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Bill Would Prohibit Sale of Bear Parts

February 13, 2001|MARGARET TALEV

Rep. Elton Gallegly made headlines last year for his legislation to protect mice. This year, he's a key advocate for bears.

Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) is sponsor of the Bear Protection Act, legislation meant to curb the killing of American bears for their bile and gall bladders.

They are used primarily in consumer products, such as hemorrhoid and rheumatism medication, manufactured in China.

The legislation, which has 76 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, would prohibit the import, export and interstate transport of bear gall bladders and bile as well as any goods that contain them.

It would also make any such sales illegal.

Advocates of the legislation, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, say killing bears for their bile is cruel and unnecessary.

They say there are herbal and synthetic alternatives that are equally effective.

In November 1999, Congress passed a bill sponsored by Gallegly that made it illegal to make or sell movies or videotapes that feature people, usually women in high heels, crushing mice or other animals in so-called "crush videos."

The import of Chinese bear parts and products already is illegal throughout the United States, said Susan Sherwin, a spokeswoman for the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

And in California and 31 other states, it's illegal to sell domestic bear organs.

But in 18 other states, animal advocates say, there are either no domestic bear regulations or rules full of loopholes.

"In California, for example, it's illegal to sell any part of a bear," Gallegly said. "But in Nevada, it's legal to sell them, even if you acquired them from another state. So, if you kill the bear in California, you can put the parts in the bag and drive them into Las Vegas and there's no law that prevents you from taking them across the state line."

The U.S. Senate passed similar legislation last year, but the measure did not receive a full vote in the House.

Gallegly said this year's legislation is crafted narrowly so as to close the loopholes in the sale of bear parts without drawing opposition from game hunters.

"It isn't going to have an effect on sportsmen whatsoever," he said.

But one hunter predicted the legislation could have an undesired effect, actually increasing the number of poachers.

"If it's made illegal, all it's going to do is make demand go up and drive the price up," said Clint Gray, who runs Buckshot Outfitting in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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