger populations of the world, including Siberia and Sumatra, they are growing their own for killing – about 5000 tigers are being raised in farms and slaughtered by them. In 2007, China declared that they will use “farmed” tiger parts – another ruse to actually poach animals and then pretend they are farm animals. Tigers that are kept in Chinese zoos are allowed to die of starvation because their bones are worth more in the market than the zoo earns from visitors. TCM has officially removed tiger bones from its pharmacopeia – the usual Chinese eyewash – and replaced them with the wild mole rat, dogs, cows, goats. If this is possible then why use the tiger to begin with? However, surveys by TRAFFIC show that about 3-5% of TCM shops in China and 45% of Chinese TCM shops across the world including the USA still sell tiger parts.

 Black bear bile is used in TCM to treat liver ailments and headaches. Although substitutes for bear bile exist, TCM continues to demand the real thing. Because of the significant reduction in the population of wild Asiatic black bears due to poaching, bear farming was introduced in China in 1984. On these farms 7,000 bears are confined in crush cages where they cannot move and their bile is extracted through catheters forced into the bears' abdomens and gall bladders. They live and die in agony, moaning and banging their heads against their cages.
Musk from the Musk deer is used for circulation, skin infections and abdominal pain. TRAFFIC reports that China’s demand for musk is estimated at 1,000 kilograms per year, which requires the musk glands of at least 100,000 deer. India’s musk deer have been poached so regularly by the Chinese that there are less than 1,000 left in our country.

 The seahorse is used in TCM as a treatment for 90 medicine products, kidney ailments, circulatory problems, and impotence. 20,000,000 seahorses in 32 countries are killed each year to fulfil China’s demand of 250 tons per year.

 Rhinoceros horn is a TCM favourite. Our rhinos are now less than 500. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), only 3,000 rhinos in Africa and 2,800 of all three Asian species (Sumatran, Javan, and Indian) in Asia still survive. Rhinoceros horns are used to treat fever, convulsions, devil possession, headaches, typhoid, liver, dysentery, delirium, arthritis, melancholia, loss of voice, haemorrhages, nosebleeds, smallpox, food poisoning….this clump of congealed hair on this poor animal’s nose can solve anything, it seems. Officials in the countries supposed to protect their Rhinos are often corrupt and complicit in the killings. Much of the illegal hunting is undertaken by organised crime gangs. China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been the three biggest importers of rhino horn in the last 80 years. Although the government officially banned all imports in 1979, rhino horn was smuggled in from Macao, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, and South Africa. The Rhino population has decreased by 95% in the last 30 years and they have no hope of surviving the next 5 years in face of the relentless Chinese onslaught. In South Africa rhinos are being slaughtered at the rate of one each day. According to the WWF, more than 340 rhinos have been killed so far this year in South Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature issued a report on endangered species, concluding that the Western Black Rhino is now officially extinct.

 Korean traditional medicine is based on the Chinese version, said to have come to Korea in the sixth century. They also use Rhino horn for everything including strokes, dermatitis, facial paralysis, high blood pressure, and coma. The most popular medicine is Woo Hwang Chang Shim Won, a medicine ball made from rhinoceros horn, musk, cow gallstones, and herbs.

 Demand for body parts have severely threatened giant manta rays, whose populations have declined globally by about one-third in recent years. The Australian government recently enacted a law protecting the giant ray and making it a crime to capture, kill, or move the animals from Australian waters. The manta ray's decline is due to the increasing demand from Chinese for gill rakers — thin filaments that rays use to filter food from water — which are used to treat chicken pox. Targeted fishing of rays occurs in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Peru.

 Critically endangered Saiga antelope are killed for their horns. The Chinese alligator are fewer than 200 in the wild, restricted to a reserve in the Anhui province of China. Alligator meat and organs are used in TCM to treat, strangely enough, both the common cold and cancer. Pieces of elephant foot are turned into a paste to treat hernias. Purebred wild water buffaloes may already have disappeared from the world, having been hunted down in Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka for the treatment of conditions ranging from fever to convulsions. Shark populations have declined dramatically in recent years, due to the demand for shark fins and Chinese medicine. India sends 95% of these sharks, cutting their fins off while alive and throwing them back into the ocean to die.

Officials along the border between Russia and China intercepted a truck carrying more than 1,000 bear claws and 26 elk lips going to TCM shops. The bears and elk were left to bleed to death after their paws and lips were sliced off by the poachers.

Australian border officials seized a quantity of TCM teas, powders, and capsules and sent them for analysis. They found not only rare plant ingredients, but also the DNA of animals known to be perilously close to extinction and protected by international law.
Are these so called medicines effective? Scientists at the China Pharmacological Institute say that normal buffalo horn or any other animal horn can be used instead of rhino because the active ingredient is simply keratin, which exists in all horns, nails and hair.

There is no scientific evidence that any of these animal body parts treat or cure any medical problem. TCM is quack medicine for the illiterate Chinese driven by superstition. It is akin to the tribal African belief that if you ate your leader’s brain, you would get his intelligence, or if you ate your enemy’s heart you would get his courage. TCM uses snake oil to cure joint pains, seahorses for heart disease and asthma, animal feet to strengthen legs, rhino horn for “blood cooling”. Locusts, moths, grasshoppers, deer, monkey brains, dogs, cats, peacocks; have they been tested objectively by the medical profession? No. If these body parts could actually cure cancer and other diseases, scientists would be studying them to isolate the active ingredients. But they don't work; these animals are being driven towards extinction not because of some special, magical properties of their bodies but because of the viciousness and ignorance of one country. We are being stripped nude while our leaders cower before the Chinese.


To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in



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