Charitable Donations Mean Tax Savings
Around the holidays, many San Franciscans consider donating to charities, but may not realize that such donations also mean savings come tax season. NerdWallet Taxes has prepared information to help you understand the effect of charitable donations on your taxes. While taxes are complicated, it’s often harder to find worthy nonprofits among the many questionable ones. NerdWallet has scoured San Francisco for nonprofits doing awesome, high-impact work that helps animals. In particular, for donors in search of a nonprofit with a focus on bears, NerdWallet has selected AnimalsAsia (AA), a 501(c)(3) multi-national nonprofit saving bears from bile farms in China and Vietnam.
AnimalsAsia started in 1998, with the mission of saving moon bears in China and Vietnam from the bear bile farming industry. On these farms, bears are kept in cramped cages for their entire lives and subjected to painful extractions of their bile, which is used in traditional medicines. The bears often suffer infections from the extractions and experience physical and mental disorders because they’re confined.
Sanctuaries Save the Bear’s Day
AnimalsAsia is unique, because it operates the only bear sanctuary in China, where it houses and cares for bears rescued from bile farms. It’s a big job, as there currently are about 10,000 bears kept on Chinese farms. In China, bear bile farming is legal and licensed farmers are allowed to keep bears. To date, AnimalsAsia’s Chengdu sanctuary has received 285 bears seized from illegal farms shut down by the Chinese government. Of these 285 bears, 148 still live at the sanctuary, but some have died of liver cancer because of the horrors they suffered on the farms.
AA has also expanded into Vietnam, where 2,400 bears are illegally kept on farms. In Vietnam, AnimalsAsia can seize bears directly from farms, but in other cases farmers willingly give up their animals. To date, AA has saved 115 bears in Vietnam, and 107 of them are living at the sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park. The park is a popular destination for tourists interested in learning about bear bile farming, but recently it was served with an eviction notice to make way for development. Fortunately, Vietnam’s prime minister granted AA permission to stay in the park and continue its ground-breaking work saving bears.
Morgan Lance, US director for AnimalsAsia, says bears stay at the sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. In particular, bears from Chinese farms have suffered incredible injuries, and many are missing at least one leg because they were trapped in the wild. Others suffer from blindness, liver cancer or other terminal illnesses, and so can never be released into the wild.
The sanctuaries are needed because the bears can’t survive on their own. For example, bear cubs arriving at Vietnamese farms are smuggled from the wild and spend their entire lives in a cage, becoming accustomed to people and never learning to fend for themselves. Even if the bears were released, they could not escape entrapment by hunters looking to return them to the farms.
Results and Impact
In nearly 20 years of operations, AA has saved 400 bears total. In 2011, the foundation acquired revenues of roughly $890,000, an increase of 19% over 2010, and saved $26,000 after expenses. Despite these measures of success, Ms. Lance notes that rescued bears represent only a small fraction of the bears still suffering on farms. While AnimalsAsia has saved as many bears as possible, their mission is to end the bear bile trade. The only way to do that is through comprehensive education and advocacy.
Bear Advocacy and Public Awareness
AnimalsAsia draws extensively on scientific research highlighting the unhealthiness of consuming bear bile, and engages in public education, advocacy, government lobbying, and investigations into the trading and smuggling of bears. The rescued bears also serve as ambassadors for AA’s work, drawing thousands of tourists and educating the public on the barbarism involved in bear bile farming. Rescue alone will never accomplish the job, but AA believes that bear bile farming will eventually end through focused efforts on advocacy and education.
Thanks to AA’s efforts, most of the Chinese public now opposes bear bile farming. Ms. Lance points out that bear bile farming is one of the 10 most commonly discussed social media issues in China. Through social media, Chinese youth are learning about synthetic alternatives to bear bile. Among the older generation, there is growing opposition to bear bile because of the health hazards it poses to humans. Thanks to AA’s “Healing Without Harm” campaign, in which AA works with pathologists to gather scientific evidence highlighting the harmful health effects of consuming bear bile, 11 Chinese pharmacy chains and 260 individual pharmacies have stopped selling the product.
How You Can Help Bears
Because bear bile farming is largely done in Asia, most people don’t know about the bears’ suffering. Bear enthusiasts can get involved in many ways: through volunteering, advocacy, fundraising and sponsoring bears. In the “Sponsor a Bear” program, donors can sponsor individual bears at a sanctuary for $45 a month. The donation covers the bear’s diet, medical and housing needs. Donors receive a certificate and photo of their bear, along with detailed information about their bear’s unique personality and history.
Outreach and advocacy
If you are interested in raising awareness of bear bile farming, AnimalsAsia offers “starter kits” containing literature and other outreach materials to educate the public.
For those who’d like to raise money for bears, AA’s website offers an array of fundraising ideas to hold in your neighborhood, school or office.
For those who love hands-on work and have backgrounds in veterinary science or zoology, AnimalsAsia offers volunteer opportunities at the sanctuaries. For those with non-veterinary backgrounds, AnimalsAsia has plenty of opportunities in event planning, education/outreach and film/video production at its headquarters in Hong Kong or office in San Francisco.
For bear lovers who want to raise money for AnimalsAsia and love to run, consider running in a marathon. Individuals have raised money for bears by participating in triathlons and marathons. It’s a great way to earn recognition from your family, friends and colleagues and raise money for the bears.
In October, indie bands performed in the “Bands for Bears” concert in New York City as part of a fundraising effort for AnimalsAsia. Bear lovers got to listen to wonderful music and raise awareness and money for the bear bile cause.
Bear image courtesy of AnimalsAsia Foundation Limited.