years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
On Wednesday, 18 May, after months and months of frenzied planning, the wonderful organisers of Congleton’s Bearmania, finally saw their plans come to fruition with the press and education launch of the project. It was very apt that the education launch should take place before the full launch of the town’s Bear Trail on Saturday, 21 May, as the original idea of having a bear parade came from school children who visited Rhino Mania in Chester last year.
The event was organised by the town council and Congleton Beartown, a not-for-profit business set up to oversee and co-ordinate Bearmania. The reason that Congleton was so keen to feature bears is that the town previously had a mixed history regarding links with bears, with a myth that the town had sold its Bible in the nineteenth century in order to buy a new dancing bear.
Keen to put this dark story behind them, our wonderful supporter Dawn Gibbins and her team, decided to bring the whole town together on a bear theme and donate any proceeds to Animals Asia, who are seen as a charity working hard to end another form of cruelty to bears in the present day – bear farming.
In the intervening months, since the idea was born, Beartown has commissioned and sold 74 5ft fibreglass bears, which have been richly and uniquely decorated by the town’s local schools, businesses and services, such as the fire brigade and the Mercian Regiment.
A sample of around 15 of these bears were present in the Town Hall on Wednesday to oversee the press frenzy, with interviews on local radio, television and print media, and to watch the fantastic performances put on by pupils from each of the surrounding schools.
Following presentations to some of these schools by Nicky in March, the pupils had really taken the bear theme to heart, with productions of Goldilocks, When You Go Down to the Woods today, the Bear Necessities and Simon and his Dancing Bear, amongst many others. Some of the children had written their very own words and music based on the bears’ stories which are reprinted here by kind permission of their schools. Some pupils had chosen to write about bear farming and our work to end it for their English SAT tests, and pupils from Daven school had written very moving, beautifully decorated letters to the Chinese Premier, asking him to bring an end to bear farming. These are now exhibited in the education centre in Chengdu for all our international visitors to read.
Pupils from Marlfields Primary had produced a wonderful selection of goodies, from bear cookies and bear chocolates to cake-in-a-mug specialities, which they sold on the day to the hundreds of hungry school children and their parents who attended the launch.
It was a very happy and successful day and we are deeply indebted to Beartown and to the people of Congleton for their support and enthusiasm …
Saturday 21 May saw the official opening of the Bear Trail throughout Congleton by local MP Fiona Bruce. All the bears, splendidly individual and beautifully painted by local artists and schools, now form a mapped trail which visitors to and residents of Congleton can follow.
Saturday had a real buzz about it, full of fun and energy with some schools performing their tap dancing and songs again for the general public. Even our Moonie, despite his busy social diary, made an appearance greeting the people of Congleton with his unique bear hugs, thanks to Councillor George Hayes.
The townsfolk of Congleton had certainly engaged with the whole event. Our Animals Asia stall, was manned by Gill, Judy Blythe, her lovely Tremor and our supporter Andy Hesketh, with the help of two fantastic local young people Antoinette and John. It was obvious through speaking to people that they really welcome the town trying to change its image from bear baiter to bear saver through its support of Animals Asia – and so do we!!
We are very grateful to all at Beartown Ltd for choosing to support Animals Asia in this way and we are really looking forward to working with Congleton for the bears further, and maintaining our friendship.