Nature

Global superstars demand end to animal mistreatment

Ricky Gervais, Dame Judi Dench, Olivia Newton John, Joaquin Phoenix and others call for a reset of humanity’s relationship with nature in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis

As a galaxy of global superstars, lead by comedian 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, two baby bears have attempted to steal the limelight.

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

“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.

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 Dame 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. See here for all celebrity statements.

Joaquin Phoenix wearing a t-shirt bearing the words “The Only Cure is Kindness”.

“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.

“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.”

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