2,000 hours of video calls and 22,000 emails—this is what it took for writer and producer Paul Goodenough to bring Rewriting Extinction, a collaborative charity project that has the support of some of the most well-known stars and comic artists on Earth, into existence. The project encompasses 15 charities and over 300 people from around the globe, united in their pursuit of a single goal: coming together to try and reverse species extinction through the power of storytelling.
The 12-month campaign is focused on publishing engaging comics that spread awareness about the life-threatening issues animals face all around the world. Beloved celebrities like Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Taika Waititi, Ricky Gervais, and Cara Delevingne have teamed up to lend their creativity and support. Alongside them stand some of the biggest names in contemporary comic storytelling, including the legendary Jenny Jinya, Elizabeth Pich and Jonathan Kunz of War and Peas, Chow Hon Lam of Buddy Gator, Nicholas Gurewitch of The Perry Bible Fellowship, and others.
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Bored Panda brings you an exclusive look at Jenny’s newest hard-hitting comic ‘Mama Bear,’ created together with Rewriting Extinction and World Animal Protection, about the horrors of the bear bile trade. Be warned, though, just like her other stories, this one is a real tear-jerker. I had a friendly chat with both Jenny and project founder Paul, so be sure to read on for Bored Panda’s in-depth interviews with both of them.
Have a look through these gorgeous and powerful comics by Jenny and other artists, and let us know what you thought of them and the issues they address, dear Pandas. If they got you thinking about the future of all of us who share this blue gem of a planet, consider making a donation right here. 100% of any donation goes through to the projects that Rewriting Extinction is sponsoring.
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World Animal Protection explains that the bear bile industry causes “intense, unjustified suffering” to bears across Asia.
“Bear bile is extracted in intolerably cruel and inhumane ways, often by people with no veterinary qualifications and little concern for animal protection. Some bears face this cruelty throughout their lives. That can mean 20 years of torture—unless the bears succumb to infection, tumors, or self-inflicted wounds. Bears in the bear bile industry often moan and rock due to extreme anxiety. Many have broken teeth from biting on the bars of their cages.”
Bear bile is used as traditional medicine, however, there are plenty of alternatives to it—synthetic and herbal.
It’s about this emotional topic that comic artist Jenny Hefczyc, aka Jenny Jinya, whose comics about the Loving Reaper Bored Panda has featured extensively over the years, has drawn an emotional comic. Jenny told me that she has the impression that a lot of people have never heard about bear bile farming before.
“You can’t blame them, it’s rarely reported on. Like all other topics I draw about, this one was also very difficult to approach. But reading about the suffering and psychological damage of these poor bears is really something else, especially when you know that there are cruelty-free alternatives nowadays. I hope that our efforts will raise awareness of this issue,” Jenny told Bored Panda in an exclusive interview about just how emotional it was to work on the piece.
“This comic took longer than most before it, but that was more because some changes had to be made. I’m taking my time though, I treat my comics with the same respect I treat the subject itself.”
Jenny revealed to Bored Panda that Rewriting Extinction contacted her last year and introduced her to the extremely ambitious project. “I was really amazed how many celebrities and artists are involved in the project, so many people with the goal to improve something for our environment and (endangered) animals. World Animal Protection is one of the organizations that partnered with Rewriting Extinction and proposed the bear bile subject,” she shared.
“I hope my comic does justice to the issue and I am honored to be a part of the project of Rewriting Extinction. We will also use the comic to raise funds for World Animal Protection, which is actively addressing this issue. I just hope we can educate as many people as possible, another small move for a better future, for a better world,” Jenny told me. She suggested that anyone hoping to help fight against the bear bile trade should consider supporting World Animal Protection or Animals Asia, avoid using products that contain bear bile, and do what they can to raise awareness about the topic.
There’s no doubt about Jenny’s drawing skills and talents. However, I was curious to find out how Jenny approaches drawing animals that she’s not as familiar with as others. She said that she’s drawn some animals like cats, dogs, and birds so many times throughout her life that the process is smooth and quick.
“For some animals I’ve never or rarely drawn, I have to look at different references. For example, I had to look more closely at how the snout of a shark is shaped, it’s not just pointed, it goes up at a bit of an angle in some species. Or that in suckerfish, the surface for sucking is on their head and they don’t just use their mouth, I didn’t know that before because I never dealt with the fish before. But such details are important and I want to take them into account,” the comic artist pointed out that she believes the details are vital.
How Much Does That Cost – Makeup
Gilbert Sape, the Global Head of Campaign at World Animal Protection, noted that the exploitation of captive bears for their bile is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty seen in the world today. “We’re thrilled to have worked with Rewriting Extinction on this touching and creative project to raise awareness and support, to help bring it to an end. For 30 years now, World Animal Protection has been campaigning to put an end to the suffering of bears worldwide,” Gilbert said.
World Animal Protection is getting closer to phasing out bear farms in both Vietnam and South Korea, as they continue to work with governments and other key stakeholders. “We have played an instrumental role in implementing measures in Vietnam and South Korea through microchipping and sterilizing remaining captive bears to ensure they are the last generation that will suffer this cruel practice. Through our work, China’s leading government think tank set out clear recommendations in 2016 to end the bear bile industry in China within the next 20 years,” Gilbert explained how exactly the organization is making huge changes happen right now.
“This signals the end for this brutal industry is inevitable, though sadly there is still a long way to go before the misery and suffering of bears is over. We are committed to continue changing the system, policies, and mindset that allow cruel farming of bears and other wildlife for commercial exploitation.”
Image credits: dinosandcomics
Meanwhile, Paul, the founder of Rewriting Extinction, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the challenges that he faced, what keeps him optimistic about the future of our planet, and what all of us Pandas can realistically do to lend a helping hand to animals in need.
Paul was completely honest that getting the 15 charities and 300 contributors to work together was “the hardest thing” that he has ever done. Ever! It’s safe to say that Paul and his team have taken willpower, discipline, and perseverance to a whole other level when you look at how dedicated they are to the project.
“It was constant plate-spinning whereby I’d bring on one celeb or one charity, then use that as credibility to talk to the next person, and again and again and again until we had a massive collection of unbelievable names and people involved,” Paul opened up to Bored Panda. “To give you some idea, I’ve racked up over 2,000 hours of video calls, and 22,000 emails to get us to where we are now… I’ve basically hassled, pressured, begged, pleaded, and blackmailed Rewriting Extinction into existence,” he said.
According to Paul, the stress was unbelievable, however, it was all worth it in the end. All for the sake of animals facing extinction. He made a lot of personal sacrifices as well, from time, energy, and his own peace of mind to actually quitting his jobs and using his life savings to finance the project.
It’s a Bit of a Mess
“It’s almost impossible to describe how stressful and hard it was to get to this point. I come out in sweats just thinking about it. BUT I promised myself I would do everything in my power to save species from extinction. So I did. I quit my jobs and put my life savings into bankrolling the project—and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m so utterly blown away by people’s reactions to it. People LOVE it, and we’re funding projects that buy land before it’s sold to the mining/meat/logging industry, meaning we can give it to the local indigenous people to safeguard it forever. What more could anyone wish for?” the founder shared just how happy he is with the end result.
“We still have a long way to go, but I think the fact that we have a really clear set of projects, each of which clearly lays out exactly what money and actions are needed to save each species, means we make it easy for people. They can see the plan and they trust the charities involved, so they know 100% of their money is going to the right place and we don’t take a penny of it,” Paul reiterated that all the money that people choose to donate will end up going to good causes.
Image credits: war.and.peas
What I really wanted to get to grips with was how Paul maintains such an optimistic outlook, especially when many of us can become a tad pessimistic in light of such news as the IPCC’s report about the climate crisis.
“Well, I really AM positive about the future. I think in 20 years’ time, we’ll have really built a world that’s more co-existent, healthier, cleaner, and better for people and wildlife. I really believe that,” Paul shared with Bored Panda.
“I work in industry and government, and I can see the tide turning. The issue, however, is that businesses and governments move slowly… and we need action now. That’s what made me create Rewriting Extinction. The idea is to fund projects that can ensure that in the short term, we protect and save as many species as we can, while governments and businesses create the systemic change which will happen a lot slower,” he said.
Image credits: pbfcomics
In the meantime, Paul highlighted the fact that every single thing we do matters (even if we sometimes think we’re too small to affect the world in a positive way). He shared his super simple guide about the steps all of us can take in our daily lives to help rewrite extinction.
“Be vocal: Your voice matters. Governments and businesses make decisions based specifically on the will of the people. They’re currently not pushing green agendas as much as they need to because they don’t feel people care enough to support big changes. Show them you do!” he said.
The Great British Lie
Image credits: paulgoodenough, prettyfunky, jimcampbellcomedy, thewildlifetrusts, judidenchofficial, bellalack, jamesmcvey, birdgirluk, Liz Bunnin, Gel Spellman, thedominicmonaghan, meganmccubbinwild, chrisgpackham2, ianmckellen, sirpatstew, themontydon, jerome_flynn_official_page, gillians_voice, ben_garrod, tanyaburr, robrinder, caradelevingne, craigbennett3
“Do things around the home: If you have a lawn, consider adding some wildflowers, mowing it less, getting some pollinating flowers… clean your oven (makes a big difference to your power bill), find ways of living a less impactful life by throwing away less… don’t store so many emails online… we have TONNES of suggestions and an IGTV series called LAZY WAYS TO SAVE THE PLANET all about things you can do,” Paul listed some of the things we can do at home that have a larger impact on the environment.
Image credits: perryfellow
“Think about what you want to donate to. For example, we built Rewriting Extinction to specifically save the most important species and not the pretty ones.” Paul explained that environmental fundraising can often be grossly disproportionate, with certain animals getting much more funding than they can use while others, essential to all life on Earth, get barely any.
“Do check out our website for examples of what charities focus on what projects, and where you’d like to make an impact,” he urged everyone.
“Through storytelling, community building, and action we rewrite the cultural narratives driving extinction,” English model, actress, and singer Cara Delevingne said about the project.
Paul had enough of seeing one species after another go extinct, so he took it upon himself to unite the environmental, activism, and storytelling community to solve the issue. Once and for all.
“This project would not be possible without the love, commitment, and passion of so many people and charities. Everyone involved in this project has stepped outside their comfort zone and worked with people they don’t know to make this happen, which speaks to their passion and commitment,” Rewriting Extinction writes on its website. There are 7 projects that are being sponsored and they are run by Re:wild, The Wildlife Trusts, Born Free, Reserva, World Land Trust, Greenpeace, and Rewilding Europe.