Why I started the Animals Asia Foundation by Jill Robinson

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1999:

It is offensive and incorrect to say
that Asian people don’t care about animals.
They do––which is why I started the Animals
Asia Foundation in August 1998, after working
for 12 years as a consultant in Asia for the
International Fund for Animal Welfare. The
growing number of Asian environmental and
animal welfare groups is a clear indication that
many Asians share the concerns of animal
lovers worldwide.
Asia lacks animal protection legislation
and realistic educational programs, but
what it needs to improve the situation is help
and encouragement rather than condemnation.
Asian governments are generally receptive to
animal welfare initiatives, and many people in
the local community would welcome the
chance to join with foreign organizations in
making a difference.

Over the past year, we have been
working in the field, documenting animal
abuse across the Asian continent, with a view
to calling legislators together and encouraging
reform. Although many countries in Asia have
wildlife protection laws, the absence of legislation
to protect other animals in China,
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and
Indonesia suggests a need for global anti-cruelty
legislation which will create the impetus for
the introduction of national animal welfare and
education initiatives.
With IFAW, Animals Asia continues
the campaign on behalf of bears kept on
bile farms in China, which I began in 1993.
We have extended our work on this issue into
South Korea and Vietnam. The Chinese government
in 1995 closed the worst farm we
exposed and confiscated nine bears who had
been confined for 13 years in a tiny wire cage,
suffering chronic pain and infection from rusting
metal catheters in their gallbladders.
Under initial supervision from Dr. Suzanne
Boardman, of the Wildlife Information
Network, Animals Asia/IFAW veterinary surgeon
Gail Cochrane removed the implants and
begin physiotherapy exercises for their weak,
depleted limbs. In 1996, the bears walked on
grass for the first time in a semi-natural bear
sanctuary in China, donated by Chinese legislator
David Chu Yu Lin, funded by IFAW,
and managed by Animals Asia.
In addition, thousands of traditional
medicine practitioners have joined Animals
Asia and IFAW in a new “Cruelty Doesn’t
Cure” initiative which sees them replacing animal
parts with herbs in all medicines and
South Korea banned bear farming in
1992. South Korean officials are now working
with Animals Asia and a bear farmer to convert
his farm into a sanctuary, as a pilot program
for others to follow.
Sadly, another animal welfare issue
in Korea is not so easy to resolve. The dog
markets in South Korea are responsible for the
deliberately cruel killing of an estimated two
millions dogs a year, for human consumption.
Torture reputedly equals taste for this particular
delicacy: according to common belief, the
more adrenaline circulates in the body of the
animal at death, the better the flavor of the
meat. The Korean Animal Protection Society,
run by Kum Sunnan and her sister Kum
Kyenan, work tirelessly to have dogs and cats
recognised as companion animals, rather than
food. Dogs are also commonly eaten in
Cambodia, China and Vietnam, but the deliberate
torture and huge scale of slaughter in
Korea is of particular concern.
The Philippine government recently
banned eating dog except at religious festivals
held by certain indigenous tribes. Sadly, however,
some legislators in South Korea are now
seeking to legalize dog consumption––which
has been somewhat restricted, at least on
paper. This, it is feared, could start a precedent
across the whole of Asia.
Seeking to achieve wider recognition
of both dogs and cats as companion animals
and dedicated friends, the Animals Asia
Foundation’s “Dr. Dog” program, sponsored
by IFAW, has since 1991 developed a recognised
social service which now sees 200
Chinese volunteers and their dogs visiting over
60 hospitals and disabled centers throughout
Hong Kong. The program has recently been
expanded into the Philippines under the innovative
direction of Nita Lichauco and others at
the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, and
has also been introduced into China under the
kind co-ordination of the Friends of Nature
Animal Rescue Group.
(The Animals Asia Foundation may
be contacted at POB 82, Sai Kung Post Office,
Sai Kung, Kowloon, Hong Kong; telephone
852-2719-3340; fax 852-2719-6716; e-mail:

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