November 19, 2014, by Lindsay Brooke

Nottingham animal welfare pioneer recognised for her work in Asia

A pioneer of animal welfare in Asia – who inspired students at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) to record a song about the plight of moon bears – has received an honorary degree. Jill Robinson MBE received the degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of her 29-year career working on animal welfare issues.

Jill receiving her Honorary Degree at UNNC

Jill receiving her Honorary Degree at UNNC

Born in Nottingham, UK, Jill is a leading expert on the bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993. Bear bile farming involves keeping bears, often Asiatic black bears and moon bears, in captivity to harvest their bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder.

A lecture on the topic to UNNC students last year so inspired the student band Skyline, they wrote and recorded a song to raise awareness of the practice, which became a hit on the Chinese video site Youku. The band recorded the video on our campus and it became a hit on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

In 1998, Jill founded Animals Asia, an organisation that is devoted to ending the practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam, working to bring about long-term change.

The organisation has since grown into a respected international NGO with around 300 staff, an annual turnover of more than US$9 million, award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam (with 400 rescued bears), headquarters in Hong Kong, and offices in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, the UK, US and Vietnam.

Jill said: “This is a tremendous honour. Hong Kong has been my home since the eighties and mainland China has been where so much of my work has been based. But Nottingham was where I was born and where I realised, at a young age, that animals meant everything to me. It seems incredible to receive this degree from Nottingham University decades later – in China – and feels like we’ve been on a parallel journey.

“I’m accepting this degree on behalf of all animal lovers in Asia. Animal cruelty does exist in Asia as it does, sadly, everywhere. We have a duty to communicate the issues, and work in collaboration with local groups everywhere towards long lasting solutions, not only for whole species but, just as importantly, for individual animals too. The welfare movement is growing at an incredible pace and the change it inspires is more tangible each year. I love the progress we’re not just seeing, but are part of too and especially when it sees such passion from the teachers and students here today at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

“The difference between cruelty and kindness to animals is education – so it’s fitting we can honour all animal lovers in China, today, and encourage more support for animal welfare and conservation together.”

Dr Odette Paramor, from UNNC’s School of Geographical Sciences, spoke at Jill’s graduation ceremony. She said: “Jill’s achievements in the area of animal welfare in Asia are extraordinary. She operates at both a political and grassroots level to campaign and raise public awareness of animal welfare and has established award-winning bear sanctuaries, animal therapy programmes and animal welfare training for zoos across Asia.

“She has already been an inspiration to students here at UNNC and I hope we can continue to work with her.”

Posted in School of Veterinary Medicine and ScienceStaff