“Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears” by Jill Robinson is not your typical picture book. It’s written by the woman who began saving China’s Moon Bears over twenty years ago. On tour promoting the children’s picture book and her sanctuary, she took time out for an interview.
Ms. Robinson told me that she first glimpsed the degradation of “farmed” Moon Bears in 1993 while working for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. She broke away from the tour group she was with and went down some stairs. While taking in the horror of the bears in cramped tiny cages, she felt a touch on her shoulder. It was a Moon Bear reaching out to her.
When she returned the touch (in retrospect, foolishly), she realized that she had to do something to help these poor abused creatures. Robinson said, “I had lived in China long enough to know that you can’t go around shaking your finger and saying stop.” She did some research and learned that there is an historical basis for using the bear bile to treat disease, but also that there is both a synthetic substitute and herbal replacement for the bile.
She talked to Chinese doctors who also stated that if animals were being so mistreated to get the bile, it wouldn’t be effective anyway. Through contacts, she was able to convince the Chinese officials to give her permission to begin her rescue, called Animals Asia.
She told me, “They probably thought that maybe we’ll give her some bears and she’ll go away. With the bears on the surgery table, we had the evidence of how badly they had been abused. They’ve now seen that these bears are both psychologically and physically broken — they come to us literally at death’s door.”
Robinson believes that this is a critical year for Animals Asia and the Moon Bears. They recently beat an eviction notice. She added, “We are asking people around the world to stand up around the people of China and help. It’s not the case that people in China hate animals. There are many activists there who want people to change. We want to keep pushing for an end to bear farming.”
Animals Asia has other activities that revolve around animals, including a Doctor Dog program and a Professor Paws program. The programs bring dogs to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the patients and also bring children and dogs together so that the next generation of Asian children will grow up loving dogs for the joy and happiness they bring. Not as objects of scorn or something to be eaten.
“Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears” is a touching book that resonates with Jill’s belief that it only takes one person to make a stand and begin to turn the world around. And if reading the story about Jasper helps a child to realize that, then she’s been successful as an author.