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Worth every step

Today I'd like to pass over my blog to Heather Bacon, our past Veterinary Director, who's now the Veterinary Welfare Education and Outreach Manager of the Jeanne Marchig International  Centre for Animal Welfare Education, at the The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh in Edinborough.

Heather also continues to work for Animals Asia in Edinborough, and just recently joined an amazing group of our supporters who all then bravely completed the Animals Asia UK Munroe Challenge to climb Ben Nevis - no less than the tallest mountain in the UK!

With grateful thanks to our amazing long-term supporters Silke and Marren, and to Vijay, Julie, Nancy, Monica and Sepp - and to Heather of course for completing this challenge and showing once again why we are so hugely proud and grateful for all your years of dedication to the bears, dogs, cats and zoo animals of Asia.

Last Saturday was one of the most physically difficult and emotionally rewarding days I’ve had – the Animals Asia UK Munroe Challenge to climb Ben Nevis – the tallest mountain in the UK.

Ben Nevis is 1,344 metres tall and the route to the summit and back down is a knee-aching 16km of steep, stony track. The top of the mountain peaks within the cloud layer, meaning that whilst the lower slopes may be warm and sunny, the summit is often snowy and cold. It is a challenge by anyone’s standards. The climb was arranged by Silke Dallman, along with her sister Maren, and supporters Vijay, Julie, Nancy (from the USA), Monica and Sepp (both from Germany), and I couldn’t have wished to meet a more incredible team of people! As Animals Asia’s Veterinary Director I was based at the China Bear Rescue Centre throughout 2007 – 2010 and had the privilege of working with our incredible bears and staff in both China and Vietnam, but this was the first time I’d had the opportunity to spend quality time with some of the amazing people who make what Animals Asia does, possible.


As a veterinarian at the centres, I was frequently overwhelmed by my work – the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 taught me just how much the people of Sichuan valued their pets, risking their own lives to save their furry family-members, the rescue of 28 bears in China in 2008 brought home to me the harrowing reality of life on a bear bile farm for these wonderful, strong and forgiving creatures, and visits to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam demonstrated to me the enormous mountain we have to climb to free thousands of these wonderful bears from their lives of torture.

But whilst these experiences were often emotionally harrowing, I also counted myself incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to experience them first-hand, to see “at the coalface” the difference that Animals Asia makes to the lives of thousands of animals across Asia, and to meet bears like Oliver, who taught me that there is always hope, even in the darkest moments.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to have an experience of a different kind: I met a team of incredible people; people who have never visited China or Vietnam, never met our bears or had the wonderful privilege of looking into their eyes, or helping them to heal, and yet these wonderful, generous people had committed their lives to making a difference. With each one of them travelling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pledge their support for Animals Asia, to climb the highest mountain in the UK and raise as much money as possible to support the work done by Animals Asia, I was humbled by their passion, their commitment, and their good humoured team spirit.

I’ve always considered myself incredibly lucky to do the work I do. I’m now working at Edinburgh University, in a unique position co-funded by Animals Asia, I train vets in Vietnam and China to improve the health and welfare of dogs, cats and zoo animals, encouraging veterinarians to be ambassadors for animal welfare, and this incredibly important work is shaping the veterinary profession in Asia, and changing hearts and minds. But it is only possible because of the wonderful fundraising work done by others, others who haven’t had the opportunity to look into a bear’s eyes, or to change the life of a meat dog.

Our supporters are mostly people with their own lives, their own work, families, and commitments – busy people, juggling lots of responsibilities, and yet each and every one of them finds the time to care, to spread the message about what Animals Asia does, and to raise money to support our programmes, which are so vital to the bears, dogs and cats of Asia. Over the years I’ve had people thank me for the work I’ve done, and I’ve always felt like a bit of a fraud – I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunities provided to me by Animals Asia, to be able to make a difference, and none of it would be possible without our supporters around the world. So I just wanted to say, on behalf of the staff lucky enough to work at our rescue centres, or on our dog, cat and zoo programmes: Thank you to our supporters. Your work means more than you can imagine. I am humbled by your passion and your commitment, and I can tell you for sure: You are making a difference.

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