Body parts of leopards and pangolins are being used in traditional Chinese medicine products.
In a recent report, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has accused three publicly traded Chinese pharmaceutical companies of utilizing body parts from endangered animals as ingredients in their products. Notably, these firms have garnered investments from global financial institutions, including UBS and HSBC. The report also highlights the use of leopard and pangolin parts in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) products, raising concerns about wildlife conservation.
Three Chinese Pharmaceutical Companies Under Scrutiny
The EIA’s investigation singled out three pharmaceutical companies – Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group, Tianjin Pharmaceutical Group, and Jilin Aodong Pharmaceutical Group – for their involvement in using endangered animal parts in their products. These firms are part of a list of 72 companies identified by the environmental non-profit organization for incorporating threatened leopard and pangolin body parts in at least 88 TCM products.
Emphasis on Publicly Listed Pharmaceutical Companies
The EIA focused its scrutiny on publicly traded pharmaceutical companies due to their visibility and the presence of products featuring leopard or pangolin parts on their official websites. The use of such ingredients in TCM products is not uncommon, and companies often highlight their efficacy on product packaging.
Avinash Basker, a legal and policy specialist for the EIA, expressed disappointment with major banks and financial institutions investing in these companies, effectively endorsing the exploitation of endangered species. He called for divestment from TCM manufacturers that utilize threatened species.
Financial Institutions and Their Response
The EIA’s report revealed that 62 financial institutions had invested in at least one of the three accused firms. Notable names include UBS, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings, Citigroup, and BlackRock. Some investors, like Wells Fargo & Co, have either sold their funds invested in these TCM firms or divested from the companies.
HSBC Global Asset Management Canada and Royal Bank of Canada clarified that their investments were limited to passive or tracker funds. UBS stated that its shareholdings were held on behalf of clients. However, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings, Citigroup, and BlackRock did not respond to the EIA’s inquiries.
Activists Call for Government Intervention
The EIA has urged the Chinese government to take action by prohibiting the use of endangered animal parts for all commercial purposes within domestic markets. While China’s amended Wildlife Protection law, implemented in May, restricts the trade of most wild animals for consumption as food, it still allows permissions for breeding and utilization under specific circumstances.
The China National Medical Products Administration did not provide a response to the EIA’s request for comment.
In light of these allegations, there is growing pressure on both pharmaceutical companies and financial institutions to reassess their practices and investments, with a focus on promoting wildlife conservation and responsible business conduct.