China is allowing the sale of tonic wine made using tiger bones, despite the fact that the practice has been illegal in the country since 1993.
AFP reports that the London-based Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) has uncovered evidence of a legalised domestic trade in captive-bred tiger products.
“The stark contradiction between China’s international posture supporting efforts to save the wild tiger and its domestic policies which drive the poaching of wild tigers is one of the biggest cons ever perpetrated in the history of tiger conservation,” Debbie Banks, head of the EIA Tiger Campaign, told AFP.
The EIA report also presented evidence that traders are using “secret” government notifications to legitimise the manufacture of tiger bone wine.
“A government notification allows use of the bones of the captive-bred tigers to justify the manufacture of tonic wines so no action can be taken against manufacturers,” Banks said.
Believed to have medicinal properties in China, in the production of tiger tonic wines, tiger bones are left to soak in the wine for varying lengths of time and then removed before bottling.
The wines sell for between £65-£500 a bottle depending on how long the tiger bone was in contact with wine for.
Illegal tiger bone wine
China is signed up to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species that forbids international commercial trade in tiger parts and derivatives.
With over 200 tourist attraction tiger farms housing around 5,000 tigers, China has the largest number of captive bred tigers in the world.
According to Banks, when the tigers die at the farms, their bones are held back from the authorities when they visit to audit the farms.
The EIA has called for the Chinese government to destroy the stockpile of tiger bones at tiger farms across the country and is seeking a ban on the farms altogether.
In December 2011, the International Fund for Animal Welfare applauded a Chinese government order that stopped the sale of hundreds of bottles of tiger bone wine at an auction in Beijing.
Auction house Googut listed over 400 bottles of tiger bone wine from various traditional Chinese medicine manufacturers in an auction entitled “Bouncing Dragon, Jumping Tiger”.
Tigers are a critically endangered species, with as few as 3,500 remaining in the wild.
Despite this, tiger products are frequently traded at auction in China, often disguised as “antiques” and “collectables”.