Boris Johnson rightly says that Chinese medicine is “demented”

I admire Boris Johnson for stating that traditional Chinese medicine is demented. He blamed this ancient medicine based on superstition without any science for unleashing the devastating coronavirus pandemic. And I agree with him. He made this outspoken statement, which needed to be made by a leader, to a virtual gathering of world leaders at the Open Planet Summit. This is a meeting to deal with the pressing need of protecting biodiversity.

Tiger bone wine
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Tiger bone wine. Photo: PoC.

The Prime Minister scoffed at those who “grind up the scales of a pangolin” to make a potion for some ailment which doesn’t work. People who take this potion think it works and therefore there may be a placebo effect. Pangolin scales are made of keratin which is the same material that makes our nails and our hair strands. Nobody in the West, nobody, would even consider eating their own hair or nails for some medicinal purpose. And the horn of the rhinoceros is made of the same material and the Chinese think that it gives them an erection. It’s total madness and well done to Boris Johnson declaring this to the world although he didn’t mention erections! 🙂

Tiger Bone Wine

Tiger Bone Wine in a tiger shaped bottle. Photo is copyright by Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). They have not granted me permission to use the picture. I have asked twice. I am publishing it anyway because it is in the public’s interest.

Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world. Like the original plague which struck the Greeks I seem to remember in book one of the Iliad, it is a zoonotic disease. It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe. It originates from this collision between mankind and the natural world and we’ve got to stop it.”

Traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine. Image in public domain.

Of course the Chinese pushed back angrily. They hate, they detest, anybody criticising their ancient medicine. China was represented at the summit by the Vice Premier, Han Zheng. He must have winced. The Times newspaper tells me that similar viruses have been found in such species as the pangolin and bats which are used in Chinese medicine. These animals are living when brought to the wet markets of China where they are slaughtered under unregulated conditions. Although it is noted that China has had a cleanup of these hellish places (22,000 of them!) since the commencement of the coronavirus pandemic. Too little, too late and an admission that they have done wrong for centuries.

Chinese medicine wine

Chinese medicine wine. Image: PoC.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian said: “We’ve said many times that origin-tracing is a scientific matter. There is no room, no place for people making speculations, hyping up, otherwise it will only disrupt international cooperation.”

That is a form of blackmail. What he’s saying is that unless the West shuts up about their medicine which ostensibly caused the pandemic then they will take action perhaps through sanctions on goods or block the WHO investigation. Personally I would push them and let them take action. Keep on pushing. We don’t need their goods. We need to make our own goods. We need their cooperation in terms of investment into the country I agree that. But if it comes at the expense of a pandemic or gross animal welfare abuses in the cat and dog meat markets and the cat and dog fur markets, and human rights abuses, then so be it. We have to give up on their cheap products. We have to stop being addicted to the cheapness of their products and start paying more for them. It’ll do us good to stop being mad consumers.

The president of China, Pres Xi, has vocally supported traditional Chinese medicine. He thinks that it is part of the culture of China and “the key to the archive of Chinese civilisation”. What a shame that it is. If it is so important and at the heart of Chinese civilisation then it is a very poor civilisation, cruel to animals and crude. It is a civilisation which has no place in the modern world.

What has this got to do with cats? Well, I’ve mentioned the cat meat and fur markets of China which are horrendously cruel. That’s a start. In addition traditional Chinese medicine is a major contributor to the persecution of Bengal tigers in India and Bangladesh (they like tiger penises – guess what for?). It is also a major contributor to cruel canned lion hunts in South Africa and tiger farms in China where tigers are humiliated and ill-treated. It contributes to the decimation of rhinoceroses in Africa. You can go on and on about how poachers persecute many species of animal to feed the traditional Chinese medicine market. It is a major barrier to conservation and biodiversity. This spurious medicine should be banned completely and it would be in a better world.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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