Chinese Bear Bile Farms' New Nemesis: Former Guns N' Roses Drummer Matt Sorum

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Eric Hobbs

Matt Sorum

Drummer and animal rights activist Matt Sorum has taken up the cause of bears who've suffered years of abuse in Chinese bile farms. The former Guns N' Roses rocker, who now fronts the solo project Fierce Joy, teamed with Animals Asia to adopt a moon bear named Phoenix, whose bile was extracted -- through a hole carved in her abdomen -- for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Phoenix and other bears were rescued by Animals Asia as they turn a one-time bear farm in Nanning, China into an open-air sanctuary with enclosures instead of cages. The group has saved over 500 bears in Vietnam and China, where there are over 10,000 animals still in bear bile farms.

In a statement, Sorum spoke of his connection to Phoenix and praised the group for rescuing that many bears to date. "That’s an incredible number but this connection with a single bear really brings it home to you," he said. "The years of pain and suffering [Phoenix] has endured is heart breaking.Their work continues to inspire and the fate of China's moon bears is one the world needs to know about. We can all help. It must end."

Animals Asia said Phoenix's health has improved since being rescued by Sorum, though she'll need to have her gall bladder removed. Many of her teeth had to be extracted because of bad diet and damage due to the bear's attempts to gnaw through her cage.

The animal rights group's founder and CEO Jill Robinson called Sorum's dedication to Phoenix "incredibly touching." "To say that a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is now as revered for his animal welfare work just shows you his incredible level of commitment."

Bear bile contains ursodeoxycholic acid and is used in traditional medicines to treat hemorrhoids, sore throats, epilepsy, bruises and other ailments, though its effectiveness has long been debated.

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