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What is ‘Green Fur’?

Earlier today I read an article by fashion columnist Hanna Betts that discussed the contemporary resurgence in the popularity of fur clothing. Personally, I hadn’t noticed this trend, but maybe that’s because I’m not in the demographic that can afford to be on the market for a nice new pelt… At any rate, I was curious about what the article referred to as “green fur,” a term for (supposedly) ‘ethically sourced,’ sustainable fur products.

Here is an excerpt from the article:


Image   You can read the rest of the article here. I don’t disagree with some of the arguments the author makes in  support of the fur industry. From a bio-footprint standpoint, I am sure that synthetic furs create much more environmental waste than real fur. I am also aware that some wild animal populations need to be culled in order to regulate (and thus preserve) the population. That being said, I have a difficult time believing that most species that are coveted for their fur are in need of population control. For example, foxes and wolves are notoriously few and far between in many parts of the world. While there are, as Bett’s states, industry standards and regulations, consumer demand for cheap fur also supports an unregulated fur trade on the black or grey market. The more we see fur becoming accepted in the main stream, the more I suspect that we will see illegally/unethically sourced products.



What do you think? Is it acceptable to wear fur? Is it hypocritical to wear leather but reject fur? I would love to hear your thoughts –








The AAF’s Clever Holiday Marketing Campaign


As someone who works in marketing (and for a nonprofit at that) I was quite intrigued by the AAF’s Christmas fundraising campaign – it’s really clever!

The AAF has produced a spin off of an advertisement created by John Lewis, a UK department store chain. The original ad is a two minute video called “The Bear and the Hare.” The video plays on the idea that bears hibernate throughout the winter and therefore sleep through Christmas every year. The story begins by depicting a bear and a hare hanging out amicably in a summertime forest. Winter comes and the bear retreats to its den. The hare is sad and misses it’s friend; as all of the other woodland creatures are preparing for Christmas, it skips off to the bear’s den and places a gift outside. Cut to Christmas morning and we see that the bear has mysteriously awoken and joined the hare and his other friends – we discover that the hare’s gift was in fact an alarm clock, set to wake the bear on Christmas morning! If you’re curious you can watch the full ad here

It’s a very cute piece of marketing, and cleverly designed to boot. The closing caption says “Give someone a Christmas they’ll lever forget,” Immediately followed by the John Lewis brand. Considering that the AAF is a UK based charity with it’s largest support base residing in the UK, it makes a good deal of sense for them to play off the John Lewis commercial in their own holiday campaign. The opening shot of the video declares:


The video goes on to show moon bears venturing out in their enclosure, searching for pies which are hidden in large wrapped gift boxes. The bears look very cute while opening presents and eating pies, and the closing text at the end of the video reads “Please be a secret Santa and help make a moon bear happy this Christmas. If you are in the UK, just send a free text for 3 Pounds to give a bear a special fruity treat” followed by the texing info. You can click here to watch the full video. 

I think that it’s genius to play on the UK audience’s familiarity with the John Lewis brand and leverage the existing, heartwarming advertising campaign to the benefit of the AAF’s cause. The association between the two videos will only serve to increase the reach of both campaigns and encourage viewers to convert (purchase). It provides John Lewis with some nice PR as well and a good branding opportunity to boot; I wonder if they will consider a sponsorship to the AAF sometime down the road.  

Singing Crickets – Another Reason to Respect Nature!

A friend sent me the most amazing audio track today: it’s a recording of crickets chirping, but with the pitch and tempo dropped. Maybe that doesn’t sound like cause for awe, however it turns out that when the tempo is dropped the crickets sound like a Vienna boys choir. No, I’m not kidding. Listen to the recording and see for yourself.

In case you’re wondering, I did some research after listening to the track to see whether it’s a legitimate recording. The consensus elsewhere on the internet is that the audio is real and untampered. I think it’s truly beautiful that crickets are, in fact, singing in harmony with each other… one has to wonder what the experience is like from the cricket’s perspective. Do they hear themselves as a choir might, creating a musical composition together?

The takeaway from this, at least for me, is an enhanced sense of respect for all life. It’s so easy to be dismissive of a tiny cricket, and yet even the smallest creature is capable of beauty and deserves to be treated with kindness.

I also recommend listening to the following interview with opera singer Bonnie Hunt. In the interview she discusses her personal reaction to the recording. You will also hear a very lovely excerpt of Bonnie accompanying the crickets.

Donating to the AAF

To follow up my last post, I just found out that Jill Robinson, the head of the Animals Asia Foundation, was awarded the Hong Kong People’s Choice Award yesterday. Jill has been doing so much to raise awareness about animal rights and end bear bile farming, and it is wonderful to see her being recognized for her efforts within Asia.

if you’re interested in donating to the Animals Asia Foundation, you might be interested in this video tour of the organization’s facilities in China:


Support the Moon Bear

Hi everyone,

It’s become exceedingly clear to me that my Indiegogo campaign is going nowhere quickly, and I recognize that this is no one’s fault but my own. I’ve been more interested in writing about conservation and political issues than in trying to raise funds; to be honest these kinds of campaigns have never been a forte of mine. At any rate, I’m not overly upset about the failure of my fundraising efforts but I would like to share a list of other ways that you can make a difference to this cause, if you find yourself compelled to do so.

Organizations that Work to End Bile Farming:

Free the Bears

Free the Bears is an Australian nonprofit that was founded in 1993 by a woman named Mary Hutton. The organization runs a number of bear sanctuaries and works to end the practice of bile farming through educational and awareness campaigns at the grassroots level. 100% of donations to this organization go directly towards helping the bears.

The Animals Asia Foundation

I’ve mentioned this one before on the blog. Similarly to Free the Bears, the AAF works to end bear bile farming by setting up wildlife sanctuaries, rehabilitation centres, and petitioning local governments to help shut down local operations. It’s possible to give a one time donation, however you can also sponsor a bear, which is pretty cool. The AAF works to help dogs and cats as well – they actual have quite a number of different programs and I highly recommend checking out their website directly as it’s chalked full of information.

These are really the two major organizations, and I really believe that your dollars will go the furthest if you contribute to one of these charities rather than one that doesn’t specialize in working with the Asiatic Black Bear.

Another great way to get involved is to volunteer at a sanctuary. I know that not all of us can up and move to Asia for a few months but if you happen to be a student or avid traveller, this is great experience and a worthwhile overseas adventure.

The Conservation Movement in China

I’ve been getting more and more interested in learning about the Conservation Movement, and I was curious to find out about what’s going on in China at the grassroots level. Predictably, my first step was to search for “Conservation Movement China” on Google, and I have to say that I was rather disappointed with the results.

The top (first) four results were links to a Facebook page called Stop Made in China: A Global Conservation Movement. Honestly, I was disturbed to find that the most popular site this search returns is one that advocates the boycotting of all products made in China, if only because I was hoping for some more positive, uplifting information than what I found. That being said, whoever is behind Stop Made in China has done a great job of curating content on wildlife trafficking, and I recommend that you check it out if this is an area of interest to you. While a lot of the material is geared towards the ivory trade, there does seem to be some effort made to represent a broader set of wildlife conservation issues. The site identifies a number of “wanted” kingpin traffickers, and I thought that it was interesting to read about some of the individuals who are behind the trade. For example, check out Return of the Lizard King, and Al Jazeera exclusive on Anson Wong, one of the most infamous traffickers out there.

Unfortunately I was also unsurprised by the next few Google results, which were all about Pandas. As you may know (if you read my About the Moon Bear page) I don’t have anything against Pandas, but it really bothers me that they take so much of the limelight when it comes to conservation and activism.

I was feeling discouraged, but then I hit on pay dirt: a blog post about a Chinese film festival dedicated to raising awareness about conserving our oceans.

Check out this excerpt from Human Nature: Conservation International Blog:


It’s so great to see this kind of initiative going on (and I am especially happy whenever I see any kind of collaboration with the arts)! I think that public education is very important, and in China there has historically been very little awareness about the importance of maintaining the health of our oceans, so this is definitely a positive step.

I was also able to dig up a blog post from a site called Rare Dispatches (admittedly from 2008) about the organization’s first ever conservation training program, based at Southwest Forestry University in Kunming, China. Rare is a leader in “social marketing,” which means that they develop awareness campaigns to change attitudes about social and environmental issues. They specialize in conservation and work in a variety of different international contexts. You can read their post about the training program and “Rare China,” here.

At any rate, I was happy that, despite the overwhelming number of entries about pandas, I was able to wade through it all and find some information about other grassroots conservation activities in China! I hope that we will be seeing more and more of this in the future.

Seattle Cracks Down on Animal Smuggling

Local police in Seattle, Washington have apparently been cracking down on the smuggling and trade of exotic (and endangered) animal products. Apparently Western Washington is a key trans-shipping station (possibly due to it’s location on the country’s west coast). Check out the following news report from ABC’s Komo News 4, a local Seattle station, here. It’s great to see that the local law enforcement is taking an interest in the problem. The report does mention bear parts, including gal bladders, although interestingly it refers to the American Black Bear as falling victim rather than the Asiatic Black Bear. This indicates a disturbing trend; as bile farms are being shut down, merchants and smugglers are obviously looking elsewhere for their bear products.


According to another news article on the illegal smuggling of animal parts, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has the world’s only forensic lab dedicated to investigating ‘crimes’ against animals. I think that this is really cool! Unfortunately the rest of the article is quite grim. The reporter, writing for for CNBC, interviewed a representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Crawford Allan is the Director of Traffic at the North American office of the WWF’s wildlife trade arm. He explained that, if anything, traffic in animal parts is on the rise, due to the profitability of the industry and the light international penalties when compared with other illegal activities such as smuggling drugs. “It’s high profit and low risk,” he says, describing the incredible quantities of illegal animal products that have been seized in recent years. In 2011, apparently 23 tonnes of elephant ivory were seized, the largest recorded amount since the record began in 1989. According to Allan, “That equates to about two and a half thousand elephants that were killed for that ivory that was seized,” and he estimates that what is seized is only about 10% of the total product on the market.

Bleak figures, that’s for sure. You can read the rest of the article here.

I do hope that if we can raise awareness about these issues perhaps international penalties for animal cruelty/poaching/etc will be toughened, dissuading people from getting involved in the trade to begin with. Of course the issue is more complicated since many of the people participating are living in the developing world, in economic situations where they may have few opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty… but that is a whole other can of worms, so to speak.

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