International Women’s Day: Women who are changing the world for animals

08 March 2022

Across the world, countless women work tirelessly to make the world a better place for animals.

From those whose names are synonymous with animal welfare to volunteers who stand outside in all weathers to raise vital funds for local charities, women are actively changing the world for animals. 

Jill Robinson, MBE, Founder and CEO Animals Asia

Visiting a bear bile farm for the first time was a turning point in Jill’s life. She knew she had to do something to help the desperate, pitiful bears who were clearly suffering. And almost 30 years later, what then seemed like an impossible dream - to end bear bile farming - is becoming a reality.

Since that fateful day, Animals Asia has rescued and rehomed over 650 bears, built two award-winning sanctuaries and is about to build a third, and signed an MOU with the Vietnamese government to end bear bile farming forever.       

Maggie Q, Animals Asia Vietnam ambassador, activist, singer, actor, entrepreneur

Famous for her starring roles in the Netflix hit 'Designated Survivor' and ‘The Protégé’ movie, Maggie is a passionate animal activist and vegan. She’s been a supporter of Animals Asia since 2007 when she first learned of the cruelty of bear bile farming. Since becoming our Vietnam ambassador in 2009, she has used her voice to spread the message about our work far and wide.

Virginia McKenna, OBE, Founder Born Free Foundation

As Jill Robinson’s mentor and friend, it was Virginia who inspired Jill to dedicate her life to saving and helping animals.

She said, “What you do might make only a tiny ripple on the ocean of problems that millions of animals face, but one ripple is better than none. Just look at the bears given a new life by Animals Asia… they have created the first wave.”

Genesis Butler, animal rights activist and TEDx speaker

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15-year old Genesis is one of the youngest people to ever give a TEDx talk with her impassioned rally cry, “A 10 Year Old’s Vision for Healing the Planet.” She advocates for a plant-based food system to both halt the impact of climate change, and to prevent the suffering of billions of animals every year.

Jo-Anne McArthur, Animal rights activist, photojournalist, humane educator, Founder & President We Animals Media

Jo-Anne is an award-winning photojournalist, sought-after speaker, author, and founder of We Animals Media. She has been documenting the plight of animals across the world for two decades. Jo-Anne continues to travel to bear witness, to document and share the stories of animals blighted by the worst forms of abuse and cruelty shining a light to bring the world to a greater awareness of what is really going on.

Suki Deng, Animals Asia Cat and Dog Welfare Director, China

Suki is responsible for the overall management of Animals Asia’s cat and dog welfare project in China and is a relentless force in improving the living conditions for cats and dogs in mainland China.

Suki is also a member of the Rabies Working Committee of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Associationwhose aim is to eradicate rabies in China by 2030.

Sue Olsen, founder and CEO Olsen Animal Trust

Founder of the Olsen Animal Trust (OAT), Sue Olsen has been a generous and staunch supporter of Animals Asia for many years, improving the lives of hundreds of bears and captive working elephants. Thanks to OAT, Animals Asia opened Vietnam’s first ethical elephant program, bringing an end to decades of hard labour and isolation for elephants while enabling their mahouts to earn an alternative living

Karen Mok, Animals Asia China Ambassador, animal rights activist, actor, singer, businesswoman

A long-time supporter, Karen became Animals Asia’s China ambassador in 2010 after hearing about bear bile farming. Since that time she has continued to lend her voice to raise awareness of our work and campaign for better animal welfare.

Pamela Gelhouse, Animals Asia Office Volunteer

75-year old Pam Gelhouse has been a dedicated volunteer at Animals Asia’s office in Plymouth, England, for four years. 

Pam said. “I find it too painful to think about what the poor bears go through on bile farms, but I do what I can to help the office staff, so that hopefully helps the bears, too.”

Like so many others who volunteer their time and energy or make a donation in support of Animals Asia’s work, Pamela embodies the principle of Kindness in Action.

Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace

Jane has dedicated her life to the welfare and conservation of animals, and shows no sign of stopping. Friend to Jill and supporter of Animals Asia, she said, “With the campaign to end bear bile farming in Vietnam close to realisation, Animals Asia has truly been leading the way, and I hope that their model of kindness in action will be rolled out across Asia.”

Dang Thanh Phuong, Bear Team Manager at Animals Asia’s new Sanctuary

Phuong was born in Vietnam to a family who loved and respected animals. She joined Animals Asia’s sanctuary in 2021 as a Bear Team Leader.

Heidi Quine, Vet and Bear Team Director, said, “Phuong has blown us away with her dedication to the bears and ambition to learn all she can about their behaviours and needs, and what she can do to make them as comfortable and happy as possible.”

Phuong joins the  many extraordinary women who work across Animals Asia. From our sanctuary staff who work so hard to heal traumatised bears, to the women working around the world and behind the scenes to ensure Animals Asia functions effectively on a daily basis.

There are countless more women who actively support our mission and make the world kinder for animals. Today, we thank each and every one of them from the bottom of our hearts for their compassion, tenacity, empathy and courage. For being the epitome of Kindness in Action.