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Did Your Favorites Win a 2023 Libby Award?

Every year, animal rights organization Peta2 hosts the Libby Awards to recognize and celebrate the best cruelty-free and vegan products, as well as memorable moments that have made a positive impact for animals. The awards showcase the growing popularity and success of the cruelty-free and vegan movement, highlighting the innovation and compassion behind these products and initiatives. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at this year’s winners, including the favorite cruelty-free beauty product, the most craveable vegan snack, and the best viral moment for animals.

Favorite Cruelty-Free Beauty Product. The beauty industry has seen a significant shift towards cruelty-free and vegan products in recent years, with more and more brands recognizing the importance of animal welfare. This year’s winner for the favorite cruelty-free beauty product is [Product Name]. This exceptional product not only delivers outstanding results but also aligns with the values and ethics of conscious consumers. Its cruelty-free status ensures that no animals were harmed or tested upon during its production, making it a top choice for those seeking ethical beauty options.

Most Craveable Vegan Snack. The popularity of veganism has led to a surge in delicious and innovative plant-based snacks. This year’s winner for the most craveable vegan snack is [Snack Name]. With its mouthwatering flavors and guilt-free ingredients, this snack has won the hearts and taste buds of vegans and non-vegans alike. Its recognition in the Libby Awards highlights the increasing demand for satisfying and cruelty-free snack options that cater to a wide range of dietary preferences.

Best Viral Moment for Animals. In the age of social media, viral moments have the power to raise awareness and make a lasting impact. The best viral moment for animals this year goes to [Moment Name]. This powerful and heartwarming event captured the attention of millions, shedding light on the importance of animal rights and inspiring change. From heartwarming rescues to inspiring stories of animal advocacy, these viral moments play a crucial role in creating a more compassionate world for animals.

The Peta2 Libby Awards serve as a platform to recognize and celebrate the best cruelty-free and vegan products, as well as impactful moments for animals. The winners of this year’s awards showcase the incredible progress being made in the cruelty-free and vegan movement, highlighting the increasing demand for ethical and compassionate alternatives. As more consumers embrace cruelty-free options, the industry continues to evolve, offering a wide range of innovative products that align with our values. Through initiatives like the Libby Awards, Peta2 encourages individuals to make conscious choices that promote the well-being of animals and contribute to a more compassionate world. So, whether you’re looking for the best cruelty-free beauty product, a mouthwatering vegan snack, or want to be inspired by viral moments for animals, the Peta2 Libby Awards are a great resource to discover and celebrate the best in cruelty-free and vegan products and initiatives.

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Kindness

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This week we welcomed Kindness to our family and to our sanctuary in Tam Dao, Vietnam. The sweetest old lady who accepted treats from our Junior Vet, Thai, with such astonishing gentleness, through the bars of a cage that had held her captive for at least 18 years.

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Kindness awaits rescue

I could hardly hold back the tears as our Associate Veterinary Surgeon Rachel and our team laid out a gently sleeping bear onto the tarpaulin for a procedure she’d never experienced before. Her first health check. Prone and vulnerable there in the garden square of a bear farmer’s home. How many times had she lay on her back, on those same tiles, as her bile had been extracted, time and time and time again.

tuan_jill_examine_cageJill and Vietnam Director Tuan check on Kindness

Now she was being checked for health implications – some more obvious than others. Horribly tartared teeth were examined and immediately scheduled for radical dental work once she’s a little stronger. Three ingrown nails on her pads were observed – before cutting the claws away from the proud flesh of pads they’d painfully punctured. Our hands ran across her frail, thin body with a promise that she would be spoiled for choice of food, for the rest of her life.

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Veterinary Surgeon Rachel, Jill, and Junior Vet Thai begin Kindness’ first health check

And together with our Vietnam Director, Tuan, I met the farmer and his family. And we talked. And we learned from each other. And they accepted our invitation to come and visit Kindness at our sanctuary, and meet our team and bears, any time they like.

Mr Ha told us that their bear had a name – Misa – and it was hard not to show surprise, as we have never heard of a bear being named on a farm in the past. His wife also surprised us by saying that she was worried and hoping that no harm would come to their bear. And I knew that her sentiment was genuine, because I spoke at length with their daughter, Trang, who now lives and works in Australia and was spending a week with her parents before heading home to Canberra.

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Dry pads and ingrown nails – consequences of life in a cage

Trang was genuinely shocked watching the health check, and asked “is she going to be ok?”.  Mr Ha advised that their bear was fed porridge congee, all different kinds of fruit and some fish. But jackfruit was her very favourite and she had enjoyed this special treat the day before, to wish her well and send her on her way from the farm.

It’s easy to judge, isn’t it? But on that afternoon I knew that – while we were world’s apart in terms of how kindness feels and how kindness is demonstrated – the family genuinely cared for their bear.

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Kindness is home – arriving in darkness to welcoming light at our Vietnam rescue centre

On this day of our anniversary, 8th August, I’m transported back to the same day in 1998 – when a small group of rather crazy individuals decided to bring healing where there was harm, sanctuary where there was suffering, and kindness where there was cruelty.  John, Boris, Gail, Winnie and I had a dream, and Animals Asia was born.Gail_Boris_Jill_Founders_AAF
Three of our founders on a mission – Gail, Boris and Jill

Our founding mission was to end the cruel practice of bile extraction, end the consumption of cats and dogs, and improve the welfare of captive animals. 

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Providing sanctuary for rescued bears

Two and a half decades ago we passionately believed that those goals could be reached, but we knew too that success would take time. 

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Caring for Asia’s captive animals

25 years later, on our silver anniversary, we have achieved more than we ever thought possible.  Thanks to the authorities and the over 400 local NGO’s, dogs and cats are increasingly facing a better future after being removed from the official Livestock list of China. More patience is needed but the development of regulations to help them, protect the country from rabies and other disease, and bring the community closer together with animals proven to be beneficial to our mental and physical health, are forging ahead.

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Improving animal welfare for cats and dogs alongside the authorities and local NGOs

Captive animals and those who care for them are helped across Asia with growing provisions that see improved training in veterinary and keeper care, enhanced housing, management and standards of welfare, and kinder visitor experiences.

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Providing enclosure enrichment and improved housing for captive animals

And advancing the protection of bears in China and Vietnam through positive projects of management and care, human/bear conflict mitigation, compassionate conservation programmes, biodiversity education, traditional medicine collaboration, and building three sanctuaries together with the authorities in China and Vietnam, that so far have seen over 680 rescued moon bears, brown bears and sun bears showing themselves off to a delighted public.

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Bach Ma Bear Rescue Centre is under construction with Phase I almost complete

As another founding goal is reached together with the Vietnam government, their commitment honours their promise of ending bear farming, and we work – arm in arm – to ensure it is done.  Our Memorandum of Understanding is the only agreement of its kind in the country –  to close this industry down and rescue the remaining 300 or so bears.

Mr Ha Cong Tuan, Head of Central FPD and Jill sign our first sanctuary in Vietnam into existence in November 2005… 

… and again in July 2022, they sign a new, exclusive agreement to build our second sanctuary at Bach Ma to rescue the remaining bears in Vietnam

On the farm in Ha Nam, as Tuan shook the hands of kindly government officials Mr Dzung and Mr Nam – who had joined us on a rescue previously in 2009 –  my heart burst with pride as we celebrated rescuing the last bear, on the last farm to close down, in the whole province.

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FPD officials, Mr Dzung and Mr Nam worked with us to ensure Kindness was rescued

Our gratitude to you, dear friends and supporters for your trust and your faith over these long, long years – we are doing this together, cage by cage, farm by farm, bear by courageous bear to the day that no bear is left behind.

Thank you team Animals Asia across this globe. We know why we’re here and we know that the promise made to a frightened, caged bear in 1993 holds as true today as it did 30 years ago. Your tenacity, courage, empathy and respect continues to shine, and demonstrates that kindness in action – for all species, including our own – means positive, permanent change.

It all began with kindness 25 years ago – and today we celebrate this mission, through a bear named Kindness, once more.

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JINGLE BEAR BELLS CHENGDU

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The game was on to see who could outdo who – and in a few hours we had giant snowmen and reindeer heads made out of watermelons, beautiful extra large marshmallow snowmen, and a life sized sleigh (thank you our brilliant Horticulture Team for that).

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Laying out the gifts the next day for breakfast, on a chilly overcast day, saw even more creativity, as the best positions were chosen by our red cheeked elves and Santas – all watched from inside the dens by our hungry and increasingly impatient bears.

As the bell rang and the doors finally opened, out the bears came.

Pixie was the self-claimed gingerbread queen, as she sniffed out the sweet smelling biscuits and even wrecked a pine tree to snaffle more than her fair share.

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Holly hauled herself on to a platform, which almost buckled under her divine, “voluptuous” weight. Her mission and focus was on a squadron of marshmallow soldiers made by Rocky, but saw her nose turning up at them all, except for their dried hawthorn apple hats! Her best moment was to come as she claimed her first Christmas box – carefully unwrapping it in slow motion as if she never wanted the magic to end.

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Three legged Jingle who had recently had surgery on her “stump” and was recovering well, picked her way around the enclosure, ignoring the candy canes, the marshmallows and the mince tarts, but seemingly hell-bent on destroying the “Merry Christmas” banner strung between two trees. 

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Our Christmas message, edited by Jingle, quickly became MERRY CHRITMAS for the rest of the day 🙂

And the sleigh just sat there…

As she continued exploring, Jingle decided that she quite liked gingerbread men, and hoovered up three in short succession, before wandering around with a candy cane sticking out of her mouth. 

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Ryan (our Bear and Vet Team Director ) was heard to feel sorry for the hapless ginger biscuits – and swore he heard them cry out for Shrek while shrieking “Do you know the muffin man?”, before they got decapitated by the bears. 

BEAR-GINGERBREAD MAN

Not content with finishing all the remaining biscuits, Pixi then went for as many mince pies as she could find – using her overturned paw (or “paw table” as Ryan calls it), relishing all the sweet stuff inside the pies.

And the sleigh just sat there…

Wancai couldn’t make up his mind – first grabbing a huge and juicy pear, but then catching sight of a Christmas box and wanting that too. Before the morning was out this greedy boy had snaffled most of the boxes for himself, diving his head into each one, with a loud crunching sound of peanuts amplified from within. Not to be outdone, Pixie was now plunging her whole head inside an overripe watermelon, with pips and juice dribbling down her chin.

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Wancai’s growing love for mince pies was also obvious – after curiously sniffing one first, nibbling gently around the edges, and then realising that the inside was definitely yum.

And the sleigh just sat there…

But wait – suddenly Pixie approached the sleigh and we all held our breath… and then let it out again with a disappointed sigh as she just sniffed it, turned her back, and walked away!

After many such moments with various other bears, Jingle claimed the sleigh. She picked it up and adjusted it with her one good front leg, before looking into the distance with her passenger snowman, for all the world as if imagining Rudolph and friends were flying up front. 

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That afternoon it was over to House 6 to see Shamrock, Jonah, Kroenchen, Longo and the divinely handsome Peter Bear!

Peter Bear was first out, closely followed by Shamrock and Jonah – while Kroenchen and Longo were enjoying a lie in. Peter seemed more interested in his audience on the roof of the bear house and spent several minutes looking up at the elves and Santas smiling down into the enclosure, before starting to explore. This bear with the sweetest character, named after our UK Ambassador Peter Egan, saw tears in our eyes as he walked curiously over to his first ever marshmallow snowman and gently pursed his lips to pick it up and savour the treat.

Sadly, his gentle character wasn’t to last as he glanced over and suddenly saw Jonah walking triumphantly back to his den with an enormous Christmas box. Like a spoilt child, and with speed belying his normal gangly walk, Peter wasted no time at all in hurtling over and trying to grab the box from Jonah’s mouth. This obviously didn’t impress Jonah at all and, with a few loud grumbles, and neither letting go, they decided to escort the box into the den together, and continue their spat inside!

Having enjoyed his treat in the den, Jonah then made his way outside again, and over to a huge watermelon “snowman head”; grabbing the carrot nose, and seeing the whole head splattering onto the ground.

JONAH-WATERMELON

Sly Shamrock was ignoring all the fuss around her and continued quietly opening all of the boxes, clearly having a wonderful time.

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By the end of the afternoon, poor Peter had been more intent on gorging on giant brightly coloured ice blocks but, by the time he’d polished off two and realised that absolutely nothing else was left except a third iceblock, he walked past it and made his way back into the den in the hope of finding something nice there. 

True to form, greedy Wancai ate and ate and ate, finishing off everything he could see, before climbing one of his beloved trees and enjoying the view from several metres high.

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Ryan’s observation that, “this just made my everything” absolutely spoke for us all. A wonderful day of smiles and spoiling for bears and people alike, before we headed off for our Christmas party with mulled wine and more presents, with not a marshmallow in sight.

You can see more great photos here.

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As we celebrate the happiness of another year, we launch into 2020 with renewed passion and vigour, with a call to action firmly embedded in our hearts. Our happy bears and our animal successes depend on you, our friends and supporters across the world, championing the “kindness in action” of all in the team. While chaos and violence rages almost everywhere we look, Animals Asia believes that people yearn for a new and peaceful tomorrow – and we celebrate that all of our staff in the field, and in our offices around the globe, are driven to success through actions that are kind.

Your support is vital – ensuring that we don’t just talk about ending the cruelty, but put words into action and create an increasingly kinder world for animals to enjoy. Whether our programme is rescuing bears, or cat and dog welfare or captive animal welfare, fear is replaced with fun, pain is replaced with peace, and suffering is replaced with sanctuary. Through your trust and your confidence in our work and our goals, both wild and companion animals are finally encouraged to express their own characters, are loved, respected and celebrated, and are asked the same “questions” every day, in our unwavering quest for how we can do it all better.

Next year will see us working side by side with the central and local government and with the farmers themselves, delivering on our promise to end bear bile farming in Vietnam. Our formal agreement with the authorities is the only one of its kind, endorsing our first steps in the country in 1999 and now 20 years later finally achieving the mighty goal for which we were founded.

Our gratitude to you all for staying with us. Together, through kindness in action, the promise made to Hong, the first caged bear who began it all in 1993, is finally coming true.

Bear hugs, blessings and love to you all for joy and peace during this most magical festive season, and for the happiest, healthiest and kindest New Year. Jillx



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Time to Act Now – Why Compassion Counts

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As the number of people tragically succumbing to Covid-19 grows across the world, we are left reeling with the terrible consequences of our actions; our crime of animal cruelty and consistent disregard.

Joining a chorus of names and references, US National Health Advisor, Dr Anthony Fauci, has pointed the finger at live wild animal markets as the source of diseases such as Covid-19, the pandemic that has both crippled and paralysed the world. 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 must now surely be under the spotlight and held to full and final account.

From SARS to Covid-19, from Ebola to MERS, to HIV – the global wildlife trade has its roots in every one of these infections and the whole world must take responsibility for the tragic consequences we are seeing today.

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Live animal market

For over 34 years Animals Asia team members and I have visited and documented the live animal markets of Asia. Breathing in the dust baked bacteria emerging from every cage stacked high of miserable species within. This melting pot of disease sees the worst abuse of wild, domestic and endangered species – from farming, husbandry, transport, sanitation and welfare – as row upon row of sick and dying animals stare miserably out from chicken wire and bars, shedding the consequential diseases of their stress and cruel treatment.

Fetuses that are aborted by stressed mothers are tossed to starving animals in the next cage. Dogs lying prone with parvo-virus; blood drenched slime running from their back ends, or noses running green with the mucus of distemper, side by side next to sneezing ferret badgers, shivering masked palm civets, flu stricken cats, flea ridden bamboo rats, snakes, turtles, donkeys, and bloodied three legged victims of illegal trapping in the wild who hobble painfully away from humans brandishing wooden clubs and knives.

The disbelief and frustration reading today of armchair experts abroad who now attempt to justify the wildlife trade. The greatest injustice to both humans and animals are those who argue against the closure of these foul and unhygienic markets, undermining the efforts of those who have been calling a halt on them all. The arguments maintain that, if closed, there would be an increased risk of trade being controlled by organised crime.The trade is already controlled by organised crime. Far better to spend millions or even billions on defeating and ending this crime and ending the trade now, rather than spending the trillions in the next pandemic caused by the very same dysfunctional and largely corrupt components of the wildlife trade.

dogs in cages - market 3 Cage after cage, packed with dogs trucked to market

An even more astonishing call highlights improving regulation of wildlife markets to consider animal welfare concerns. One only has to see undercover video of legal animal slaughterhouses worldwide to understand that even regulated practices surrounding live animals are woefully under-policed. Why do videos need to be undercover, and why do these places criminalise the taking of pictures if they don’t have anything to hide? To now believe that those who supply and run the wildlife markets will conform to “improved regulations” when it is clear that all attempts have failed immediately following SARS until now, is deeply naive and concerning, and fails to recognise that animal welfare and mitigating the risk of disease will always fall substantially short of economic gain.

Yes, there are people who will be horribly affected with the outcome of closing these terrible places down but, already, responsible governments are providing compensation and encouraging the growth of alternative livelihoods, acknowledging that viruses never distinguish between legal and illegal trade.

Our bear rescue centres and staff running them in China and Vietnam have thankfully remained safe during this virus simply because of the good management and strict biosecurity protocols that have always been in place. The millions we struggle to raise every year to ensure that rescued bile farm bears are now healthy and happy (both pre-requisites in fighting disease) are nothing less than insurance for the animals and staff in our care.

It takes no stretch of the imagination to understand that such millions are not going to be spent in ensuring proper sanitation and welfare raising wild animals for slaughter, in countries where animal welfare legislation is either lacking or non-existent. It’s time to give these animals the benefit of the doubt – not put the onus, once again, on people who cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Regulations mean nothing to the millions of stressed and compromised animals caged in rank, disgusting conditions, as they continue shedding disease.

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Masked palm civet caged in a live animal market

Today, according to the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the China wildlife trade is valued at US$74 billion (including the fur industry that accounts for 74%). These wild animal markets must close, for good, acknowledging the truly dreadful social and financial repercussions, far surpassing that figure, should another pandemic emerge. We can no longer live in fear of being bullied by economic gain – a lust for the dollar that has for too long hijacked our health, and our respect and compassion for life, seeing an increasingly suffocating environment whose lungs are blackened by the pollution of our own making.

To sneer too at NGO’s for using both words and practices surrounding “compassion” is both alarming and dangerous in this current climate of surely now recognising that welfare matters, and that our duty of care to our children and generations ahead is to live harmoniously, responsibly, healthily and kindly with the creatures who share our earth.

As we heed the stark warning of Covid-19 we must consider our own lifestyle once and for all. No continent, no country, no city is immune or without blame as we reflect on the changes we know have to be made, or risk the next punishment for our behaviour that is already waiting in the wings.

Change is possible if we look at our habits, the lives that we live, and start the ripple of that change in our own back yard.

A signal for hope is the news that China is closing down these wild animal markets, and announcing a ban in the consumption of all wildlife. However, as a drug called Tanreqing, containing bear bile, is being used to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients, jaws are dropping in China and across the world with this use of a wildlife product as the solution to combat a deadly virus that appears to have originated from wildlife itself.

As a direct result of this news from a conservation level, considering that farmed bears are CITES Appendix 1, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) in Malaysia has now stated “the threat of illegal hunting towards sun bears is facing a drastic increase“.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has thousands of years of rich history and knowledge to draw upon, together with a philosophy of being at peace with the environment – a philosophy that now comes directly from the President himself, advocating “humans must live in harmony with nature and pollution must be fought.” President Xi also spoke prophetically two years ago in May 2018, paraphrasing Marx and fellow Marxist, Friedrich Engels: “If mankind conquers nature with science and creativity, nature will take revenge on mankind”.

Medicines should heal without harm. As the “mirror image”, synthetic bile product is currently being researched in Shanghai by the same company producing Tanreqing, we ask for the urgent escalation of responsibly and ethically sourced alternatives that will take the place of bear bile, to release captive bears from their suffering and protect all species of bears in the wild.

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Moon bears Ricky and Joey – rescued from a bile farm, now safe at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre

The Chinese authorities are now also inviting public comment to end the trade of dogs as meat too. Our Cat and Dog Welfare team and I have also spent decades working with and encouraging the authorities to come down hard on the “black industry” of dog thefts for the table, knowing that the majority of such meat eaten comes from the terrible sources of family companions or strays in the street. Today, surveys show that a large percentage of the population in China is celebrating and supporting this news and reflects the Shenzhen government action in swiftly banning the consumption of dogs and cats, in the belief that this decision underlines the “universal civilisation requirement for a modern society”.

This modern society has made nature our enemy and yet tragically we are blaming the animals, when we should be blaming ourselves. We need to do things differently now.



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How to prevent the next pandemic

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Today, as the world continues reeling from a virus that emerged from the brutal treatment of wild animals, I’m passing my blog over to our Animal Welfare Director, Dave Neale, who makes the case for preventing the next pandemic by changing our own consumer habits closer to home.

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We are in the midst of a global health crisis, where Covid-19 has reached all corners of the world and continues to take its devastating toll on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Governments are frantically adopting measures to contain the spread of the virus while all eyes look towards the emergence of the first hopeful signs of a vaccine to protect the most vulnerable within our societies.

But while we are focused on containment, treatment and our future ability to cope with the virus, we are largely ignoring a bigger issue that needs to be addressed to prevent the development of future pandemics.

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Global health crises arise due to our mistreatment of animals for food, whether this be the shameful treatment of wild animals or the equally shameful treatment of farm animals.

While it is true that recent disease outbreaks such as the Cov-19, SARS, MERS and Ebola have arisen from wild animal populations, others such as Avian Flu and Swine Fever have arisen due to our brutal and unethical treatment of animals on a monumental scale as a source of food.

Globally we raise, transport and slaughter over 70 billion land animals each year, the majority of these are crowded inside production units full of their own excrement and urine, presenting the perfect conditions for future viruses to develop.

 Avian influenza is a virus that mainly affects birds, but strains of the virus have also had devastating impacts on humans. Most cases of human bird flu infections have been due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions such as saliva, nasal secretions or feces. A 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong led to the first documented cases of human infection with 18 people infected and six deaths. Between 2003 and 2006 a further 9 deaths were recorded globally, and between 2013 and 2019 there have been a further 1,568 confirmed human cases and 616 deaths worldwide from the H7N9 strain of avian flu.

CHICKEN SLAUGHTER TAIWAN

There is clearly a link between the emergence of avian influenza viruses and intensified poultry production systems due to us forcing birds such as chickens and turkeys into smaller and smaller spaces, and producing near genetic clones of one another through decades of artificial selection for traits which include rapid growth, at the expense of the health and welfare of the individual birds. When a virus emerges in such a situation it spreads rapidly as it is met with little resistance. It subsequently becomes highly virulent and possesses a substantial risk if it spills over into the human population.

This is certainly not a problem solely linked to the production of poultry. Pigs are also farmed in deplorable conditions in crowded industrial farms, genetically manipulated and fed growth promoters and antibiotics to force their bodies to grow as large and as quickly as possible to maximise economic benefit at the expense of the rights and the welfare of the individual animals. In 2009/10 this resulted in the swine flu pandemic, a strain of H1N1 resulting from a triple reassortment of bird, swine and human flu viruses further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus, leading to the term “swine flu”. Within a year the virus was linked to over 18,000 deaths worldwide, impacting 180 countries.

FACTORY PIGS

But evidence, if it was indeed needed, of our ability to sleepwalk straight into another global health crisis which has the potential to be far greater than the current one, comes from our inability to address the crisis of antibiotic resistance in human populations that we are all too aware of already but have not yet done what needs to be done to avert it, or at least minimize the chances of its happening.

To produce the sheer volume of animals that are required to feed the world’s appetite for meat products, at ever increasing rates of consumption, we pump animals with antibiotics and growth promoters to prevent them from falling ill and dying before they have grown large enough for us to slaughter and eat or before they have produced enough offspring to make them economically viable. These antibiotic interventions are addressing the symptoms of overcrowding and stress rather than the actual root cause. Animals such as pigs and poultry are fed antibiotics in their feed and water, not to cure disease (therapeutic use) but to suppress infections that are likely to arise in factory farm conditions (non-therapeutic or preventive use). Breeding sows that are not given enough time to recover before being impregnated again, and chickens in crowded cages suffering from heat stress that brings salmonella and E coli, need repeated doses.

This vast use of antibiotics coupled with their overuse in our own populations is leading to antibiotic resistance developing globally in disease-causing bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is where the bacteria that cause infections become resistant to the antibiotics we have developed to prevent them from doing harm. It is a global catastrophe that threatens the lives of millions of people around the world. We are often exposed to bacteria that can be harmful to our health. This could be during medical procedures, from dental work to organ transplantation, cancer therapy to hip or knee replacements. It can also happen when we injure ourselves, even through a simple scratch, or are exposed to a contaminated environment.

As bacteria become increasingly resistant to the effects of antibiotics so the number of deaths will increase because of this. Resistance is a global health disaster that is already killing 700,000 people a year, and it is predicted to cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if the current situation is not improved.

Although the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine is the major cause of this crisis, public-health experts agree that the over-use and mis-use of antibiotics in intensive animal production is also an important factor – around half of the world’s antibiotic production is used in farm animals.

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When animals are administered an antibiotic that is closely related to an antibiotic used in human medicine, cross resistance occurs and disease-causing bacteria become resistant to the drug used in human medicine.This bacteria is then transmitted to people in food and then spread by person-to person transmission.

The consensus of the world’s veterinary and medical experts is that it is dangerous and unjustifiable to use antibiotics that are related to drugs of critical importance in human medicine for ‘preventive’ administration to groups of apparently healthy animals.

This usage is thus implicated in the emergence of new forms of multi-resistant bacteria that infect people. These include new strains of multi-resistant foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli. The overuse of antibiotics in intensive pig farming is implicated in the emergence of a new ‘pig’ strain of the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), first identified in 2004-2005 in the Netherlands. This has spread rapidly among pigs in many European countries, to people who are in contact with the animals, and from these people to the community and to hospitals. The livestock-associated MRSA strain has also colonised chickens, dairy cattle and veal calves and the people who handle them and may also be emerging as a food safety risk.

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We are spending all of our time and energy battling with the disastrous impact of Covid-19 on public health systems, grappling with finding a way for us to manage the virus within our communities, and advocating for those that can, to end the trade in wild animals for food. At the same time the very real prospect of evenly deadlier viruses emerging from pig and poultry farms and the spectre of bacterial infections, resistant to the antibiotics we have to keep them at bay, engulfs us.

Yes we must implement social distancing measures, yes we must protect those most vulnerable within our societies, yes we must end the trade in wild animals for consumption and yes we must end the sale of live animals for slaughter in markets around the world. But above all else we must focus attention on the even greater looming health crisis, and tackle the industry that presents an even greater danger to our way of living than any other, an industry that is currently being subsidised to the tune of billions of dollars by the very governments that are supposedly acting in our best interests to protect our health.

We must end the industrial production of animals for food, and so tackle emerging viruses before they have the opportunity to develop and thrive. Only by doing this can we prevent a global health emergency that could seriously overshadow that of Covid-19 developing due to our continued administration of antibiotics to billions of healthy farm animals.

FARM SANCTUARY

To achieve this we must all question our lifestyle choices. We must end our reliance on cheap meat and our support for a political and economic system that rewards agribusiness for mass producing these products, and we must embrace both the plant-based protein alternatives already available and the cellular meat production systems that present the opportunity to produce meat and dairy protein without the need for any animal to be crowded into an industrial warehouse and pumped full of antibiotics to keep it alive long enough for us to slaughter and eat it.

Changing the production and trading of farmed animals is where the focus must be if we are truly serious about preventing future pandemics of global significance rather than simply responding to them as they happen.

Individually, we must stop eating animal products. Collectively, we must insist that public money is no longer used to prop up the factory farming system but is invested in both plant-based meat alternatives and cellular agriculture, expanding scientific research and employment while spurring a transition to animal-free protein and transforming our global food system forever.



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Doing things differently now – ending the suffering of dogs and cats

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The news of China removing dogs from the National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, effective 27th May, was greeted with mixed reaction. Most notably skepticism from some quarters. However, this news is something to be celebrated and supported, given that it clearly means that the sale of dogs for consumption (and, by default, cats as they never were included in the Livestock Catalogue) is now illegal.

Dog meat sales illegal

The newly published Catalogue, approved by the State Council, is a clear signal to the country that dogs are now recognised as friends and helpers of humans and, together with provisions in the Food Safety Law and the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, sees dogs and cats clearly identified as companion animals and not belonging under livestock and poultry.

Also of note, during the public consultation period for the Catalogue, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported that the majority of the comments on “whether or not to include dogs in the Catalogue” were in favour of excluding dogs from the Catalogue. Their statement went on to say:

“Dogs have a long history of domestication. In the past, mainly used for home guardian, hunting and herding; now the use of dogs is more diverse, embodying the functions of pet companionship, police search and rescue, accompanying the blind and so on, and their relationship with humans is closer.”

This public statement from the authorities is groundbreaking and, while of course we will inevitably see push-back from the industry as enforcement begins, the decision has been made and dogs and cats can no longer be sold as food.

As Chinese expert lawyer Anxiang later stated to us: “Dogs and cats do not meet the statutory requirements of the Food Safety Law and the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law for meat animal products, and related industries are illegal.”  Anxiang went further, stating: “This means that the dog meat black industry chain, which was originally operating under the name of the Animal Husbandry Law, has been clearly characterized as illegal, and all the breeding, transportation, sale, slaughter and operation of dog meat, including the so-called ‘dog farms’, are illegal.”

I caught up with our brilliant ambassador, animal lover, actor and Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol to discuss the news and clarify what it means for dogs in China:

Interview Between Jill Robinson MBE and Lesley Nicol from Orange Planet Pictures on Vimeo, with huge thanks to Andrew Telling.

Put simply, all markets, slaughterhouses and restaurants that engage in this practice are operating illegally and should be closed down. In Shenzhen and Zhuhai the authorities have gone one step further and made it illegal not only to sell dogs and cats for consumption, but it is now illegal for anyone to eat these animals too and we will certainly be encouraging other cities to follow this example that Zhuhai and Shenzhen have set.

Animals Asia’s Cat and Dog Welfare team has worked for decades encouraging responsible dog management, and fostering this harmonious connection between humans and companion animals in China. Over the course of many years we have worked with a number of deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) on proposals relating to the protection of companion animals, such as the proposed legislation to ban the slaughter and sale of cats and dogs. 

CDW China + Local governmentOur Cat and Dog Welfare team meet government officials across China to work together on improving companion animal welfare.

We submitted four in-depth investigation reports to a number of national and local governments to help departments and officials understand the violations and dangers of the cat and dog meat industry chain. This was after extensive research from one end of the country to the other – investigating markets, slaughterhouses, restaurants and street sales of dog and cat meat. Our efforts were acknowledged by many official replies from various authorities, including a letter from the State Food and Drug Administration in 2017, which mentioned that they would protect consumers’ food safety by strengthening supervision and inspection of restaurants and other cat and dog meat sales across the country, collaborate with relevant departments to crack down on the illegal cat and dog meat practices, and increase publicity and guidance to the public, amongst other measures.

Since 2016, volunteers have also worked with local governments around the country to report more than 1,300 dog meat restaurants selling dog meat illegally (unable to produce any of the appropriate licenses), and received nearly 500 responses back. By the end of March 2020, inspections resulted in some restaurants having no evidence of dog meat sales while others either received official rectification warnings from the government, or stopped selling dog meat or closed down – impacting over 180 businesses.

CDW - AR 2019

On the ground, we have been working for decades to underpin the building blocks of this decision. 

  • Encouraging a more harmonious connection with dogs in the community through our Dr Dog and Professor Paws programmes, showing the benefits to those in hospitals, homes for the disabled, blind, elderly, and children in schools, of living side by side with this remarkable species and how much they help humankind.  
  • Working with the authorities on responsible dog ownership management at multiple levels, and advising on rabies control. 
  • Being the bridge between local government departments and NGO’s – and bringing parties together in conferences and symposiums that help to protect both people, and dogs and cats, alike.  
  • Encouraging celebrities to reach out to their millions of supporters in China as they call for dogs and cats to be recognised as our companions rather than food.  
  • Working with over 200 NGO’s on shelter improvement and public education programmes and helping them to reach the community in their area to bond with our very best friends. 
  • Funding “TNR” (Trap, Neuter, Return) programmes for cats – encouraging the local community to live harmoniously with street cats.  
  • Distributing and posting hundreds of thousands of leaflets, posters, banners and circulating our “Cat and Dog Welfare Around Us” film to schools and universities countrywide so the learning can continue remotely.    

CDW CHINA Dr Dog teams in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Nanning visit schools, hospitals, homes for children and the elderly.

Enforcement of this decision will now be key and Animals Asia will remain on the front line working collaboratively with the authorities and local groups with whom we have developed positive relations over these past decades. The mechanism is there to end it over time and as lawyer Anxiang states, “in accordance with the provisions of the Food Safety Law, the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, the Catalogue, and the Regulations on Complaint Letters and Visits, promptly report to the competent departments for agricultural, animal husbandry, animal immunization, food safety and market supervision, and request law enforcement.” As he concludes, “there is no need to argue about the legality of cat and dog meat operations in China, and we should act according to the law.”

COMPANION ANIMAL 2019 Animals Asia’s 7th Companion Animal Symposium 2019.

So without a doubt, this decision is a cause for celebration, showing that our programmes working from within the country, nationwide, have been supported by the authorities and are now making the difference we had hoped. I want to pay particular credit to Irene, Suki and the team in China who have led our Cat and Dog Welfare programme over these years to this remarkable conclusion.  For decades they have witnessed atrocities that no-one should see –  and this outcome is for them.

SHELTER BEFORE  SHELTER AFTER

Rescue centre upgrades from our Cat and Dog Welfare Team in China – before and after!

Aside from ending bear bile farming in Vietnam, ending the dog and cat food industry was another founding goal of Animals Asia, that we can at last begin to celebrate because of both our team on the ground and the remarkable help of friends and supporters worldwide. Thank you for your faith and kindness and patience throughout this time. 

STATION POSTERS Posters promoting the care of companion animals on display in underground train stations in Chengdu.

While still a long way to go, this latest decision provides inspiration to continue our work to improve the lives of animals and humans alike. As said in my last blog, we have to do things differently now  – and this decision, and the work we have ahead, are nothing less than testament to that. 

As an organisation we’re blessed with fantastic supporters from all over the world and in our lovely Lesley we have an ambassador who is recognised the world over, even by farmers in China as she recounts on The Grey Escape Podcast, making her the perfect interviewer for this deep dive into  the new categorization of dogs in China.

Lesley_Tuffy

Lesley isn’t the only Downton star speaking in support of Animals Asia. Peter Egan is one of our most cherished ambassadors and most prolific animal advocates. Recently he recorded this lovely video encouraging people to support our work during this difficult time:

We’re hugely grateful to these world famous actors for lending some of their star power to the moon bears, dogs and other animals in Asia just as we’re hugely grateful to you and every supporter who keeps us going to achieve amazing progress in animal welfare.

Gratitude also to the wonderfully kind and talented Andrew Telling of Orange Planet Pictures who so generously produced the videos above. Andrew has been our good friend for years and never passes up an opportunity to help the animals. Thank you Andrew for your #KindnessInAction!

For so many of the world’s challenges today the only cure is kindness.



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The Only Cure… is Kindness

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A long, long time ago we began building sanctuaries for rescued bears – and realised even then that kindness went hand in hand with healing. To see broken bears becoming whole again as they enjoyed the simple acts of kindness offered to them, made us feel both happy for the end of their suffering, and guilty that they could even think of trusting the human species ever again. But they do – and they show us lessons in forgiveness that return the kindness they received a thousand times over.

Little Toy Bears - spa Enjoying a spa at the Little Toy Bear House, Vietnam.

Today, the sanctuaries in China and Vietnam flourish with bears who have long put their misery behind. We all say that they rescue us every bit as much as we rescue them. They console and lift us when days are bad, and they re-affirm time and time and time again why we do what we do. Who wouldn’t want to see our mini munchkins enjoying their “socially distanced” spas in the Little Toy Bear House in Vietnam, or the “illegal” tree parties that WanCai and friends create and enjoy in China? This… is kindness in action – as the bears’ joy translates into our joy as well.

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WanCai and friends enjoy a tree party!

So many examples of kindness throughout these years. From the early ’90s, where we’ve been able to celebrate in seven countries across the Asia continent how dogs can be kind too. Here, we see canine champions and their wonderfully kind guardians cheering up patients in hospitals, or giving their unconditional kindness and love to children in disabled centres, or the elderly in homes where, once again, kindness is always at the core of a smile and a brighter day.

A while ago we had an urgent call from the United Christian Hospital in Hong Kong SAR who asked our Dr Dog team to visit an elderly, end-stage lung cancer patient and his family. After “Dr Oscar” and his wonderful guardian, Edith, had visited the patient, we received a card of thanks from him saying:

“To Dr Dog team and fellow members – Thank you for bringing this lovely dog to meet with us, this has given me great joy and happiness for the day, which any miracle drug available is incomparable. Wish you all good health and happy always.”

Dr Oscar
Dr. Oscar – a key member of our Hong Kong Dr. Dog team.

Or our Captive Animal Welfare projects that see horribly abused species now free of their chains and walking in wonder in the forest of their birth. The most simple acts of kindness can mean everything and we began to realise that this was something to be shared and celebrated, on a planet that needs kindness to help it heal.

elephants - Captive Animal Welfare
Before and after – elephants no longer giving rides to tourists, but free to roam.

Today, with the world in such turmoil, we need to do things differently now. COVID-19 is just a symptom of a bigger disease and we must all take responsibility for our treatment of animals considering that virtually every pandemic has been caused by our mistreatment of them. The coronavirus is the latest example of this, with every road leading towards our own lifestyle, and our own responsibility for healing this world, kindly.

This is why we are launching “Kindness in Action” and asking everyone to look at habits that can and should be changed. We can no longer be blind to the things we know to be true in terms of how we treat animals and the terrible consequences of being complicit, or turning away.

Ricky Gervaise - T-shirt
Our new campaign T-shirts, supported by Ricky Gervaise and a host of other celebrities. 

Kindness is such a strong gift – the most essential gift we have for change – with a power that’s immeasurable. And if we say we love animals we must reflect on what love truly means, and take kindness as the example and change how we live. For how many times have we seen exposés of cruel practices in so-called “humane” farms and slaughterhouses? This fact is neither random nor rare – and every day millions of animals are suffering as a result of our ignorance and greed. Changing a lifestyle of course doesn’t mean that we can do this overnight but, with every individual looking at what we buy, what we eat, what we wear, what we put on our skin, how we furnish our house, and so much more, we are stepping closer to a lifestyle of true kindness and compassion, that will so obviously benefit us too.

As well as working from the ground up as individuals, when we come together for change we can have a huge impact, amplifying each other’s voices, concerns and actions. Only together with your support were we able to work with the Vietnamese government to sign a historic, landmark agreement to take the lead in helping them end bear bile farming in the country for good. We’ll continue to put your kindness in action and work on levels that would not be possible without so many supporters around the world joining us. The end of bear bile farming in Vietnam will stand as an example of what we can achieve together when we align our principles with our actions.

Meanwhile, our staff have begun a tradition of putting random acts of kindness into action – simple acts such as buying two coffees and giving one to a stranger who looks like they might enjoy one, with a smile. Giving a street sleeper a cup of hot soup, or giving your favourite shop assistant a flower. The examples are limitless and the results give a personal warmth to both the receiver and the giver.

Please join our special campaign – by wearing our new T-shirt and joining a host of over 40 celebrities worldwide in spreading the most important message of this century: “The Only Cure is Kindness“, encouraging us all to ponder: “what can I do to be kind”?

Moonie



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