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Passionate people and inspiring poetry

Following all the excitement of hosting UK actress and celebrity Lesley Nicol on site with the bears in Chengdu, it was off to the UK to join our fabulous team in some fundraising and awareness events, and catch up with old and new friends.

Thanks to the suggestion and sponsorship of a particularly kind and long-standing supporter (who prefers to remain anonymous), Thursday 13th June saw our Gala night at the most fabulous London Rowing Club.

A beautiful venue and a glorious sunny evening saw 100 guests come to hear the winners of the Poetry Competition and listen to an update on our End Bear Farming Campaigns in China and Vietnam.

The Poetry Competition inspired amazing talent – with 70 submissions in the adult section and 63 in the younger category – all of them superb, making the final judging an almost impossible task.

Our super Ambassador, actor Peter Egan, together with actress and friend Rula Lenska read out the winning poems “Reaching out", and "Unless", which left everyone in tears of sympathy for the bears.

Born Free Founder, and our UK Patron and friend, Virginia McKenna also read her most beautiful poem, "Sanctuary", which she wrote when she visited our sanctuary in Chengdu several years ago. I remember her then putting something underneath my door late one night and becoming tearful after reading only the first line; "The moon I love the most....". She was of course, speaking about the crescent moon on our bears' chests, with the poem speaking profoundly of their plight on the farms compared with the lives they have now.

Full details of the winners can be found here.

Also to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to adult winners: Gill West, Angela Davies and Carol Mary Fraser, and to those in the younger category: Helena Radmann, Max Luard and Virginia Koch for your wonderful talent and passion.

Read Gill and Helena's poems here. All the winning poems will be read by Peter and Rula and produced in a beautiful CD just in time for Christmas!

Here is our young winner Helena with, from left, her dad Chris, Peter Egan and her mum, Lesley.

Peter was also the MC and auctioneer for a marvellous auction of prizes – including his own first sculpture – "Jasper Bear Licking Honey", which he created under the guidance of professional sculptor Suzie Marsh. Suzie of course has visited us twice in Chengdu and once in Vietnam, together with her husband Doug, and has generously donated several pieces of her work – including her latest beautiful creation featuring one of our bears, “Sausage and butterfly”, now on display in our China graveyard. Suzie's words are also on the plinth and much admired by all visitors who come to remember the bears we have loved and lost.

Sadly, Peter's masterpiece didn't quite reach the million pound reserve he suggested, but fetched a jolly good price and, thanks to the hugely kind gesture and generosity of Peter and his wife Myra, is now "home" in Chengdu next to Suzie's sculpture of the same name.

Other auction prizes were kindly donated by The Animal Painter, Turkish artist Gulcehre Ciplak, Andy Hesketh, Richard and Katie Brindle, Jane Riva and, last but not least, Fred, whose gift was in memory of his late mother, American/Israeli artist and animal lover Anita Kushner.

Artist Richard Symonds, who has also visited our sanctuary in Chengdu and continues to be incredibly generous to the bears, donated one of his fabulous prints for the raffle.

Endless thanks to wonderful Lesley Nicol and her husband Da'aboth who kindly joined us too and added even more "celebrity" and fun to the evening.

Finally, one poem that didn't win, but which we fell in love with, deserves a special mention - Caroline Herd's "My name is Dick". I struggled to read it on the night as it encapsulates the current lives and previous suffering of all our beloved bears – through the eyes of one very special chap called Dick (pictured here), who used to live in House 10 and has now been moved (still with his original group), to House 6. If you can get through this without sobbing you're stronger than me....

My name is Dick

My name is Dick, it’s ok you can smile, think I’m “Dickiebear Dugmore” somewhere on my file, my picture is framed on a little boys wall, and I’m part of a family I don’t know at all, but their names on my door, and my names in their heart, and they’ve followed my story, though not from the start, and they send me some money in pounds or in yen and it helps keep me safe living here in house 10.

My best friends Dong Fong, he’s a moon bear like me. He was born in a bile farm 2003, He’s a headbanging oddball but his hearts made of gold, he plays rough and smells bad, doesn’t do as he’s told, and we’d like to be wild but we live here instead, since we’ve seen what a bear trap can do to a leg, and we’ve felt what it’s like with a cage for a den, so we’d rather be here, living safe in house 10.

My hammock is wonky (all thanks to Dong Fong), and he’s bit off the end of our rubber toy Kong, We wrestled too hard in our tree climbing frame, he snapped off a branch and then I got the blame. He likes to dig holes where no one can see, and then I fill them in (but I say it’s not me), So he digs a load more, and I fill them again, we’re a little bit “special” us bears from house 10.

Plumb sauce is nice, but it seems strange to me, that they hide it or paint it half way up a tree. The mangos are hidden, my nose is on fire, I can smell a mince pie why’s it under a tyre? My mum would have loved this, wish she was here too, I think of her sometimes, wish it all wasn’t true. I hate how they took me and what happened then. Maybe one day they’ll find her, bring her home to house 10.

Now every so often some people come here, their taking a photo, their dabbing a tear, and even Dong Fong dinner all down his front, will then pose for the camera, do some kind of stunt. I wonder sometimes if my family will come, will they know who I am, point to me “That’s the one!” But they don’t need to come here, they don’t need to see, they know in their hearts what they do for me. It’s not just a safe place, some food and a den. There’s not places enough for us bears like house 10.

So I’m “Dickiebear Dugmore” my story is long, I live here in China with my friend Dong Fong. Our lives were worth saving, and we had a saviour, “Welcome” they said “We are Animals Asia”. The name on my door means that somebody cared, the scars on my body show I am repaired. There’s hope in my heart and my spirits unbroken, while good people fight for the truth to be spoken, I know that one day we can be free again, and the forests of China will be our house 10.

Till then we sit tight, with our lives in your hands, celebrities see us and tell all your fans, it’s not about money, it’s about right and wrong, it’s about how it felt for me and Dong Fong, and it’s finding the others and setting them free, let’s turn on the light so the whole world can see. Could we stop it forever, see bears free again? That’s the hope in the hearts of the bears in house 10.


***

On Saturday 15th June, it was on to a wonderful walk in London's St James Park, where our UK Marketing Manager, Fiona Osler, led a couple of hours of fascinating history surrounding royalty who either helped or hindered the animal welfare movement in the UK. Fiona was a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge and, despite the torrential downpour, kept us on track and fascinated by the details of who helped the animals, and who definitely did not!

A summary of Fiona's tour can be found here.

Grateful thanks to wonderful Rachel Holmes who gave an informative talk about London's bird life – with many of her subjects enjoying a dip in the lake behind us!

It was also marvellous to see so many friends and supporters – thank you so much for braving the storm – and to meet canine celebrities Gladys and Ming. Both dogs recently made a journey of several thousand miles from the Qimeng Rescue Centre in Chengdu after very lucky escapes from the meat industry. Gladys has clearly landed on her paws with Sue, Malc and Raffy, as has Ming with Mary and her husband John.

Read about their rescue here.

Final, final thanks to the lovely Jane Gottschalk who organised a fabulous event at the London Electric Cinema and a showing of the award winning film, “Cages of Shame”. It was a super evening, with massive thanks to everyone who attended, and with thanks, once again, to Peter Egan who spoke movingly about his trip to Chengdu and encouraged everyone to support Animals Asia.

Whilst we were in London, Peter, Nicky (from our UK office) and I were thrilled to have the opportunity of meeting up with Ricky Gervais and his partner, Jane. Kindly organised and hosted by long-time supporters Angela and Martin, the afternoon was a wonderful treat. Ricky and Jane have been supporting Animals Asia from when they named one of the bears we rescued in 2010. That was Stan. Tragically Stan has since passed away – another victim of the bear bile farming industry. But it was super to fill in Ricky and Jane on our work and rescues since, and pass on the love and thanks from the team for all of their kindness and support.

Here is Angela and Martin on a previous occasion outside the bears' special care area Bali Hut in Chengdu. They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

And from left to right: Angela, Peter, me, Ricky, Jane and Martin:

A final, heartfelt thank you to our amazing UK team who moved heaven and earth to make sure that everything went smoothly at all these events. They always shy away from anything resembling praise and thanks, but deserve it endlessly for all their hard work and effort behind the scenes. A small, but truly remarkable team – quietly working like Trojans, and always with a smile, they make these events more fun and meaningful each year.

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