Ricky Gervais, pop star Mýa, actors Dame Judi Dench, Olivia Newton-John and Tzi Ma, and renowned conservationist Dame Jane Goodall have come together to record an impassioned video calling for a reset of humanity’s relationship with nature in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and its zoonotic origins. However it’s two baby bears who have stolen the spotlight.

In mid-July, as the celebrities recorded their video messages, Animals Asia rescued two three-month-old moon bear cubs that had been illegally trapped and put on sale on the black market, and are now taking care of them at the NGO’s sanctuary in Tam Dao, Vietnam.

The two rescued bear cubs at the Animals Asia sanctuary in Tam Dao, Vietnam
The two rescued bear cubs at the Animals Asia sanctuary in Tam Dao, Vietnam
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“If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s the power of leaving nature alone – and that The Only Cure is Kindness”, said British comedian Ricky Gervais. “We’ve got so much to learn from animals and nature – and there is so much we can do to help. Animals Asia are actively harnessing that kindness to end bear-bile farming, rescuing bears and taking care of them. Let’s be kinder to nature, and kinder and more forgiving to each other too”.

The actors, musicians and conservationists came together – virtually – to raise awareness of the plight of the Asiatic black bear, or ‘moon bear,’ and the urgent need to end the practice of bear bile farming – where bears are held in tiny cages so that their bile can be extracted for use in traditional medicine. NGO Animals Asia, which created the video to mark Moon Bear Day on August 8th, aims to rescue 500 bears currently in bear bile farms in Vietnam by 2022, so they can live out their lives in a sanctuary with world class care 2. To date, Animals Asia has rescued 634 bears, and has agreement with Vietnamese authorities to completely end bear bile farming in Vietnam by 2022 3.

Video: NZ 0:00 / 2:10 The Only Cure Is Kindness - Animals Asia

The video, featuring Ricky Gervais, Jane Goodall, Mulan star Tzi Ma, Dame Judi Dench, Downton Abbey stars Peter Egan and Lesley Nicol, Guns’n’Roses rockers Slash and Matt Sorum, and actors Olivia Newton-John AC DBE, Virginia McKenna OBE, Joanna Lumley OBE, James Cromwell, Alicia Silverstone, Louis Hofmann, Daniel Gillies, Celina Jade, Maggie Q, Dustin Nguyen, Kristin Bauer, Michelle Forbes, Tara Buck, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, Vietnamese TV Presenter Minh Trang Nguyen, musician Rick Wakeman and singers Han Geng and Mýa, highlights the mistreatment animals as a root cause of pandemics such as the Covid19 crisis, in response “The Only Cure is Kindness”. Actor Joaquin Phoenix, who doesn’t appear in the video, is also spreading the message, appearing on social media wearing a t-shirt bearing the “The Only Cure is Kindness” message.

Joaquin Phoenix wearing a t-shirt bearing the words
Joaquin Phoenix wearing a t-shirt bearing the words "The Only Cure is Kindness"
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“It’s absolutely amazing, because just as the international stars were recording their video clips, our team in Vietnam got a call saying that two baby bears needed to be rescued”, said Jill Robinson MBE, founder and CEO of Animals Asia, who also appears in the video.

“It’s brilliant to be able to welcome all of these household names into the Animals Asia family. By helping us mark Moon Bear Day and our historic agreement with the Vietnam Government, these global stars are raising awareness about the suffering caused by the bear bile industry”, she continued.

“Our supporters have been so generous in supporting our work, but the task ahead is formidable”, continued Robinson. “Animals Asia plans to help rescue up to 500 bears from 142 farms in Vietnam, so they can live out their lives in a sanctuary with world class care. This will take time, effort and resources – by lending their voices, these luminaries are sending a message to each and everyone one of us: that The Only Cure is Kindness.”

“With the campaign to end bear bile farming in Vietnam close to realisation, Jill Robinson and Animals Asia have truly been leading the way, and I hope that their model of kindness in action will be rolled out across Asia”, said famed British ethologist and anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace. “We’ve all now experienced what it’s like to be cooped up for a few short months and I believe people will now have more empathy for the innocent and intelligent creatures who can be trapped on farms, in horrible conditions, for decades. It’s clear, The Only Cure is Kindness”.

“As a Vietnamese-American, I am proud of how Animals Asia is working closely on a plan with the Vietnamese government to put the bears’ welfare first, in collaboration with the people of Vietnam – the overwhelming majority of whom have nothing to do with bear farming " said actor and film star and Animals Asia spokesperson Maggie Q, who adopted a moon bear – named Phoenix – in 2019 4.

“Thanks to the work of Animals Asia, Vietnam’s traditional medical association has agreed to stop prescribing bear bile. Animals Asia is also working respectfully with communities throughout Vietnam, including in areas which have been bear farm hotspots. They’re educating kids in the wider community about animal welfare, and training up Vietnamese veterinarians and animal welfare specialists.” she continued. “I am proud to support the changes that will help moon bears in Vietnam – my country and my mother’s country.”

About Moon Bear Day
Moon Bear Day was created to mark the anniversary of the founding of Animals Asia on 8
August 1998, and is an annual opportunity to bring attention to the plight of the Asiatic black bear, or ‘moon bear’, and to further Animals Asia’s work to end bear bile farming.

Bear Rescue Sanctuaries
Animals Asia operates world-class bear rescue sanctuaries in Chengdu, China and Tam Dao, Vietnam, where bears are rehabilitated and cared for, and where our bear teams gather vital evidence on the effects of bile extraction. The sanctuaries provide the bears with comfortable dens and semi-natural enclosures where they are able to recover in safety and spend the remaining years of their lives in the company of other bears. To date, Animals Asia have rescued 634 bears.

Zoonotic Diseases and Respect for Nature
With statistics showing that approximately 75% of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are zoonotic (animal based), accounting for billions of cases of illness and millions of deaths each year, our treatment of animals is now fully in the spotlight 5.

About Bear Bile Farms
The extraction of bear bile from live bears causes unimaginable suffering and long term health problems for these physically and psychologically damaged animals. A number of techniques exist, all of which are particularly gruesome. While the techniques vary between Vietnam and China, each involves bears being kept in tiny cages. Extraction methods range from “free drip” where the bear suffers a hole in their gallbladder, to the insertion of permanent catheters.

Bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) known to be useful for treating liver and gallbladder conditions. However, there are now many readily available herbal and synthetic alternatives with the same medicinal properties, there is no argument for the use of bear bile.

With over 10,000 bears held on legal bear bile farms in China, Animals Asia is working with the farmers, the government, traditional medical associations and community to build trust and awareness around the animal welfare issues associated with the trade, highlight the dangers that consumption of wildlife products like bear bile present to humans, and promote the use of synthetic and plant based substitutes to bear bile as a more humane alternative. In Vietnam the figure is reportedly around 438; although the practice was outlawed in 1992, numbers of bears on farms continued to rise until 2005, when all bears were microchipped to stem any further expansion to the industry.

Animals Asia’s outreach in both bear farming and non-bear farming areas also addresses herbal alternatives to bear bile, the welfare of other captive animal species. and general wildlife protection.

Source: Animals Asia

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