Last month, I was honored to fly to Beijing to show my vegan fashion line, VAUTE, at the Fur Free Life Fashion Show for ActAsia,and speak to press about innovations in fashion to take animals out of the equation. ActAsia is doing incredible work to educate the public about how animals killed for fur are treated. It was a whirlwind few days of the yummiest noodles, Asian arcades, and feeling completely disoriented (and refreshed!) in a facebook and gmail free world.
After that I headed to Chengdu to visit a little slice of heaven the Moon Bear Sanctuary, run by the incredible Animals Asia. Most people have never even heard about it (I hadn’t until recently) but in China they take beautiful moon bears and turn them into bear bile machines, where they live in the smallest cages and some even wear full metal jackets for their whole lives, strategically starved so that they will move into place to have their bile drained from their abdomens. These bears live in such agony that many end up with teeth broken and ripped out, if they haven’t already been cut off by the bile farm factory owners, from trying to escape their cages again and again. Others self mutilate their bodies and have limbs missing from being illegally caught in the wild. It’s incredibly sad, and I’m sorry for the graphic description.
Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, was so kind as to meet me at the Bear Sanctuary to show me around to meet the rescued bears. This woman is a hero for the animals. When the government can shut down a Bear Bile farm, they bring the survivors to the Animals Asia Sanctuary.
You’d think after a life like that spending anything up to 30 years in a cage, these bears would be despondent and broken. But they are alive SO alive. Swinging on hammocks, taking naps together, and sticking their tongue out at you. For safety, I couldn’t get too physically close, but they would sit facing me and look in my eyes. After all they have been through, they have found a love for life, almost unbelievably they trust again, and they have found each other. Entrepreneurship can be challenging, but after learning what these beautiful sweethearts have been through, I can’t help but work to be stronger, to give my all for the animals.
After visiting, I hoped more people could know about the bear bile farms, to be able to support AnimalsAsia’s work in rescuing them and giving them a home. While Chinese Bear Bile is illegal to sell in America (please notify AnimalsAsia if you ever see it) please keep an eye out for bear bile in the list of ingredients of medicinal products found in chinese pharmacies. There are many Chinese herbal alternatives available that are just as effective and many wonderful traditional chinese medicine doctors supporting Animals Asia’s “Healing Without Harm” Campaign in China, Vietnam, the US, and across the world. If you care about these bears and would like to help, please visit Animals Asia’s site https: www.animalsasia.org/us/donate/ to donate.
Oh and as a sidenote, some big news for VAUTE! We’ve been bootstrapped for the past 6 years, and just aren’t able to meet demand with limited team and resources. It’s time though the world is ready for a new bar in fashion: of innovative vegan textiles and kind labor. If you are an accredited investor and interested in supporting vegan or women owned businesses, would love for you to read more here.
We’ll also be hiring, see the openings listed here. Looking for people who love fashion and creating change, and want to put their talents towards creating a better world for the animals.
Sending the biggest moon BEAR hugs you ever saw!
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart,is the founder of VAUTE an innovative fashion house for animals lovers and change makers. Vaute was the first vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week. Leanne has been named the “Rebel of Fashion Week” (CNN), “Gamechanger” (Conde Nast), and “Most Influential Designer” (PETA). Follow VAUTE on facebook here, Instagram here.