Tiger bone wine is as grisly as it sounds: Made by suspending the animal's bones in rice wine, the liquid is sold as a Chinese remedy for rheumatism and impotence. And while the tiger bone trade was banned in 1993, the concoction is making a comeback. As Simon Denyer writes for the Washington Post, by 1993 there was a nascent tiger-farming industry in place that has today grown to some 200 farms across the country. Breeding tigers is not difficult, allowing the captive population (thought to number as many as 6,000 there) to surge past the wild population (below the 4,000 mark). The farms are ostensibly intended as tourist attractions (Denyer describes a tiger show staged in front of a virtually empty 1,000-seat auditorium at one farm) and conservation.
But what they're actually doing is two-fold: helping to erase the reluctance among the elite to purchase tiger products both legal and illegal (China's State Forestry Administration sanctions the sale of pelts); and fueling the killing of wild tigers for these products, as doing so is cheaper than raising them. The farms are also spurring the country's wildlife officials to seek a green light from the rest of the world to drop the bone ban. In its view, these captivity-bred tigers count as a "domestic natural resource." China hasn't gotten the nod, but Denyer cites probes (including one by the Post) indicating the SFA has been supporting the tiger-wine industry all the same. In some cases, bottles are weakly disguised (one used a character that rhymes with the Chinese word for tiger); at the aforementioned farm, the admission ticket states the government has given the OK to use the skeletons of tigers who succumbed to natural causes in wine. Read the full piece for much more. (Read more China stories.)