Prior to the seminar on bear farming at the European Parliament in Brussels, Dave, Toby, our Chinese Government friends and I met with Neil Parish MP at the Houses of Parliament in London.
The end of Virginia’s journey in Vietnam saw her spending the day with our vet team as Kirsty and Caroline spent hours in the surgery removing both upper canines, which were badly broken, exposing the pulp, from a bear called Halong. Virginia was absolutely mesmerised with the procedure and gently held Halong’s paw as Caroline monitored the anaesthetic, and Kirsty concentrated on removing his poor damaged teeth.
Early the next morning Virginia, Tuan, Chinh, The and I headed off to the bear farms of Phung Thoung Village near Hanoi. The first farm saw us being politely invited to drink tea by the owner, Ms Loc, before she showed us the bears. Kind as the offer was, it was of course the last thing we wanted to do and the small talk that ensued could hardly disguise the nervousness we felt in anticipation of soon meeting the caged bears.
"The Times" calls it "nasty, naughty fun" and indeed I know that this year's UK pantomime presentation of Roald Dahl's "George's Marvellous Medicine" on Monday 20th December is going to be a brilliant fun-filled night.
Billed as fizztickling fun and wizzpopping magic, the panto sees our incredibly generous friends at the Birmingham Stage Company putting on another Christmas panto for Animals Asia, where all proceeds will go to our beautiful bears in China and Vietnam.
Support within the European Parliament for an end to bear farming in Asia continues to grow with over 50 MEPs, representing 13 European countries, supporting a European Parliament seminar: “Bear farming, animal cruelty and the development of animal protection in China”.
It was early November and there she was sitting in the Hong Kong departure lounge by the gate for Hanoi. Virginia McKenna had just flown in overnight from London but looked fresh as a daisy and was raring to go. We were leaving for Vietnam where we were to meet up with Tuan our Vietnam Director and team, and join freelance journalist Simon Parry who was doing a story about the farmed bears.
How much I'll miss him – but how thrilled that he’s gone to his forever home in the UK. I am of course talking about our beautiful Tremor – a dog we rescued in May 2008 during the horrible, devastating earthquake of Chengdu. A dog who has been such a big part of the lives of all of our staff in China, and particularly Caroline, our vet nurse, and myself, who shared (and adored) him on site.
What a time we had – Dave (who co-presented with me at the evening shows), Gill, Nicky, Lara, Sue, Elaine and Fiona and our amazing support groups across the country - as our Roadshow swung into action this year.
Once again Irene, Jessica and Gina came up trumps with a superb World Animal Day event in a huge shopping precinct in Guangzhou, where people had gathered to celebrate sharing our lives with dogs and cats. About 20 of our gorgeous Dr Dogs turned up with their proud and glowing family and the time flashed by with barks and laughs reverberating around the hall.
True kindness shines when we hear about a selfless gesture by some friends of one of our ex-vet nurses Hayley, who were married in August of this year and asked that guests donate funds to the bears in lieu of wedding presents. Hayley (also looking gorgeous on the right in the photo) has written a little update about Gail and Tony’s special day – and it only leaves me to send a massive bear-sized thank you and hug from all in the team of Animals Asia to you both for being so incredibly kind to animals suffering so many miles away and to wish you both lifelong happiness and joy.