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Downton finale signals end but cast legacy of fighting bear bile farming endures

26 December 2015

The series’ finale of hit show Downton Abbey aired last night – marking the final goodbye of a show which moved millions around the world. But while the series may be ending, the legacy of the cast’s fight against bear bile farming will endure.

Hot on the heels of receiving a special award from BAFTA, Downton Abbey has completed an impressive six series run that saw it earn the most nominations for its first two series of any international television show in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards.

This year’s BAFTA Award celebrated the drama’s global success – which has seen it become a hit as far away as China. And it was here that the crew did more than entertain, as they consistently used their high public profiles to highlight the cruelty of the bear bile industry.

Led by Downton stars Peter Egan and Lesley Nicol, members of the cast recorded a special message of encouragement for Animals Asia’s landmark effort in saving the bears of Nanning as they continue to ensure the 123 bears there are given the most compassionate care. 

As Animals Asia UK Ambassadors, Peter Egan and Lesley Nicol have both visited Animals Asia’s Chengdu sanctuary to learn firsthand the suffering behind the bile industry – and see the heartening recoveries of those lucky enough to be rescued.

Meanwhile, Penelope Winton, who plays Isobel Crawley, was kind enough to support the NGO’s ultimately successful campaigns to fight eviction from their Vietnam sanctuary and to save moon bears suffering illegal bile extraction in the vicinity of Vietnam’s iconic Halong Bay. 

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson said: 

“I was bursting with pride when I saw the Downton stars receive their honorary BAFTA award, and it was certainly emotional when the final curtain fell on the Christmas Special.

“It’s the end of an era for our friends in the cast who have given so much to the show over the years. We can’t thank them enough for the way they’ve brilliantly and consistently supported the bears. The show is massive in China as well, so to have these well-known actors and actresses en masse advocating our cause has been a huge boost – and ultimately has greatly improved awareness of the hidden cruelty of bear bile farming in the country. Downton has made a real difference to the lives of the bears.” 

As well as raising awareness, the Downton stars have also helped raise funds for Animals Asia at glitzy events in London while they consistently share news of the charity’s progress on their social media feeds. Numerous members of the cast, and even writer Lord Julian Fellowes, also backed Animals Asia’s No Voice No Choice Campaign that asked people not to accept or attend animal performances.