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Red carpet rolled out for animals in film

The organisers of the Second China International Animal and Nature Film Festival in Ya’an, Sichuan province, invited our China team to join the event, which recognises local and international filmmakers.

Our Veterinary Director, Heather (pictured here), was asked to make a welfare presentation about animals in film, and I was invited to give an award to one of the prize-winners and make a speech at the closing ceremony.

On the last night, it was like a scene out of Hollywood, with thousands of people crowded together in a huge auditorium, together with film crews shooting for live transmission on TV.

Film stars and celebrities walked the red carpet, and three huge video screens encircled the stage, so that those at the back of the auditorium could easily follow the show. It was quite a night, with several productions honoured for their art and professionalism in portraying endangered species, marine mammals and birds.

The prize I awarded went to Geert Droppers for his film about sharks, “Gimme a Hug”.

Of course, besides congratulating Geert on his very unique documentary, it was a perfect opportunity to stress how essential sharks are to our ecosystem, and how tragically virtually every species is suffering, both in terms of welfare and endangerment because of humankind’s lust for their fins.

I had also been asked to mention the pandas, which wasn’t a hard task at all as they are of course one of China’s most well-known and much-loved species. However, our PR manager, Rainbow, and I felt that the opportunity really shouldn’t be missed to mention our beautiful moon bears too – especially as Rainbow made the point that the difference in how pandas are treated, compared with moon bears, is just like heaven and hell.

Using that as the example, I took a deep breath, repeated Rainbow’s words, and asked everyone in the audience to join us in turning the bears’ hell into heaven. I nervously looked around – and saw people smiling - and so were the comperes, Mr Sa and Ms Liu Fangfei, who are famous in China for hosting Central TV's extremely popular "Law Today" show.

Mr Sa surprised us when he seemed to support our work by commenting to the audience that if there was anything happening unfairly to the bears, we should all take it up with his “Law Today”. Another small step perhaps in our fight for freedom.

Now, since the festival, we’ve had several fairly high-profile people in both local and international film and media asking if they can come along and visit the bears – and so the message widens and perhaps our little piece of heaven in Chengdu will convince them to do more.

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