DOWNTON Abby star Peter Egan is a passionate supporter of Animals Asia which is the charity that will benefit from Stourbridge-based Base Video Production's Over The Moon show.

Over The Moon is a live music and art collaboration between rock legend Rick Wakeman and international artist Maria Rud.

Dudley News:

Actor Peter Egan at Base Studios in Stourbridge recording messages of support for Over The Moon. Picture by LAW photography

The show, at Queen's House, Greenwich on Sunday December 10, will raise funds for Animals Asia.

During a visit to the video company, at Base Studios in Rufford Road, Mr Egan told reporter Martyn Smith why he is so committed to the cause.

He said: "I'm a UK ambassador for Animals Asia which is the most amazing charity founded by possibly the most inspirational person I've ever met in my life - a woman called Jill Robinson.

"She started the charity after she accidentally stumbled upon a moon bear farm, a place where moon bears are locked in cages for up to 30 years and they have bile extracted from their gallbladder daily. It's disgusting, it's painful and it's horrible."

Animals Asia rescues the bears and relocates them to one of its three sanctuaries in China.

Mr Egan added: "I visited the sanctuary in Chengdu five years ago and it totally changed my life. It was the most remarkable experience to be in an area of 27 acres where there are in the region of 200 bears - is just quite a breath taking experience.

"The reason why bile farms were created and are legal in China, it happened I think in the 80s, is the Chinese government wanted to protect the species from becoming extinct because so many bears were being killed in the wild."

Bile is extracted for medical reasons to treat conditions like rheumatism but ironically, drugs given to captive bears make their bile toxic.

Also the medically beneficial substance in the bile can be created synthetically.

Peter Egan said: "Now it's being used in other areas as a commercialism, it's locked into old thinking in terms of the elderly who believe 'if I have bile its going to have a greater effect on my libido or it's going to cure a hangover', although it is connected to Chinese medicine it is an abuse of the philosophy of Chinese medicine.

"A major achievement of Animals Asia is they have finally got bile farms outlawed in 20 out of 32 provinces but it is very slow. It has taken 20 years to get to that point because there is a lot of old backward thinking in terms of the use of bile.

"It is a hell of a slog for Jill and her charity to get the massage through but it is getting through - mainly from the young."

The actor also paid tribute to celebrity backers for raising awareness of Animals Asia's work as well as Rick, Maria and Base Video Production for staging Over The Moon, which will provide vital funds for the charity.

Dudley News:

Andy Dingley and Warren Evans from Base Video Production with Peter Egan and artist Maria Rud editing video clips for their fundraising show. Picture from LAW Photography

He said: "They are enormously important, it raises money which the charity always needs quite desperately, but it also raises the visibility and the awareness of the problem to an entirely different market which is very important too.

"I saw the promo that Base had put together with Maria painting in Edinburgh with a piece of Judas Iscariot, which is Rick's composition, and I found it just breathtaking to watch, it's mesmerising."