A lethal trade
Endangered animals are routinely smuggled, trafficked and killed for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Tiger or leopard bone “wine” is sold in some places as a general strengthening tonic, and in others to enhance male virility.
Rhino horn is claimed to treat everything from fever to cancer.
Pangolin scales are used in medicines that allegedly treat inflammation and stimulate blood circulation and lactation.
Traditional medicines containing threatened wildlife parts such as pangolin scales, leopard bones, saiga horn and the bile of captive-bred bears are still legal in China.
It’s important to say that we’re not against traditional Chinese medicine as a whole. Most traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t contain wildlife products. But the medicines that do still contain threatened species must be replaced.
Help us send a message to President Xi of China:
"Ban the use of endangered species
in traditional Chinese medicine"
Animals at risk
Leopards cut to the bone
Leopards are the most heavily traded big cat, and their bones are used in wines and medicines.
Leopards, clouded leopards and snow leopards are all endangered, and illegal killing to meet demand for their body parts is a key driver of their rapid decline.
Traditional Chinese medicine manufacturers are being given government permits for large-scale, commercial trade in leopard products. As this lethal trade continues, Asia’s leopards are in danger of quietly slipping into extinction.
Falling prey to big business
Pills like these, which claim to contain leopard bone, are produced by pharmaceutical companies.
Globally, the traditional Chinese medicine industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry – and it’s keen to expand.
The Chinese Government plans to increase China’s commercial presence around the world through its Belt and Road Initiative. This includes setting up traditional Chinese medicine hospitals and centres across South-East Asia and Africa.
Unless the use of endangered animals is stopped, these plans could wipe out the world’s last wild tigers, pangolins, rhinos, Asian leopards, and other threatened species.
Opposition within China
Many people in China oppose the wildlife trade, and professionals who work within traditional Chinese medicine have voiced their concerns.
The use of tiger and rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine was banned in 1993. But in 2018, the Chinese Government repealed this ban, following lobbying from tiger farmers and industry.
The online response from the Chinese public was overwhelmingly against the move. This comment is typical:
I'm a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and I'm baffled by this. There are so many alternatives to all these ingredients. Why do we have to kill endangered animals for it?
Following this backlash, the Government announced that it would review the plan, but there is currently still no law or policy completely banning the use of farmed tiger and rhino horn.
Our work to protect endangered species
For decades, EIA has investigated and exposed the illegal trade in endangered species.
- We’re longstanding opponents of tiger farming, and are one of the few organisations campaigning about the threat to Asia’s leopards.
- We’ve written to dozens of traditional Chinese medicine companies, urging them to stop using leopard bone.
- We’re campaigning for policy change in China, calling for a complete ban on all trade in tigers, leopards, pangolin and rhino.
- In the UK, we’re working with our Government and Parliament to raise awareness of this issue.
- We’ve called upon the World Health Organisation to repeal its blanket endorsement of traditional Chinese medicine, which risks legitimising the use of endangered wildlife.
- We’re working with wildlife champions in the traditional Chinese medicine industry who share our aims.
How you can help
The world has woken up to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Yet China, the country that consumes more leopards, tigers, rhinos and pangolins than any other, is failing to protect these endangered animals from extinction.
Your donation could help us to:
- Conduct undercover investigations to gather evidence of the trade in endangered animals for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Work with like-minded organisations to raise awareness of the issue worldwide.
- Call upon the Chinese government to prohibit all trade in threatened species, including those from captive sources.
We know we can make a difference, but time is running out, and we urgently need your support.