Annie Mather is media director for the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF). She came to Hong Kong in 1980 and joined the foundation in 1998. Having a background in film, Ms Mather has devoted her time to the foundation producing short videos, editing AAF footage, co-orirdinating international film crews to cover its programmes and organising fund-raising events. 'I was born in Kenya and raised on a coffee farm. I was always really passionate about animals. We had lots of animals when I was growing up - orphaned antelopes, bush babies, dogs and cats, rabbits and horses. We were just instilled with a real respect for animals, and when I first came to Asia [in 1980], I was really quite shocked. That's not to say that there isn't terrible cruelty in the west, it's just not so visible. But it really shocked me and I always wanted, somehow, to do something to help. I heard about Jill Robinson [founder and head of AAF], and that was when she first discovered the caged bears. We had a mutual friend and when Jill opened her first bear sanctuary in Panyu, Guangdong province, it really moved me. I think [the Chinese government's decision to cull 10,000 civet cats] is very premature, as does the World Health Organisation. There is a link between the coronavirus that causes Sars and civet cats, but there has also been a link between the coronavirus and raccoon dogs, and ferret badgers. I think that in the long term, the only thing to do is close down the [live game] markets forever. There has to be a huge publicity campaign to stop people eating wildlife, and even members of the Chinese government have been coming out and saying the same thing - that civilised societies should not eat wildlife. Some of the work Animals Asia has done is to monitor these horrible markets. I was up at the live market in Guangzhou with Jill in November and we witnessed cage after cage of civet cats - and many of them had three legs because they would have been caught in the wild [in traps]. They were kept in tiny cages, which is nothing new. It's rather horrendous to see after the whole Sars crisis that the market had reopened and was in the same state as it was before Sars. The hygiene in the market is revolting. They're killing all these animals - you can see anything up to 60 different species there - the blood is all over the pathways and they then hose down the place so you have droplets being dispersed everywhere. Even post-Sars, this is still going on in exactly the same way as before. This is just a hotbed of disease. It's an accident waiting to happen. These places have to close and the eating of wildlife has to stop. On the bear front, we are rescuing 500 bears. Animals Asia signed an agreement with the Chinese government in 2000. The bears come to us from farms. The last group of bears arrived in late November - there were 35 of them. They arrived in the most absolutely horrendous condition because they'd been kept in tiny cages for their entire lives - and that can be anything up to 20 years. Either they have a catheter in their stomachs or they've undergone very invasive surgery to reshape the gall bladders so the farmers can access the bile. It's really the most horrifying experience. These poor animals are just going mad from pain and anguish. First of all, they are under very close veterinary observation. One by one, they undergo surgery. If they have a catheter, they have it removed. [Under] the so-called 'humane' dripping they've undergone, they actually do an operation on the bear and pull the gall bladder close to the stomach wall and drill a hole in the stomach so they can put a pipe inside the bear and drill the bile out. This sets up terrible infections. Bears are intelligent. They really teach us humans a lesson. After all they've gone through, you'd think they'd never trust a human being again - but they trust us.'