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Bear them in mind: Animal rescue talk at Sydney Uni

Central News Magazine

1917 days ago   Article ID# 561736
Original URL


Animals Asia Foundation

SURRY HILLS, AUSTRALIA (Central News Magazine) - It was the “stupidest” thing she’s ever done that transformed the life of Jill Robinson - and the lives of hundreds of bears suffering on bile farms in Asia.

In 1993, Robinson visited to a bear farm in China in the guise of a tourist to photograph bears kept out of sight in a basement.

“At one point I backed into a cage and I felt something touch my shoulder,” Robinson said. “It was a female bear with her paw out, and I took it and she squeezed my fingers.

“It was years later that I realised what a stupid, dangerous thing I’d done. But she didn’t hurt me. I knew even then that I would never see her again, but I called her Xiong which means bear in Chinese, and she started everything.”

Xiong inspired Robinson, a British citizen who now lives in Hong Kong, to establish the Animals Asia Foundation, an organisation at the forefront of the animal welfare revolution in Asia, and the only one in the world to have reached an agreement with the Chinese government.

Animals Asia and its government partners created the concept of bear farm-free provinces to leverage other provinces to come into line.

“It worked,” Robinson said. “We had 18 provinces join last year and then earlier this year Shandong phoned us up and said ‘we would like to close our last farm’. And that’s where we rescued 10 bears including Oliver this year in April.”

Oliver spent 30 years in a crushed cage. “He has what we call stress dwarfism,” Robinson said. “He’s a brown bear so he’s massive, and he’s got a normal shaped head and body but then he’s got these tiny little legs about a third the length they should be. And he pants a lot and he’s on a lot of medication but he also smiles, he actually smiles now.”

Robinson still does a lot of the hands-on work, which she says is the best part of the job.

“It’s just remarkable how these bears recover. They are broken when they come in. You just have to look at their eyes in the photos - they are terrified, they are aggressive, they are pain-racked - and then you see a remarkable transition, and peaceful, trusting, forgiving natures emerge.

“They rescue us as much as we rescue them. They teach us to keep going.”

To date, the foundation has rescued 328 bears from farms in China and Vietnam. According to Robinson, things are really changing in Asia.

“I have a lot of hope, the tide is turning, it really is a revolution in Asia - animal welfare is here.”

Animals Asia also campaigns for the rights of dogs and cats, which die terrible deaths in live food markets, and funds local groups to do the same.

“The groups are busting the warehouses, they’re busting the markets, they’re busting the restaurants. They’re doing public demonstrations in the streets with placards. And this in communist china - five years ago this wouldn’t have happened.”

Robinson pointed out that the organisation is also working for the wellbeing of people. “Doctors are talking in the media, particularly in Vietnam, about people losing their lives by taking bear bile.”

“And you go to the markets where dogs and cats are kept, and these are the markets where SARS originated.

“There’s a very famous Chinese saying, ‘to close your eyes will not ease another’s pain’. I’m a great believer in that. We have to see it, then we can use our grief and our anger to make a difference.”

Robinson will speak at the University of Sydney on tomorrow night (July 12) at 6pm. Phone 1800 666 004 or go to animalsasia.org.

Copyright 2015 Central News Magazine   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1917 days ago   Article ID# 561736

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