Beijing Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine hail bear bile as an extraordinary health elixir, and that belief has spawned an industry of farms where caged bears with catheters are milked of their bile for use in medicines and cosmetics.
The practice is coming under international condemnation.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution last month calling on China to end "cruel and uncivilized" bear farming by the 2008 summer Olympic Games.
China responded to the resolution Thursday, saying, in essence, forget it.
"We have introduced painless practices in obtaining bear bile, such as extracting the bile through tubes developed from bear tissue," Wang Wei, deputy director general of wildlife conservation at the State Forestry Administration, said at a news briefing.
Wang said China has made "remarkable improvement" in conditions on bear farms and has cracked down on other questionable wildlife practices, such as thrilling tourists at wildlife theme parks by feeding live animals to ravenous beasts of prey or permitting the skinning alive of furry critters as part of the rapidly expanding fur trade.