China and other Asian nations should shut privately run tiger farms as they are inhumane and fuel demand for the endangered big cat’s bones and skin, the World Bank said on Thursday.

The call came as governments from 13 countries, where tigers exist in the wild, met in Thailand to discuss their conservation and how to boost tiger numbers.

Tiger farms are found principally in China, as well as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Owners claim rearing the cats in captivity will help reduce the illegal trade in tiger parts which are used in traditional medicine, but environmentalists say it only stimulates further smuggling.

“Our position is that tiger farms as an animal practice are cruel. They fan the potential use of tiger parts.

That is extremely dangerous because that would continue to spur demand,” said the World Bank’s Keshav Varma, who is the program director for the Global Tiger Initiative, a coalition formed in 2008 with the Smithsonian Institute and nearly 40 conservation groups. It aims to double tiger numbers by 2022.

“The Global Tiger Initiative as well as the World Bank are in favour of shutting down these farms,” he said by phone from the sidelines of the conference in the beach resort of Hua Hin.