Jill Robinson: to the Moon and Back documentary is out today

24 April 2017

Ricky Gervais has called it “wonderful” and “heart-warming” – the movie documenting animal welfare leader Jill Robinson’s journey to end bear bile farming is released today. 

Across China and Vietnam over 11,000 Asiatic black bears – better known as moon bears – are trapped in tiny coffin-like cages, suffering regular bile extractions for use in traditional medicine, cosmetics and wine.

Deprived of all but the most basic necessities to keep them alive, the bears are forced to endure unimaginable pain and torment for up to 30 years.

In 1993, British-born Robinson took a stand against this practice. Jill began animal welfare charity Animals Asia and created two bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam spanning over 180,000 square metres.

The 55 minute documentary is by British Director Andrew Telling. His motivation was that the cruelty of bear bile farming, and Jill’s work to end it, was still known to a relatively small number of people.

He said:

“I have known Jill for a number of years and during that time learned the true breadth and scale of her work. What I found remarkable, however, was the fact that outside of the Animals Asia supporters, people were less aware of her achievements. We are bombarded by stories of animal cruelty and human fallibility on social media and yet, great people who rise to effect change are rarely mentioned or simply get lost amid the melee of misery.

“Jill sits among peers Virginia McKenna, Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey to name just three. Her approach is apolitical, calm, unthreatening, it’s culturally sensitive in reaction to Asian traditions that might provoke aggression in others.

“Jill has put in place a real and meaningful blueprint for change by working with government officials, traditional medicine practitioners and bear bile farmers from the inside out. If one person sees this film and is inspired to do what Jill done, then making it will have been more than worthwhile. Beyond that if more people can get behind the campaign to end bear bile farming then I have no doubt that it will happen.”

Narrated by actor, Peter Egan, the film also includes contributions from Downton Abbey actress Lesley Nicol, Born Free founder, Virginia McKenna and Guns ‘n’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum.

In China where over 10,000 bears are still caged by an industry that is still legal, Animals Asia enjoys broad support, with polls suggesting that around 90% of Chinese oppose the cruelty. Moves in recent years by the Chinese government to partner with organisations to provide synthetic equivalents suggest the demand is there for an alternative as well as the resolve to end it. 

In Vietnam where caged bears numbers have dropped from 4,000 to around 1,000 - Animals Asia Vietnam is lobbying for a roadmap to end the suffering for good and put in place a plan to rescue and rehabilitate the remaining bears.

Animals Asia has, to date, rescued almost 600 bears from bile farms and continues to care for almost 400 bears in sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson in New Year Rescue, China 2013

Amongst those praising the movie is writer, director and comedian Ricky Gervais who called it:

“A wonderful, heart-warming film about a truly inspirational woman” 

TV naturalist Chris Packham described it as:

“Uplifting and empowering - Jill Robinson proves that one person can change the world and make it a better place.”

Andrew Telling added:

“Every time I picked up a camera to film a scene with Jill, myself and the team, always learned something new. Whether about Jill personally, bear bile farming or the charity itself, our education never stopped.

“To inhabit the world she does means that Jill is exposed to elements of humanity that most of us will never come close to. And there are points in the film that reduced us all to tears because Jill has the rare ability to place viewers by her side while recalling significant moments on her journey.”

The documentary, made independently by Orange Planet Pictures,  is available on DVD  directly from Animals Asia’s website for $12.99 with 30% of all sales profit going to Animals Asia. It can also be found on Amazon and iTunes.

The documentary will also soon be available for download. Watch our social media platforms for details.

Jill, Tremor Prince and Douglas (2)