South Koreans Hunting River Rats As A Source Of Bile For Traditional Medicine

At first I thought it was really gross that people in South Korea were wiping out river rats for food. Then I found out that the rats are being sought for their bile.  With bear bile in the short supply due to the overhunting of bears and new national protections, Koreans are turning to river rats as a source of ursodeoxycholic acid.  Rats have an even greater amount of the acid than bears.

The rats were introduced in the 1980s and the South Korean government has been trying to eliminate the invasive species known as Nutria.  Then a report came out on the higher level of the acid. The result was a sharp increase in people hunting the critters.  That might all be for the good except for two problems. It is preserving this demand for bile in traditional medicine and the government now fears that people will start to actively breed Nutria and spread them throughout the country.

The government offers a cash reward of 20,000 won ($17; £14) for each Nutria caught, but people could likely make much more selling the bile.

12 thoughts on “South Koreans Hunting River Rats As A Source Of Bile For Traditional Medicine”

  1. Then again, from Wikipedia, ursodeoxycholic acid is used for:

    Reduction in gallstone formation, either in patients with gallstones unfit for cholecystectomy, or obese patients undergoing rapid weight loss to prevent gallstone formation.
    For the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC).
    To aim to improve bile flow in patients with cystic fibrosis (controversial)
    In newborn infants with impaired bile flow.

    Still, repellent.

  2. “Harvesting” animal bile from bears and rats is disgusting and cruel; check out any video of bear bile farms. Would you like to spend your life that way? To top it off the bile is ineffective for whatever purposes the harvesters claim. They just like eatin’ dogs and milkin’ bears like we like our coyote killin’ contests and trappin’ the last jaguar…No one will care because these are rats.

  3. A timeless story:

    A nuisance is upon us! We must DO something! *Government offers reward for nuisance pelts*

    Suddenly, people are breeding the nuisance for the reward!

    It’s almost as if everyone, everywhere, regardless of culture- responds to incentives…

    Does basic economics still apply if the people practicing it never heard of it? (tree, forest, sounds)


    Back in NJ we call them ‘muskrats’. Down south Jerzee they are some kind of delicacy.


  4. I came on to this blog the other day because some blogger referenced my old home town of Cairo, IL. When I was a kid we had a gang known as The River Rats. We did not spend much time in the river or on the levee. When we could drive we would travel up to East Saint Louis and go to the bars, gambling places and homes of ill repute. River Rats! We ran into a gang from across the river in St. Louis who called themselves The Rat Stompers. We became friends.

    I had to move away right out of high school and lived in France for awhile. People do not revere rats in France. They revere frogs. They eat them too. Not rats. I was in a bar group of English speaking folks and we called ourselves the Frog Crew. We wore frog tee shirts and ridiculed the locals for eating frogs.

    Now I live in a place called Ferguson. I ran into a couple of old guys the other day and they related that they were members of The Rat Stompers back in days of old. We are forming a new social group and are zeroing in on a new name. We meet this afternoon.

  5. Unless the river rat is put on the endangered species list, all will be good. Norwegian rats are the ones that carry plague, if I remember correctly.

  6. I sure hope that the ursodeoxycholic acid, found in the rat bile and so desperately pursued for, what I assume are, its magical benefits, can help cure those who will, undoubtedly, be afflicted with the Bubonic plague once the rat population begins to explode.

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