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Truth of charity is not so cuddly

The plight of the bile bears in China has touched the hearts of our readers across the West Country.
More than £80,000 has poured in in just 21 days to help these tortured, loving creatures who spend up to 20 years of their lives trapped in cages no bigger than themselves, as metal tubes are thrust into their stomachs to extract their bile. But not everyone backs our campaign to bring sunshine back into their desperate lives.
In fact, Bristol Evening Post journalist Dennis Payter believes we should leave well alone because Asia is a long way away.

IT amazes me how people in this country just cannot seem to resist putting their hands in their pockets when it comes to giving money to save cuddly looking animals.

Yes we British always seem to think that a dog is a man’s best friend, but what about helping all the starving in Third World countries and those worthy charities we need to support that are propping up our ailing health service?

When it comes to the crunch and our loved ones die, we ask for donations in lieu of flowers for a noble cause, not to save animals thousands of miles away.

Rescuing Moon Bears from bile farms in China has never been the greatest topic for debate over a pint down at my local so I am amazed at the success of the Western Daily Press appeal.

But shouldn’t the Chinese government be doing more to end bile farming in the same way as Tony Blair is halting fox hunting?

And remember the fight to save the panda, the point with that campaign was that it was an endangered species.

Not too many people in the US or Canada are keen on the bears; they see black bears as vicious creatures who attack youngsters and raid their trash cans.

I am not particularly a pet lover, although my children did have their goldfish and hamsters, and I didn’t like the way those foxes were hunted down by the hounds.

If I was to give money to help animals in any way, it would be to the RSPCA which does a magnificent job in our country protecting animals. And I acknowledge that thousands enjoy horse riding, going to the races and that the Badminton three-day event attracts thousands every year.

But we don’t race or ride bears do we?

I am impressed that so many Daily Press readers have some coppers to spare that they want to make donations… but bears? (Although I confess that Rupert Bear has always been one of my favourites in his check trousers along with Winnie the Pooh.)

We all enjoy a day out at Bristol Zoo and I used to love watching the antics in the bear pit, but that was the extent of it. I remember seeing a bear going wild when a penguin was thrown into the pit… that’s because he couldn’t get the wrapper off.

Seriously though, surely the readers should be supporting more worthy causes, and there are plenty right on our own doorstep.

I know we all have different ideas of how money should be spent.

For example I was surprised that down in Burnham-on-Sea, the town council forked out £5,000 it had to spare on new memorial gates for its park, but they didn’t give it to the bears did they? Every year people put their hands in their pockets to back the Bristol Lord Mayor’s Christmas Appeal to put the smile on the faces of up to 2,000 of the city’s needy children. All the money goes on getting clothes, food and vouchers over the festive season.

A children’s hospice has been badly needed around here for years with the nearest being down in Devon at Barnstaple.

Now everyone has been magnificent in trying to raise the £15m needed for the new hospice planned at Wraxall in North Somerset by putting on all sorts of events from barbecues to car boot sales to raise money. That’s what I like to hear. The Bristol Oncology Centre is always grateful for the support it gets.

Donations are made by grateful patients, others leave money in their will, while cash is raised for new equipment. These people are great; it has always amazed me how people are willing to give up so much of their spare time to support good causes, like the centre, in that true British spirit. Thousands of people, like cricketer Ian Botham, have walked or cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in all sorts of fancy dress to raise money over the years. People are still collecting millions following the tsunami disaster, even though the official appeal has closed.

You Daily Press readers should be backing all those volunteers who are members of service clubs throughout the region like the Rotary and Lions Clubs which do such magnificent work, they are always desperate to raise money for community initiatives.

And remember those builders from Weston-super-Mare who raised money to build a new school in Africa. I’m proud of all these people.

So well done to all you readers who have backed the bears appeal, but now is the time to dig deep and support so many of these very good causes.

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