Outlaw ‘cures’ that endanger wildlife

BACK in the 1980s I was put on an NHS waiting list for surgery to treat tendonitis. It is a condition characterised by irritation and inflammation of the tendons around the wrist joint. In my case it badly affected my left hand. 

But just a few weeks before the scheduled operation, a friend advised me to try acupuncture. He swore that it would cure me, and gave me the number of a practitioner.

I was sceptical, as I have always regarded alternative medical treatments with utmost suspicion. However, curiosity won the day and I had two sessions with the acupuncturist. The pain went away and has never troubled me since.

What got me thinking again about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was a report I heard on BBC Radio 4 recently about the immense damage being done to animal species by the demand in China for animal parts believed to cure all known maladies. And ‘devil possession’.

I’d never heard of a creature called a pangolin until that report. Pangolins are a form of scaly anteater, and their scales – made of keratin – are believed to enhance kidney function and cure asthma and psoriasis.

Nearly one million pangolins have been poached in the past 10 years. At this rate, according to the One Green Planet blog: “This little scaly creature may be poached into oblivion before most of the world is even aware that they exist.”

Yet Studies show that their scales have no curative effects whatsoever.

Another animal I’d not heard of until hearing that report was the critically-endangered saiga antelope found in the region of Kazakhstan.

In a bid to stop the trade in rhino horn – another substance much in demand by practitioners of TCM – the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) made the huge mistake of encouraged the hunting of this species for their horns. Today, saiga populations have shrunk from the millions to around 50,000 – and the slaughter continues relentlessly.

If this weren’t depressing enough, the BBC reported at the end of October that the Chinese government is now allowing the import of powdered forms of a rhino horn and bones from dead tigers which could be used in “qualified hospitals by qualified doctors.”

That’s probably the most stupid thing I’ve read since some fool of a Brexiteer – one Irene Broadley – posted this message on her Facebook page: “So Europe are prepared to lose all holidaymakers then. Big wide world out there don’t need to go to EU countries. Canary Islands are glorious for a start!!!”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement that the move by China would have “devastating consequences” and be an “enormous setback” to efforts to protect the animals in the wild.

Acupuncture needles are one thing, but driving animals to the brink of extinction – or using extremely cruel methods as in the case of bears kept in “crush cages” so that their bile can be extracted – is quite another.

It beggars belief that China, one of the world’s top technological powers, is encouraging rather than combating superstitious beliefs that are having such a devastating effect on many species.

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