These early years of laying the groundwork were only possible thanks to the support of two generous benefactors: the late Princess Elisabeth de Cröy, and Marquis Federico Spinola. Both supporters lent their passion to ACTAsia’s cause and their names to help ACTAsia gain media support.
By 2009, ACTAsia identified the need to promote animal welfare to key professions – there was no point in trying to educate the public on how to look after their pets if veterinarians themselves were not in agreement. Together with Dr Elaine Ong, a veterinarian in Australia of Chinese ethnic origin, ACTAsia launched a companion-animal welfare veterinary training programme. To date, ACTAsia still works closely with Dr Elaine Ong and her organisation Vets for Compassion, and our veterinary training programme has gone from strength to strength.
In the early days of ACTAsia, there were protests and demonstrations to raise awareness of how fur is produced, and the promotion of compassionate, sustainable fashion, as well as research studies into the fur industry.
In 2011 ACTAsia launched Fur Free Life to target Chinese consumers. The Chinese fur industry was expanding and causing terrible suffering to millions of animals, as well as serious pollution to the environment. Production has been growing for both global and Chinese markets year-on-year, and we began to raise awareness among consumers within China and internationally of the true cost of wearing real fur. As a member of the Fur Free Retailer scheme, we have recruited 30 retailers in Asia to commit to using ethical alternatives to fur by sharing our research into the practices used by the fur industry.
In 2012, we launched our children’s education programme, Caring for Life (CFL). Focusing on the primary years at school, we began to develop a syllabus to help educate the next generation of adults. Our vision was – and still is – of a generation responsible for the world they inherit, who understand the importance of kindness, because they have developed emotional intelligence as children. CFL has expanded into new provinces within China each year since, incorporating cities, remote rural areas, reaching out to parents, teachers and students alike.
By now, our work was clearly defined by three areas of education: children, consumers, and professionals. We focused on the positive changes that we could bring about by giving all three groups the information and understanding they needed to become more compassionate and caring individuals. We continued to share professional expertise among the veterinary profession, to train new teachers, explain to consumers how it’s possible to live compassionately to minimise the suffering of animal and damage to the environment, to tell the public the truth about the fur items they buy, and sow the seeds of kindness among primary children.
To this day, experience shows us that given the chance to understand how people, animals and the environment are all interconnected, the vast majority of people we work with choose kindness over cruelty.