Holiday happiness and gratitude....and kind wishes to you all

At the beginning of this year when our co-founder, Boris, and I were driving around the deserted streets of Chengdu we couldn't imagine what COVID-19 had in store. The streets were empty, the shops were closed and officials were out in force taking our temperatures at multiple roadblocks outside our bear sanctuary. Sending the desolate pictures out to the world, the outpouring of support and kindness took my breath away, while throughout those dire following weeks we had no idea what the coronavirus really had in store. By March its frightening effects were becoming widely known and felt, and suddenly the whole world began to be affected by it's ominous spread.

It was obvious that not only did our habits as individuals need to change, but that it was time for Animals Asia to take stock - of our staff, our rescued animals and our finances, in now planning for what we knew would be a critical time ahead.

We set to work and made a promise to our sanctuary bears in China and Vietnam, to our rescued cats and dogs, to our elephants in Vietnam, and to our staff who cared for them all, that they were priority and would be the last to be affected in whatever this virus would bring. We worked hard to produce a drastically revised budget, we cut costs and furloughed staff, and prepared to buckle up for what we called "survival" mode ahead.

As the months went on it became clear that our strategy and austerity measures were working and, as we come to the end of the year, we can breathe a small but optimistic sigh of relief as our reserves remain safe and our foundation holds strong.

Suddenly the view from the precipice on which we've stood throughout 2020 is looking safer and more secure and it is entirely because of you - our staff and our generous supporters across the globe - together, our Animals Asia family.

For during this time, remarkably, we've seen more successes in our campaigns this year than we ever thought possible in the midst of COVID-19. The decision by the authorities in China to remove dogs (and by default cats) from the national livestock list and make the sale of their meat illegal is the cherry on the cake of one of our founding goals. As our Cat and Dog Welfare Department now focuses on the all important enforcement side of that decision, we know that the way ahead will be tough - but we know too that the rule of law is firmly on our side. Never have we been more determined to work with the passionate local groups in China to bring this illegal industry to task. Animals Asia has taken on this industry for decades and the amalgamation of our holistic programmes to end it - whether it be our risky investigations, our reporting to government officials of the reality of the trade, our support of local NGO's in upgrading their facilities and capacity, our comprehensive education programmes, or our beautiful Dr Dogs and Professor Paws sharing their unconditional love in hospitals, medical facilities or schools - have all formed the building blocks of public support, where dogs and cats are seen as our friends, not food.

Dog meat trade ban 3 v2

And now we move on into 2021, still nervous for what the future holds but nevertheless determined to achieve our promise to the government of Hanoi, after signing together the only such memorandum of its kind, to end bear bile farming in Vietnam. This is the year we clamber cautiously out of survival mode and bravely into delivery mode as we attempt to raise the critically needed funds to build our second sanctuary and see freedom for the remaining +-400 bears still waiting miserably on the farms.

This campaign will see no enemies, no blame, and no loss of face. The government, the farmers, the country and not least the bears all portrayed as heroes, as we work collaboratively together to close every last farm.

Never before have I seen the foundation coming together as it has today. With no travel, no face to face meetings, and no events, this year was always going to be tough - but we managed to hold fast and miraculously we've ended 2020 in a better place than we began.

Thank you our worldwide courageous and tenacious team - your determination to bring us through relentless stress and uncertainty never faltered, and it was clear early on that everyone was empowered to rise up and work together, to not only overcome, but shine. Fear in our hearts was replaced by fire in our bellies and every single day became a step closer to victory and seeing out the year together with friends across the globe, who had remained courageously and kindly with us too.

Thank you all, more deeply than I can say for your faith and fearless loyalty, and for giving the animals cause to celebrate as we stride more confidently into 2021. With so many victories under our belt, we already have a thirst for more and, together with you all, we're looking forward with excitement and endless confidence for what the coming year will bring.

Wishing you all the happiest holidays, let's enjoy them as much as we can through uncertain and worrying times and remember that, to believe in ourselves, to be strong for the animals, and let the love shine through, the only cure is kindness.