Jill Robinson, CEO, Animals Asia Foundation
Jill has been a pioneer of animal welfare in Asia since 1985 and is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993. Born in the UK, Jill Robinson arrived in Hong Kong in 1985 and spent 12 years working in Asia as a consultant for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Repeatedly faced with scenes of widespread animal cruelty, Jill founded “Dr Dog” in Hong Kong in 1991 — the first animal-therapy programme in Asia. This groundbreaking initiative introduced the concept of “change through empathy”, the belief that empathy for one animal can evolve into empathy for an entire species and ultimately for all species. More than 1,000 dogs have qualified as therapy dogs since Jill started Dr Dog, and today over 250 dogs make regular visits to hospitals, disabled centres, schools and elderly homes in 10 cities across Asia, spreading warmth and love to people in need while promoting companion animals as our friends and helpers. In 1993, visiting a bear farm in southern China changed Jill’s life. Exposing the plight of endangered Asiatic black bears (also known as moon bears) cruelly farmed and milked for their bile, and learning how easily herbs and synthetics could replace bear bile; Jill embarked on a journey to end the practice of bear farming once and for all. In 1998, she founded Animals Asia, an organisation devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam by promoting compassion and respect for all animals and working to bring about long-term change. In July 2000, Jill signed an agreement with the Chinese authorities to set up a bear sanctuary and rescue bears from the bile industry. This was the first agreement between the Chinese government and an international NGO. Animals Asia is the only organisation with a bear sanctuary in China. In July 2017, together with Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen, Jill signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Vietnam to bring bear bile farming fully to an end by 2022. Today, Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears, caring for them at its award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam, from its small beginnings in the Hong Kong headquarters. Animals Asia has grown into a respected international NGO with over 300 staff and offices in Australia, China, Germany, the UK, the US and Vietnam.