(ACTIVISM/CELEBRITIES) What could be a bigger challenge than taking on Bruce Lee? Try taking on traditional Chinese medicine.
Jackie Chan has made a name for himself as a Hollywood action hero, but he has also gained a reputation as an animal hero. The movie star is fighting to save endangered animals by imploring his fans to stop buying ivory, rhino horn, and other products used for traditional Chinese medicine.
See the video clip below and continue reading to learn more about Chan’s efforts to help save wildlife. — Global Animal
The Telegraph, Harriet Alexander
As a child, Jackie Chan was convinced that traditional remedies would turn him into a kung fu master – tiger bone oil would cure bruises, shark fin soup would make his skin tough and supple, rhino horn would cure cancer. As an adult, Chan has become China’s most famous actor – a martial arts all-action hero, who is unique in charming both Hollywood and Beijing.
But instead of crediting traditional remedies for his success, the 58-year-old is now dedicating himself to changing Chinese attitudes towards wildlife, in an attempt to convince fellow Asians to stop buying ivory, rhino horn and other products produced from endangered animals.
And he’s starting right at the top.
“I was making a film in China, the government buy me a dinner,” he said. “I sit down; boom – they give me shark fin soup.
“I said put it away. I said can I have some other soup, I just don’t like shark fin soup. I start talking. Politely – it was ten years ago, and I was a foreigner from Hong Kong – but I told them.
“The second time they invited me, there was no shark fin soup. And they buy a dinner for me, for one person, but there were like 20 people around me. And if I stop, 20 people stop.”
It is Chan’s ability to influence everyone from politicians to teenage film fans that makes him so valuable as a charity spokesman.
Already well-known in his native China for his philanthropy and humanitarian work, Chan’s wildlife crusade began when, in 1996, he was sent a letter by Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, asking for his help.
“I never expected to even hear back from him,” said Mr Knights, speaking to The Telegraph at the London hotel where Chan is based for his 14-hour whirlwind visit to the UK – to coincide with the illegal wildlife conference, hosted by David Cameron and Prince William.
“But within three days he had written back and said ‘How can I help?’
“He later asked how I knew to send the letter just as he was in South Africa, filming surrounded by rhino and elephant. I told him it was fate.”
Since then Chan has recorded a series of adverts for Chinese television calling for his fellow citizens to stop buying ivory, and stop believing that rhino horn, tiger bone and other such traditional remedies will cure them from cancer, impotence and a whole gamut of ailments.
He has also recruited fellow Chinese stars such as basketball player Yao Ming to the cause, and starred alongside other celebrities such as David Beckham.
“Sometimes when government do things, the people just don’t concentrate. But if you use celebrity, they will believe it,” he said. “We need more celebrities to speak out about this.”
He tells how he caries a copy of WildAid’s documentary on his laptop, and shows it to people to talk about his work.
“When I say something they believe me. And I always bring the film – used to be the DVD, now on my computers – with me.
“I show them: ‘Look, this is how they kill the elephants.’ They are like ‘Eeeugh!’
“I tell them; believe me, it’s wrong. Slowly they learn to believe the right message.”
Has the star of Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon and Around the World in 80 Days tried to recruit any of his Hollywood friends to the cause?
“Sure. They listen. Will Smith, Kenny G – I talk to them about it. But they don’t like shark fin soup anyway.”
Chan’s message has added power because as a child, growing up in grinding poverty in Hong Kong, he believed the accepted wisdom about traditional remedies.
“When I was younger I thought shark fin soup was good for the skin, for collagen. I thought tiger bone oil was good for when you get hurt.
“These kinds of things are always in your mind – traditional things. You eat pigs brain and get clever. When you eat pig knuckle you feel good. You are young, you have no TV, you know nothing.”
And in addition to talking to his adoring public – who refer to him affectionately as “Dear Brother Jackie”, he can take the message straight to China’s elite.
Last year he became officially a member of China’s political establishment, when he was named a national-level delegate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, one of the country’s top advisory bodies.
In the past he has been criticised for suggesting that China’s laws were “too lax” and that people were seen openly flouting rules – for example smoking in front of no smoking signs.
But he has since softened his stance, saying instead that it will take time to change attitudes that date back millennia – but that now the Chinese government is backing his projects, he thinks the situation will rapidly improve.
“We know there are a lot of problems – the Chinese government already knows,” he said.
“We have 1.4 billion people – it takes time. Slowly.
“Since the Hong Kong handover, I see China changing. I see big change. And it makes me so happy. I see everything is the right thing.
“Every year there are more than half a million students outside, for the last 15 years – in London, in the USA.
“They are young, and learn good things about the world. They are now becoming the government people. They bring the good things back to China to change.”
He tells how, for his latest WildAid commercial, the Chinese government waived the usual fees to air the advert during prime time. In the advert he appears alongside Spike, a real rhino, who, he said, made a highly entertaining co star.
“He was bashing about and ignoring everyone,” said Chan with a laugh. “He’d crash through the sets and go where he wanted – it was very funny.
“But he was so beautiful. I want my grandchildren to be able to see animals like that in the wild.”
What would he do if he came face to face with a poacher, I ask – hoping that the animated and endearing actor will leap to his feet and demonstrate some kung fu moves.
“I would tell the police,” he said. “I really admire the people on the ground who risk their lives. I want to thank them – they risk their lives, and I want to thank them and the activists for letting us know about what is going on.”