English actress Lesley Nicol, star of international hit TV show Downton Abbey, has completed a visit to Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Centre (CBRC) in Chengdu, China.
Lesley plays resident cook Mrs Patmore on what has become one of the most widely watched television programmes in the world. The series has received numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film, and earned the most nominations of any international television series in the history of the US Primetime Emmy Awards.
Animals Asia’s sanctuary enables bears rescued from the bile farming industry to live out the rest of their lives in peace, with the best of care.
During Lesley’s stay, which began on Thursday, May 23rd and concluded on Monday, May 27th, the actress toured the expansive sanctuary grounds and sat in on the health check of Mani bear – even taking her chance to help vets clip the bear’s nails and listen to her healthy heart beat. Taking on her familiar role as cook she also personally prepared food in the “Bear Kitchen” and helped staff lay out the food in the enclosures.
After taking time to speak with journalists about her support for Animals Asia’s work to put an end to bear bile farming, Lesley spent the afternoon further touring the site, meeting the bears and hearing their histories from Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson:
"It was mind-blowing to see the bears in the flesh because you can't get that in a picture – such exceptionally charismatic beings, it just takes your breath away. To actually get up close and feed one of the bears was beautiful. You just want to apologise to them on behalf of the species that hurt them, but they still trust you enough to be fed by you. They do you the honour of taking food from a human being when their previous experience on the bile farm was atrocious. How courageous is that?
“My desire to visit the sanctuary was based on all the many positive things I had seen and read and all the photos and videos of the moon bears. But nothing can prepare you for actually meeting the bears and seeing them for yourself. Such beautiful animals, despite their many years of hardship.”
Animals Asia’s founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE commented:
“There are few stars that cross the East West divide but Lesley is one of them. Downton Abbey is massively popular here and the Chinese media and visitors on site have been as captivated by Lesley as we have. She met all our resident rescue dogs, including Muppet and To Zhai, who adored her, and went on to charm everyone throughout her stay, whether it was local and international staff, media, bears, dogs and cats alike. Lesley and her husband Da’aboth made this sanctuary a wholly happy one during their visit and have helped us shine a light on the bear bile industry in all its horrible truth. ”