Emma Kimber describes an evening of emotion and genorosity
Although Friday and 13 and considered unlucky by most, the Animals Asia Foundation challenged that superstition as thousands of pounds rolled in at an extravagant fundraiser which took place at the Pagoda Palace on Friday 13th June.
Sarah and Dave Chilvers from Peatmoor, Swindon’s campaigners against cruelty to Asiatic Moon Bears, joined forces with the Pagoda Palace restaurant on the edge of Peatmoor Lagoon to host a lavish and memorable evening for over 187 guests.
The night was an immense success in every respect. Antique celebrity Paul Martin, presenter of BBC’s Flog It! sparked an impressive wave of generosity during an energetic auction, and Jill Robinson, founder of the Animals Asia Foundation, tugged at the heartstrings of all guests with moving images and distressing tales of the Moon Bears that Jill and her team dedicate their lives to saving.
While Swindon and Wiltshire’s elite filed into the Pagoda Palace dressed to impressed, with taste-buds tingling in anticipation of a delicious Chinese spread, the concern and compassionate side of all guests was certainly the main course of the evening.
Animals Asia is a foundation based in Chengdu, whose most recent projects involve intense recovery action for animals and humans affected by the massive earthquake that hit west China o May 12th. Jill Robinson describes the past few months as a “helter-skelter of emotions” due to the devastating losses of thousands; people and animals alike.
The Moon Bears endure a continuous struggle in their homelands, their bile being in constant demand for the use of human heart-related medicines. This is unnecessary as cheaper and more humane herbal alternatives can be sourced and used to identical effect. The extraction of the bile from the Moon Bears is a grotesque and inhumane process, resulting in disease and in most cases, death. The careless and painful removal of the endangered bears’ bile often causes liver cancers weighing up to 7kg and distorting the organ until it can no longer function.
The concern for the implication on human public health is also a key issue. The poor and sickening state of the bears that the bile is extracted from is so unhealthy that the bile cannot be good enough for any medicine to be given to humans.
Animals Asia now promises to give the abused animals the respect they deserve, to ensure that so many of them have not died in vain.
“They are such forgiving and understanding animals,” Jill told her audience. “Jasper (the original Moon Bear from the Animal Asia Foundation) represents the majesty of the species that are condensely packed across Asia. They are intelligent animals that can sense human emotions and react accordingly. It breaks our hearts when we see a bear that looks back at us with hatred in its eyes, after the torture it has had to endure during his sad life. The things humans can put these bears through are despicable.”
Pockets were emptied and bidders were active, as TV star Paul Martinencouraged guests to pay up on framed Moon Bear portraits, spa weekends away or tickets to see Madonna in concert. Paul was overjoyed to be part of this spectacular evening of fundraising, having adopted a Moon Bear himself, Bluebell. The personal connection made Paul even more eager to hit those high numbers in the bidding stakes.
The Mayor of Swindon Steve Wakefield scooped the First Lot, bidding £180 on a portrait of “Gollum”, above, a special Moon Bear painted by Rachel Stribbling. From Lot 1 the bidding seemed to soar, the winning bids reaching new highs and the tensions mounting.
“With your help we can give animals the respect they never had, and we can promise to give bears the opportunity to come back to safety and security anytime they like. We give them a choice,” says Jill Robinson as a final plea to the guests of the evening.
As well as protecting the Moon Bears in Asia, Animals Asia is focusing on the treatment of dogs and cats in China. It has worked with government agencies on projects such as ‘Doctor Dog’ and ‘Professor Paws’ to help Chinese culture view these animals as pets that can be of benefit to human health, rather than as food or a target of abuse.
Jill thanked the audience for all their help and gave a special mention to Leon Moore, Swindon’s Iron Man who on the same day managed to complete a sponsored triathlon, and also Sarah and Dave Chilvers for their fantastic work. “The destiny of these wonderful animals is changing, with the help of fantastic support like Swindon has been giving us.”
Pictured above, Swindon artist Ken White with a Moon Bear print which he donated for auction in aid of Animals Asia.
Below, Jill Robinson and the Mayor encourage Leon Moore with his amazing fundraising effort
2014 – Swindon Animals Asia Support Group commits to raising £12,000 for third sanctuary. Read more about their work and the return of Jill Robinson to take part in Dragon Boat races on 29 June. Click