Particularly sought after in China, some products such as rhinoceros horns and tiger bones have been re-authorized for sale for medical purposes by Chinese authorities. While China has banned this trade for a quarter of a century, this retreat fuels the anger of environmentalists.
On October 29, 2018, a statement issued by the Chinese government announced a new legalization around the use of rhinoceros horns and tiger bones for medical purposes, more specifically in traditional medicine as well as in medical research. The press release also refers to products from farmed animals, that is to say of a controlled origin.
In a second communiqué in response to this decision, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) considers this a worrying measure. According to the WWF, it would be particularly difficult to establish the origin of products without performing DNA tests, and that this decision could only have the effect of protecting traffickers.
China had banned such products for 25 years, according to a 1993 New York Times archive – although the parallel market has always existed. In addition, the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies (WFAS), the regulating authority of Chinese medicine, has removed from its list rhinoceros horn and tiger bones for some years now.
The reason China has taken this backward step is still unclear. In fact, the country’s authorities have not responded to requests from the press. On the other hand, the number of tiger farms as well as that of rhinoceros breeding devices is on the rise. This is what would have pushed China to push for the establishment of a regulated trade.
Keratin is one of the components of rhinoceros horn. It is a protein known to be present in our hair and nails. The population consume it in the form of powder, and it is wrongly believed to treat a large number of diseases such as gout or cancer.
Regarding tiger bones – processed into powder or paste – consumers also consider them as a kind of miracle cure that can cure back pain and other rheumatism. Unfortunately, these considerations are rooted in popular belief and tradition; there is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness of these products.