CHINATOWN, NY — Bear bile worth thousands of dollars and thought by some to be a cure for the coronavirus was seized in at least eight Chinatown traditional medicine stores, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said.
The seizure started with a tip from the World Animal Protection organization in April.
From there, the department launched a months-long investigation to confirm if the Lower Manhattan shops were selling the illegal product.
Bear bile is sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat flu and respiratory symptoms, and recently as an ingredient of a drug to treat COVID-19, according to World Animal Protection.
There are multiple legal prohibitions on the importation, production, possession, and sale of bear bile in the United States.
Upon receiving the World Animal Protection organization's tip, plain clothes officers from the NYSDEC visited and inspected each of the suspected Chinatown stores.
Every location was confirmed to be selling the illegal products and agreed to sign a Consent Order to relinquish all bear-bile products and pay a minimum penalty of $4,500 to $5,000, officials said.
Roughly 24,000 bears are caged and farmed for their bile for traditional Chinese medicine across Asia every year, according to the World Animal Protection. The bile is extracted from a bear's gall bladder using a variety of techniques that are painful for the bear.
Heart tonic pills containing bear bile was one of the products for sale in the Chinatown shops.
The parties involved in the bear-bile busts announced the news on Tuesday since the cases are now officially closed.