Menswear journalist, blogger and See The Difference fan Sam Outing steps away from the latest collars and cuffs to discover a bear of a story he didn’t know …
I’ve always loved these rugged animals; handsome, proud, hulking and don’t forget loveable. Of course, I am talking about real bears, aka the four legged, claws and all mammals, in their wild, natural habitat. Not, as my friends will willingly point out, the bearded and huggable genre of men I so often take a fancy for.
You’d also be forgiven for thinking this piece is out of character from my normal posts. As a menswear journalist, my previous articles have focused on what many of you might see as the more frivolous side of life. I rarely am so moved by an animal, stuffed or otherwise that I’d take the time to actually write about it. I interviewed Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia to find out what it is about bears she loves so much and why this work is so important.
Jill Robinson, founder Animals Asia, with one of the rescued bears
My own love of bears like many others, stems from a childhood fascination with wildlife, the enchanting world of A A. Milne and a co-dependant relationship with my favourite Teddy Bear. But when I was talking to Jill and discovered the horrific plight of the Moon Bear and the great work pioneered by Animals Asia Foundation I decided we all need to make a stand.
Jill, who admits she never pictured herself even visiting a “Bear Farm” let alone running a bear sanctuary, has miraculously not only created a haven for these troubled animals, but is working tirelessly with the Chinese government to bring an end to this barbaric and unnecessary cruelty and campaigning to help protect and save the thousands of Moon bears who are still being milked for their bile.
To a westerners ear this terminology doesn’t seem too severe. After all, we’ve milked cattle perfectly humanely and pain free for centuries. It even sounds pastoral or romantic. It sadly couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The practice of using Moon Bear bile in ancient Chinese medicine used to only kill a few animals to remove their gallbladder. Maybe still a crime against the natural order but more humane than the current factory farming techniques used today, which involve systematically breeding, caging and draining bile from these helpless and suffering animals day in and day out for up to 30 years.
Jill told me one of their biggest challenges after nursing the bears to health is keeping them stimulated. As the largest carnivore on the planet bears are highly intelligent and active creatures, and in captivity need their inquisitive and charming personalities bought to life. This is where we can contribute to toys and apparatus to keep the Moon Bears of AAF happy and challenged, much like my favourite bear Pooh does with his constant hunt for honey.
Sam Outing, blogger and life long bear lover
I asked Jill if she ever has favourites and why she loves bears so much. It would seem for the same reasons I do. It’s more than the suffering and cruelty, it’s the over powering magnetism and charm these bears have that seem to seduce you. They each have their own strong personality and wit, she says, like people.
So, what do you buy a bear for Christmas? Well the answer is simple, like children franticly breaking into presents under the tree, according to Jill the bears love rummaging around unwrapping and tearing apart boxes and are partial to a mince pie. So check out the See The Difference gifts selection if you want to treat a bear or a friend. That’s one present sorted.