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So much to tell, so many to thank

The past few weeks have a been a crazy round of presentations and events in New York, London and Italy, with barely a moment for catching our breath. The highlight of course has been seeing so many old friends, and meeting new supporters of the bears, dogs and cats, where we've been able to convey the reality of the progress across China.

Often the spoken word can transcend so much more than the written, and so we have found during the course of these presentations - where we're really able to articulate the passion of people all across China who share our disgust for the practice of bear farming (it really should be renamed bear torture) and now leading campaigns to bring it to an end.

First stop was New York and two interviews - one a live radio interview with Leonard Lopate of WNYC, New York's NPR affiliate, and the second with Jane Velez-Mitchell of CNN Headline News.

Over to the famous Rubin Museum of Art where, because of the museum's kindness and generosity (and particularly that of producer Tim McHenry), we were able to premiere Martin Guinness's beautifully produced film, "Cages of Shame". This award-winning film, featuring the incredible rescue of 10 bears in Shandong Province - and the life-saving surgery of Oliver on the back of a truck on the way home - had the audience in tears of sorrow and joy as the rescue unfolded and the bears were brought safely "home" to our sanctuary in Chengdu.

A lively question and answer session followed the film, with the opportunity, once again, to articulate the rising force of those in China relentlessly closing in on the farms.

A brief but memorable visit to New York, with endless thanks to all who attended and with gratitude to Morgan, Alice, Jada and Maya for their professional organisation, and always with big beaming smiles despite the long hours.

Please see here for more US news.

Back to Hong Kong for a couple of days, before leaving for the UK and the event of the year there - "Moonstruck" at the Menier Gallery in London. How do I say thank you to two of the most generous and certainly loveliest people on the planet – Suzie Marsh and Richard Symonds, who have quite literally given a year of their life to the bears after visiting us on site almost exactly one year ago.

From the time we stood on the roof of House 10 and shed tears without embarrassment together at the sight of our magnificent "broken bear" Oliver (now generously sponsored by Angela and Martin Humphery) enjoying the spring sunshine, they have devoted every single day since - sculpting, drawing, dreaming moon and brown bears and preparing to sell their art to benefit as many "Olivers" into the future until bear farming has ended.

Their art was superb and the visitors were enchanted and enthralled. The gallery looked breathtakingly beautiful, as Oliver, Jasper, Banjo, Paddy, Jingle, Bodo, and all of our charismatic bears were represented in pencil, ceramic, pewter and bronze - and showed off by Richard and Suzie just as perfectly as if they were really there.

Absolutely no words for my respect and admiration for them both - not only for devoting their time and indescribable talent to this cause, but also for their generosity in donating up to 50 per cent of the profits the exhibition raised.

I would also like to send heartfelt thanks and gratitude to celebrities and media; Rula Lenska, Martin Roberts, Gary Hodges, Simon Cowell and Jim Incledon, who came along in support, to my heroine Virginia McKenna who was unable to come but sent a beautiful message, to our UK team of Gill, Nicky and Kay who worked so fantastically hard in the months leading up to the exhibition and of course on the days themselves, and to our ever-amazing volunteers, Maren, Babs, Silke, John, Lynne, Jessica, and Barbara.

Thanks last but not least to some of our staff and volunteers from Chengdu - some of whom were coincidentally in the UK for bear manager Sally's wedding to Geoff - so to Sally and Geoff (congratulations and more in Blog soon), to Nic, Karli, Jane, Jayne, Amy and Sarah.

Here's the link to the whole wonderful Moonstruck event - and please, if you haven't browsed the shopping link, do just go in and have a look.....there is something for everyone there who loves our bears.

The final words of this blog should go to Suzie who, on behalf of herself and Richard, wanted to send a message of what this past year has meant. So over to Suzie's message - and a fitting poem at the end from her friend Felicity

Moonstruck – Dream – Thank You All

from Suzie Marsh

Well, we have now “been there”, “done that” and “got the T shirt”. I find it hard to believe that the exhibition is over as it has been such a big part of my life for the last year. I would like to thank EVERYONE who has been involved in Moonstruck for their help and support, Jill and the bears for being an inspiration, Nicky for getting me involved in Animals Asia all those years ago and for all her hard work for Moonstruck (and Jamie for putting up with it), Rich for having the idea of an exhibition and for asking me join him in it, Gill for her constant support and encouragement, Lara and Sue for beavering away at the UK headquarters, Kay and Fiona for all their hard work away at the other end of emails and Kay at the exhibition (and her patient husband). To Carney and Hong Chan for all their painstaking work in getting the website up and running and the rest of the team at the Hong Kong Office for all their hard work. To all the team at Chengdu for looking after us so well and for making us so welcome last year. Thanks to Monica and Wendy for letting us help with Diamond’s and Eclipse’s health checks and to Wendy for her subsequent taking of paw prints for me in dental clay and to Rocky and Sally for helping me name the bears in my photos. To the London supports for their help during the show, Maren, Babs, John, Barbara, Lynn, Jessica, and Silke. Thanks also to the girls who we met in Chengdu for coming to the exhibition Nic, Sally, Jayne, Amy and Sarah, for giving us a reminder of our happy time out in Chengdu and for making Moonstruck go with a swing. Our week at the exhibition was another emotional roller coaster and made me long to go back. A special thank you to Mike and Tracie Spraggs and Oliver and Gitte Lodge for funding the exhibition and the hospitality. To all those who bought a picture or a sculpture last week and thereby gave their help to the untiring work of AAF and, of course, my husband Doug who has supported me all the way through this, no matter what it cost! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making the last year a very special and happy one for me.

I have enjoyed every minute of working for the bears, from our life-changing time in Chengdu to sculpting each bear. All year I kept saying I must sculpt something else and I would sit down to start on a tiger and up would pop another bear! Each one brings back all the emotion I felt for them. I think I am an addict and am going to find it so hard to wean myself off for a while, but thank goodness several people at the exhibition have ordered more bears so I can continue for a little longer. That will hopefully tide me over until we have the next Animals Asia project set - and I do already know what I must sculpt for my Christmas bear!

Dream – how can I thank you enough for such a privilege. To have a share in my own bear and such a special one. Thank you. In the last few months I actually started to dream about having and naming a bear. My Mum and Dad were always passionate about bears but sadly my Mum died a few years ago so did not know about Moonstruck and our trip to Chengdu. She would have loved to have known all about it and to have seen the results. (I’m so glad my Dad was able to be there.) And so I began to dream about naming a bear after her favourite teddy that she had from being a very small girl, namely Tebs. So when Jill gave Richard and me Dream as our own special bear to name I was completely overwhelmed. But both Rich and I agreed that we do not want to change Dream’s official name. We both love the way Tuan BW and Cong named Dream on her journey from the farm to the Vietnam sanctuary, so we want to keep her official name as Dream for them, but we would both like to add our own names as a secondary name - mine being Tebs for my Mum. Richard’s being Mischa for his little girl. And now we have a reason to go to Vietnam, to see her – I can’t wait. Will this bring on Moonstruck 2? I do hope so.

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Vile Business

If you want to stoop to the lowest,

cage a bear.
Torture the creature for years
as though you didn’t care, or give a damn
about hell on earth creating.
Stand by and watch a slow death.
Then bottle the pain, black sludge
for cruel gain
that will benefit no one.
But no more will you hide
your terrible ‘business’.

A tube or tubeless drain. It doesn’t change
the facts of this hideous matter.
We see the suffering, beyond belief,
while your bank account gets fatter
and you’re blind to acts of considerable vileness.
We’re talking about bear bile,
that’s theirs, not yours for the taking.
Steal it you do though,
your ‘profits’ flowing from violence.
No amount of marketing speak can disguise
such a torturing ‘venture’.

Admit it.
Get yourself squeezed behind bars.
Suffer the fear, the deformities, scars, and so much
gruesomeness there aren’t words to describe it.
Chew on the iron, in desperate act
of the want of escaping.
And wait. Wait for the sound, the approach
of the human. Feel their savage undertaking.
No labour of love, no concern, no compassion.
You’ll know that the hundreds of days
are only a beginning.

Or. You could stop. Cease
with the vile bile extraction.
Look at the moon bear
and do it a kindness.
Deserving of freedom,
extend that to all bears. Just do it, please, right now.

Felicity Stephen
27.04.12

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