Understanding why consumers in China switch between wild, farmed and synthetic bear bile products

Hinsley, A. et al. (2022) Understanding why consumers in China switch between wild, farmed and synthetic bear bile products. Conservation Biology, (doi: 10.1111/cobi.13895) (PMID:35098582) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

An important rationale for legally-farmed and synthetic wildlife products are that they reduce illegal wild-sourced trade by supplying markets with sustainable alternatives. For this to work, more established illegal-product consumers must switch to legal alternatives than new legal-product consumers drawn to illegal wild products. Despite widespread debate on the magnitude and direction of switching, studies among actual consumers are lacking. We used an anonymous online survey of 1421 Traditional Chinese Medicine consumers in China to investigate switching between legal farmed, synthetic, and illegal wild bear bile. We examined past consumption behaviour, and applied a discrete choice experiment framed within worsening hypothetical disease scenarios, using latent class models to investigate groups with shared preferences. Bear bile consumers (86% respondents) were wealthier, more likely to have family who consumed bile, and less knowledgeable about bile treatments than non-consumers. Consumer preferences were heterogenous but most consumers preferred switching between bile types as disease worsened. We identified five distinct latent classes within our sample: ’law-abiding consumers’ (34% respondents), who prefer legal products and were unlikely to switch; two ‘all-natural consumer’ groups (53%), who dislike synthetics but may switch between farmed and wild products; and two ‘non-consumer’ groups (12%) who prefer not to buy bile. People with past experience of bile consumption had different preferences than those without. Willingness to switch to wild products was related to believing they were legal, although the likelihood of switching was mediated by preferences for cheaper products sold in legal, familiar places. We show that consumers of wild bile may switch, given the availability of a range of legal alternatives, while legal-product consumers may switch to illegal products if the barriers to doing so are small. Understanding preferences that promote or impede switching should be a key consideration when attempting to predict consumer behaviour in complex wildlife markets.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The online survey was supported by Bears in Mind. Collaborator meetings were supported by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and the IUCN Species Survival Commission. We were also supported by research grants from the National Talent Program and National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 41180944 and 41180953 to T.M.L).
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Meginnis, Dr Keila
Authors: Hinsley, A., Wan, A. K. Y., Garshelis, D., Hoffmann, M., Hu, S., Lee, T. M., Meginnis, K., Moyle, B., Qiu, Y., Ruan, X., and Milner-Gulland, E.J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment
Journal Name:Conservation Biology
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:0888-8892
ISSN (Online):1523-1739
Published Online:31 January 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Conservation Biology 2022
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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