THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY - HONG KONG
"Rescuing China's Bears"
Jill Robinson MBE
Thursday, 27 September 2007
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome the Founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation, Jill Robinson, to lecture on the foundation's Moon Bear Rescue. AAF is a Hong Kong-headquartered charity that runs a number of projects aimed at finding long-term solutions to problems of animal cruelty, including helping to end the torture of 10,000 Moon Bears on bile farms in China and Vietnam. Jill Robinson's tireless dedication and her unique approach of working alongside local communities and with all levels of government have seen unprecedented success in both countries.
In this lecture, Jill tells of AAF's China Moon Bear Rescue project rescuing suffering and endangered Asiatic black bears from bile farms and bringing them to its sanctuary in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The bears (known as Moon Bears because of the golden crescents on their chests) can spend up to 20 years in cages where they are milked daily for their bile, often through crude, filthy catheters. They are also milked through permanently open holes in their abdomens. This is the so-called "humane" free-dripping technique. It is the only legal method of bile extraction in China, but still causes constant pain.
The bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, even though cheap and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives are readily available. The ambitious bear rescue project was hatched in 1993 when Ms Robinson who was already working in the field of animal welfare in Asia, walked onto a bear bile farm in China. About 10,000 bears were being held in this way, with the government's intent to farm 40,000 by the year 2000. For the next three years Jill spent her time commuting between Beijing, Guangdong and Hong Kong and working with various government and non-government organisations in examining the practice of bear farming and exploring realistic paths towards ending the practice altogether.
In July 2000, after years of lobbying and negotiating, Jill signed a landmark agreement with the Chinese authorities to rescue 500 Moon Bears and work towards ending bear bile farming. That first agreement also saw the government revoke its intent of farming 40,000 bears, together with its decision not to issue any new bear farming licenses. To date, 219 farmed Moon Bears have been rescued and brought to AAF's Chengdu sanctuary. The farmers are compensated financially so they can either retire or set up in another business. Their licenses are taken away permanently.
Animals Asia Foundation has also signed an agreement with the Vietnamese authorities to rescue 200 bears there and is currently completing construction of a sanctuary near Hanoi. Five bears have already made the sanctuary their home, after being rescued from smugglers. Ms Robinson's foundation is working towards an eventual ban on bear farming throughout Asia.
Her cooperation with the State Administration for Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM) in Beijing in 1996 led to the first government-led research programme in China in sourcing a non-animal synthetic alternative to bear bile. At the same time, Jill began working with the Hong Kong traditional Chinese medicine community and inaugurated the "Cruelty Doesn't Cure" programme, which saw thousands of doctors, pharmacists and herbalists pledging to which would work towards replacing all animal species with herbs.
Born in England, Jill studied in Middlesex, before entering a career in television production. After ten years of working at the BBC and Thames Television, Jill left the UK for Hong Kong in 1985, where her intended plan to work in journalism was interrupted after meeting the then Asia Coordinator of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. During the next 11 years Jill followed a career in animal welfare as the Asia Representative for IFAW, before founding the Animals Asia Foundation in 1998. Jill's early years in Asia were spent documenting cruelty to wild, domestic and endangered species in animal markets and working with governments and local communities on programmes which could identify the local needs of the people and provide solutions for the animals themselves. Jill has made numerous presentations of her work to schools, colleges, media and business groups, conservation and animal welfare organisations and government officials in countries all over the world. Jill has been a member of the Hong Kong government "Animal Welfare Advisory Group" and is an Honorary Adviser to the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. Jill was also a member of the SPCA Executive Committee for eight years until 2000. In June 1998, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, in recognition of her services to animal welfare in Asia.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.