Wednesday, December 31, 1997

New Internationalist article on Anthony Marr


New Internationalist magazine

Biodiversity Threat:
The traffic in endangered species for their skins,
organs, horns or as exotic pets is putting some of the
world's most vulnerable wildlife in dire peril.

Anthony Marr

Bad medicine

Ross Crockford

tells the story of a man who has stepped on toes
from Campbell River to Hong Kong to stop a pernicious trade


Anthony Marr knows what it feels like to be endangered. Last summer the Vancouver environmentalist was touring small towns in British Columbia, gathering signatures to force a referendum outlawing the hunting of bears in this Canadian province. Often the reception he got was downright hostile. Many people in the countryside claimed he was trying to destroy their livelihood and their heritage. ‘In Campbell River,’ recalls Marr, ‘a hunter pointed at me and said: “I saw you on TV this morning. The price on your head just went up $10,000.”’

Pretty frightening, but Marr has heard similar threats before, and often made in defence of a culture that is much, much older. Marr’s referendum drive was part of a larger, ongoing campaign (acronymed as BET’R) he has been running since November 1995 to stop the worldwide slaughter of bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos – big-game animals whose body parts are frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. Marr is convinced that as Asia prospers and trade becomes further deregulated the demand for these animal parts will skyrocket.

Fortunately he’s in a position to do something about it. Since he was born in China and raised in Hong Kong, Marr figures he’s entitled to criticize things he grew up with that strike him as mere superstition. One is the belief that consuming part of a powerful animal gives strength to a corresponding part of your body. ‘When I was a kid my parents would give me things like bear gall and tiger bone as if it was aspirin,’ says Marr, who’s now 52. ‘Endangered species wasn’t part of my vocabulary at all.’

Consequently Marr spends much of his time speaking at Vancouver schools with large numbers of Chinese students, many of whom are hearing about the problem for the first time. He also speaks on Chinese-language radio talk shows. Sometimes listeners accuse him of defaming the Chinese reputation. Marr replies that, on the contrary, he is trying to save it: if we drive a species to extinction, he says, we can never regain respect in the eyes of the world.

‘A white person saying these kinds of things might be called a racist,’ says Marr. ‘But when a Chinese person is pointing the finger at Chinese culture, it’s more like self-examination.’

If public education is the long-term ‘yin’ of the BET’R campaign, the aggressive ‘yang’ is law enforcement. Until recently it was common to find rhino-hide and tiger-bone pills on the shelves of apothecaries in Vancouver’s Chinatown, and many did a brisk trade in gall bladders taken from bears poached in British Columbia and smuggled by individuals to Asia to sell for as much as $18,000 apiece. After a report by the Washington DC-based Investigative Network revealed the extent of the problem (one dealer offered a discount for 50 galls or more), law officers raided six businesses and seized 191 bear galls. Citing cases like this, Marr persuaded the Canadian Government to proclaim a Wildlife Trade Act, with penalties for traffickers of up to $150,000 in fines and five years in prison.

‘Chinese people are very pragmatic,’ says Marr. ‘They do things to produce results. They will abide by the law if the law comes down on them. Besides, if I work on the law I can affect all of the stores instead of just one of them.’

Not content to stop there, Marr then began the drive for a referendum to outlaw all bear hunting in British Columbia. Though the North American black-bear population is considered ‘healthy’ and the grizzly is classified as ‘threatened’, Marr argues that instituting such a ban when both species are endangered will be too late.

Hunters replied with death threats and racial insults, and obstructed and photographed people who wanted to sign Marr’s petition. In the end his volunteers managed to collect over 90,000 signatures – half of what was needed to force a referendum, but enough to argue convincingly that many wanted bear hunting stopped. Marr called on the provincial government to set aside more wildlife reserves, increase the penalties for poaching and ban the spring hunt, when most poaching occurs.

Now Marr is taking his BET’R campaign around the world. He plans to speak in several North American cities with large Chinese communities and after that in several Chinese-speaking capitals of the Pacific Rim. ‘There have been many articles crying for help, saying that what is needed is a person of Chinese extraction to tackle this problem,’ he says. ‘So here I am.’

Marr knows there will be some risk; organized crime is directly involved in the six-billion-dollar annual trade in endangered species, and it’s certain those involved will threaten him if they they think he’s jeopardizing their business. But after tangling with British Columbia’s hunters, he should be ready.

Ross Crockford is a freelance journalist working out of Vancouver.

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1997

Tuesday, December 30, 1997

1995-1997 newspaper articles on Anthony Marr's tiger work

1995-12-02-6 The Vancouver Sun by Nicholas Read

[Animal parts for sale, and it’s legal]

"…‘The Chinese awareness is really not there," Marr says. "Maybe the only person you saw in Chinatown today who knows or cares about the plight of the tiger was me.’…"

1996-01-08-1 Times Colonist, Victoria by Malcolm Curtis

[Tiger, tiger, put it right]

"… ‘If major endangered species of the world – bear, elephant, tiger, rhino – become extinct as a result of Chinese demand for their body parts, I would consider that a very serious crime against nature," Marr said in an interview…"

1997-02-13-4 The Vancouver Sun by Anthony Marr

[Tiger, tiger, burning…out?]

"… If we commit to Gaia our heart and soul, our children may just see a new world emerge, one more compassionate than ever before, perhaps one destined for the stars."

1997-03-19 The Hindu, Delhi, India

[In aid of the vanishing Bengal Tiger]

"Finally, the BET’R Campaign to save bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos has entered India as well…"

1997-05-08 The Georgia Straight, Vancouver by Roland Goetz

[Save tigers rather than saving feelings]

"… According to the article ([Bloody Superstition] - April 14), Garry Grigg of the Canadian Wildlife Service says, ‘We don’t want to be too heavy. We have got too many new Canadians here, and it takes a while to assimilate. We’re dealing with something that is thousands of years old.’

"My question is, would we allow other cultural practices, such as incest, clitoral mutilation, bestiality, or polygamy, to be imported into Canada?…

"… to save some feelings, we (may be allowing) a magnificent species to be destroyed."


Korea Leads Illegal Trade in Bear Parts


In a report released this week, an international coalition of wildlife organisations, including the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), expose South Korea92s leading role in the illegal trade in bear parts. The report , "Killed for Korea" concludes that "South Korea and Korean people abroad represent the bear92s worst enemy after habitat loss."

Undercover film recently taken by animal campaigners shows Korean-sponsored bear poaching and gallbladder smuggling on an international scale as well as the killing of endangered bears for South Korean restaurant-goers.

The bears are desired for bear paw soup, a highly prized delicacy in South Korea. Diners will pay in excess of US$1,000 for a bowl of bear paw soup.

WSPA, together with the Korean Federation for the Environment Movement (KFEM), Humane Society of the US/Humane Society International (HSUS/HSI) and the Global Survival Network (GSN), is lobbying the US government to sanction South Korea over the illegal trade in bear parts. The organisations, with a total membership of over four million people worldwide, are considering an international boycott campaign of Korean goods, if their current approaches to Korean authorities are unsuccessful.

Andrew Dickson, WSPA chief executive, said, "Consumption of bear parts is a national disgrace for South Korea. We are trying to persuade the Korean authorities to stop this illegal trade which is pushing Asian bears towards extinction."

WSPA92s campaign is being backed by the Korean Federation for the Environment Movement (KFEM). Kwon Heanyol, spokesperson for KFEM said, "This outdated practice is a slur on our national reputation. It makes us look cruel and barbaric. Herbal, synthetic and Western alternatives exist for bear gallbladder. Why can92t all Koreans use these instead of continuing to torture and slaughter bears?"

Anthony Marr, organizer of Bears, Elephants, Tigers, Rhinos (BETR), a conservation group based in Vancouver, British Columbia confirms that South Korea is the world's leading consumer of bear parts.

Marr says, "South Koreans sometimes import black bears on the pretext of using them for zoo exhibits, then they have them killed in front of restaurant customers to prove authenticity and freshness."

Marr says he has read reports of caged bears lowered live onto hot coals to have their paws cooked. This procedure is supposed to guarantee freshness, authenticity and entertainment for the customer.

Marr has a video showing a 1989 restaurant menu from the posh Hilton hotel in Seoul offering "bear palm soup. Price - current."

Bear paws are considered a delicacy, not a medicinal, but bear gall bladders are prized for their medicinal effect.

The powdered bile taken from the bear galls has a whole range of uses, primarily for digestive healing and intestinal illnesses including parasites and bacterial infections. The powdered bile is used as an anti-spasmodic, a pain-killer, tranquillizer, an anti-allergenic, and a cough remedy. It is also considered to be a general purpose body tuning tonic. Bear bile is even said to restore a liver damaged by overdrinking.

Unlike tiger bones and rhino horns which have no real medicinal value, bear galls do contain ursodeoxycolic acid which does have a medicinal effect. This acid was patented as a synthetic in Japan in the 1930s. Today, 150 tons are used annually worldwide.

There are seven species of bears in the world, excluding the panda and koala, which are not considered to be true bears. Three bear species are endangered, particularly the Asiatic black bear, which used to be the main source of galls. The Asiatic black bear is now almost completely wiped out in China and Korea.

To meet the demand from Korea and other Asian countries, poachers have been taking bears from Russia and North America. Marr says poaching is "huge" in North America. Poachers have been caught in British Columbia recently, but provincial laws have no teeth, as the indigenous bears are not yet listed as endangered.

The penalty is very light when poachers are caught in B.C. Marr says, "Someone recently caught with 90 galls, which would easily sell for US$250,000 thousand in Korea, was fined $3,500 bucks, not even the price of one gall in Korea. For every batch of poached bear parts discovered by law enforcement officers, 49 get away. Customs officials estimate they can check only 2-3% of what goes out of Canada."

Marr estimates that between 20,000 and 40,000 bears are poached in Canada yearly. Legal trophy hunting kills 22,000 more.

In London, the WSPA is offering broadcast quality undercover footage showing the killing of endangered bears for South Korean diners and the farming of bears in China, some of which are destined for the Korean market

(From the Environment News Service:

1997-07-08 The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario by Finbar O’Reilly

[Animal activist targets Chinatown]

"… One Ottawa professor of traditional Chinese medicine, who asked not to be identified, said she abides by Canada’s laws banning the sale of tiger and bear parts, but that doesn’t mean she agrees with them.

"‘How come you have to protect the tiger, but not the cow?’ she asked. ‘I am a doctor. I want to treat people. If you care more about human than animal (sic), then why not use animal parts for safety?’…

"Mr. Marr, who plans a visit to the Chinatowns of both Toronto and Ottawa (to demonstrate that the new law) is not being properly enforced…"

1997-07-11 The Toronto Sun by Tom Godfrey

[Tiger goods on shelf]

"… Toronto has become a hotbed for the sale of animal parts, including penises… said Anthony Marr…

"Marr said within an hour he was able to buy processed medicines containing or claiming to contain tiger bone, seal penis, deer penis…"

1997-07-15 The Globe and Mail, national by Michael Valpy

[The trade in seal and tiger parts]

"This is a Canadian story. Anthony Marr, a Chinese Canadian who lives in Vancouver, is sitting in a Toronto hotel restaurant waiting for a television crew.

"When the crew arrives, he will take its members to Toronto's Chinese community’s downtown commercial district on Spadina Avenue. Here they will wire him with a microphone and film him buying illegal tiger bone pills and legal, regrettably, seal penis pills…

"Mr. Marr, an intense man, says he has been embarrassed by all these practices…"

1997-10-01-3 News Leader, Burnaby, BC

[Gilmore students join efforts to "Save-the-Tiger"]

"… ‘Unless a huge conservation effort ignites now, the tiger will be extinct in the wild by the year 2004…’ said Anthony Marr… who gives the slideshows to the schools. ‘Some adults say, "How many tiger are there in Canada? Why should we be bothered? Go ask the kids.’…"

1997-10-04-6 The Peace Arch News, Surrey, BC by Tracy Holmes

[Care for the cats]

"Save the tiger.

"That was the message students of Peace Arch Elementary received at a presentation by… Anthony Marr…

"Under the watchful eyes of a 50-foot inflatable tiger, the kids learned the only 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, and that some subspecies totaled less than the number of students in the gym.

"But, ‘I do not believe the tiger is doomed,’ Anthony Marr told the kids. ‘The reason I believe this is because nobody has ever asked kids like you to help out. If we can get kids around the world to say, ‘I want to save the tiger’, I believe the tiger will be saved.’…

"He also asked them to come to the Save-the-Tiger Walk at Stanley Park Oct. 18."

1997-10-08-3 The Vancouver Courier by Gudrun Will

[Students take tiger by the tail]

"High school environmental club rallies behind animal activist.

"An auditorium full of Kitsilano high school students roared in appreciation…

"Inspiring youth, Marr believes, is the only hope to save the rapidly diminished species…"

1997-10-16 The Westender, Vancouver

[Halloween fun, Tiger Walk set]

"… The WCWC has organized Save-the-Tiger Walk ’97…"

1997-10-19-7 The Province, Vancouver

[Walking for wildlife]

"Hundreds of concerned people took part in the ‘Save-the-Tiger Walk’ in Vancouver’s Stanley Park yesterday. They were walking to raise money to protect the dwindling number of tigers left in the wild."

1997-10-19-7 Ming Pao Daily News (Chinese), global

[1,000 people walk to save 4,000 tigers]

"WCWC’s Save-the-Tiger Walk attracted over 1,000 children and their teachers and parents, and raised $20,000…"

1997-10-29-3 The Comox Valley Echo by Diane Radmore

[Service to remember animals]

"Animal lovers of all kinds are invited to come hear guest speakers and attend an outdoor gathering called In Remembrance of the Animals at noon Saturday, November 1, at the Sid Williams Foundation in downtown Courtenay…

"… Anthony Marr, initiator of the worldwide BET’R Campaign… will also be in attendance…"

1997-10-31-5 The Comox Valley Record by Diane Radmore

[Vigil for lost wildlife]

"Local activists to speak at downtown rally tomorrow…

"… Since last year’s referendum on bear hunting in BC campaign, Marr has been to India on behalf of the dwindling tiger population and was a guest speaker at last week’s International Fund for Animal Welfare Conference concerning the East Coast seal hunt…"