An inspiration: Animals Asia founder honoured with Animal Hero award

08 September 2017

Jill at her office

Jill Robinson’s lifelong work to protect animals in Asia was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution award at the UK’s Animal Hero Awards.

At a glitzy ceremony in London’s Grosvenor House on 7 September, hundreds of animal lovers and celebrities turned out to celebrate animal welfare achievements from across the world.

The annual Animal Hero Awards, organised by the Mirror newspaper and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, aims to celebrate inspiring examples of bravery, dedication and resilience which improve animal lives.

This year, Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE received an Outstanding Contribution award for her lifelong work in Asia.

In 1998, Jill founded the charity Animals Asia which has rescued more than 600 bears in China and Vietnam – mostly from the bear bile industry.

In Asia, more than 11,000 bears are kept for decades in tiny cages so that bile can be extracted from their gall bladders for use in traditional medicine. 

Some bears are caged as cubs and never released, with many kept locked up for decades.

Most farmed bears are starved and dehydrated, and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them.

Moon bear Jasper in a crush cage

Jill said:

“I’m hugely honoured to receive this award. When we started nearly 20 years ago, bear bile farming was a dark little secret, but today, millions of people in Asia and around the world know about and oppose this barbaric cruelty.

“I hope that this award can inspire others. If you see cruelty – don’t turn away – stand up for the voiceless. We started as a small group of friends outraged by the abuse we saw, but from humble beginnings we have rescued hundreds of animals and made positive change for many more through our outreach work in China and Vietnam.

“While this is presented as an individual prize, the truth is this award is for everyone associated with the charity. From the vets and bear managers on the front line caring for traumatised bears, to the thousands of supporters around the world who make their new lives possible – this award is for all of us.”

Previous winners of the Outstanding Contribution award include comedian, actor and writer Ricky Gervais and British TV star Paul O’Grady.

With Jill unable to attend the London awards ceremony, Animals Asia Patron Virginia McKenna OBE collected the prize on her behalf.

Speaking at the awards, Virginia said:

“I feel extremely honoured to have been invited to say a few words about the winner of this award. You all know her – her name is Jill Robinson.

“Sadly, she is unable to be with us herself this evening to receive this Outstanding Contribution to Animal Welfare Award as she is travelling the world, as she continues to do, spreading the word about the extraordinary and unique work of Animals Asia.”

During the ceremony Virginia – who founded the Born Free Foundation – also received a Lifetime Achievement award for her lifelong work to improve animal welfare.

Earlier this year, Animals Asia made history by signing a legally binding agreement with the Vietnamese government which will see bear bile farming completely end in the Southeast Asian country within the next five years.

As well as campaigning against the bear bile industry, Animals Asia works to end the suffering caused by the dog and cat meat industry and to improve the welfare of animal held in captivity across Asia.

Jill Robinson is also the focus of a 55-minute documentary by British Director Andrew Telling. Jill Robinson: to the moon and back follows Jill’s work to end bear bile farming and is available now on Amazon, Itunes or the Animals Asia website.

This article was amended to clarify that the MOU will run for five years from the date of the last signature.