Even though sales of tiger bones in China are strictly speaking banned and illegal, wine made from tiger bones is a huge hit on the black market there.
Li Wen, a lover and brewer of the tasty Chinese amber nectar, said to reporters as he drew a clear glass bottle filled with a dark brown liquid: “I have newer batches too, and I’m also making my own.”
And, hidden beneath a large black sheet sits a large vessel holding around five gallons of the stuff, lighter in color than than the newer ones, being that this “special brew” is a lot older but with a bone in the bottom which is unmistakably a tiger’s bone.
Tigers have a tough time of it in China as they are thought of with a mixture of fear and interest by the public. At a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, held in Geneva recently, a Chinese delegate said: “We don’t ban trade in tiger skins but we do ban trade in tiger bones.”
As far as Lin Wen is concerned, despite the bans in place on the trade of tiger bones, consuming the wine regularly gives him the strength of a tiger and the senses of a predator.
But a report last year by UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) suggests that the trade of tiger bones is not acceptable, noting that: “a failure to act indicates an implicit endorsement of a legal trade in the skins of captive-bred tigers, and the beginning of a slippery slope towards accepting a legal trade in the bones of captive-bred tigers.”
Nevertheless, fans of the tiger wine claim it boosts their “qi,” improves circulation and makes the body strong in general. Li Wen likes it because of the sense of dominance it gives him: “If I ever had to face that thing,” Li Wen said as he pointed to the tiger bone steeping in his vat of rice wine, “it would kill me. But now it’s in a jar, like I tamed it.”
He also confirmed that the wine makes him more savvy as a businessman: “I’m a better businessman because of it, he said.”
Regardless of the moral aspect of killing tigers in order to use their bones to make wine, there is no question that large sections of society in China believe that tiger bones contain almost magical properties, and will continue to be a big hit on the black market there for years to come.