Bear farms, established for the extraction of bile from live bears, have unknown effects on the conservation of bears in Asia. Whilst some major bile producing countries have tightened legislation on this practice, traders have responded by establishing bile extraction facilities in countries with weaker legislation. We conducted a survey of all known facilities in Lao PDR through direct observation or examination of governmental and non-governmental records, and documented the birth and rapid growth of this industry since the first farm was established in 2000. We also obtained trading values for gall bladders from wild bears in Lao PDR from literature, databases and direct observation. The number of farmed bears tripled from 2008 to 2012. In 2012 121 Asiatic black bears Ursus thibetanus and one sun bear Helarctos malayanus were kept on 11 commercial facilities. Evidence suggests that all bears were wild caught domestically or illegally imported internationally, in violation of national and international law. Moreover, some bile from these farms was being illegally exported internationally. Farmed bile availability has apparently not diminished the demand for wild bile, as the market value has increased dramatically since 2000. We suggest that bear farming in Lao PDR may be increasing the incentive to poach wild bears.