Archive for September, 2008

No cutting corners when it comes to animals

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Dear Friends

Economic meltdown, stock market crash, panic on Main Street, Wall Street, High Street …….  It makes me wonder where to turn to for security.

And when everything else is such a challenge, what hope have wild animals, either in captivity or in their natural habitat, got. And how will the world’s wild places survive when we seem to be accelerating, not restraining, our exploitation of natural resources?

Well, frankly, their hope has to be with organisations like Born Free.  And those of us who care about wildlife and who have the means needed to step up and make sure that our essential programmes – working for rescued animals, working for local communities, protecting endangered species, fighting the abuse of animals in circuses, etc., goes on.  I have been enormously heartened by the continuing generosity and dedication of people like you, our supporters around the world.

This is not so much a blog, it is simply a thank you, a personal thank you to each and every one of you.  Every letter, every email, every encouragement, good wish, every Pound, Dollar, Euro, thought, gives me and all my colleagues here at Born Free, renewed strength.  I cannot say any more.

Blogging off


Canned Hunting Industry Booming

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Dear Friends,

I am sure many of you will recall the controversial television programme aired at the beginning of this year, in which Louis Theroux investigated the sickening canned hunting industry in South Africa. 

My blog at that time outlined the half-hearted attempts by the South African government to bring this reprehensible industry under control.  Although the new regulations that were passed were an improvement, they remain far from satisfactory, leaving a number of loopholes for unscrupulous hunters to take advantage of.  Nevertheless, soon after the regulations were approved, the SA Predator Breeders Association took the Government to court in protest.  They claimed that the new Regulations would ruin their business. 

As far as we are aware, the case remains in court. 

Incredibly, the South African government, in light of the court case, decided to withhold the implementation of the new Regulations specifically for lions until the court case was resolved – therefore lions currently remain exposed to the completely unacceptable practices that were legal under the old Regulations.

Now, a shocking new report from the South African charity Animal Rights Africa, has indicated that canned hunting, far from diminishing, is, in fact, booming.  More than twice the number of lions were hunted as part of a canned hunt in 2007 than were killed in 2005.  A staggering 702 lions were killed, the majority in North West Province, which has an unbelievable 80 lion “farms” that breed lions to serve this terrible “industry”. 

The South African Government, instead of promising to put an end to the practice, now appear to be sending out messages of reassurance to the hunting industry that they will not have to cease business.   A Ministerial spokesperson recently stated that the government  “…does appreciate the existence of the industry and that there is no way that the regulations will eventually lead to the closure of the industry as the industry is an accepted part of the tourism experience package that South Africa markets.”  This is a shocking turn-around from the reassurances made by the South African Minister, Marthinus van Shalkwyk earlier this year that the government is “…putting an end, once and for all, to the reprehensible practice of canned hunting.” 

So, it appears that the government are backtracking, caving in to the breeders and hunters – and ultimately continuing to take no direct effective action to protect lion welfare. Indeed, for lions already languishing in these dreadful farms, any action may now simply be too little, too late.

Blogging off,


Gorilla death reignites zoo debate

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Born Free has been saying for years that the educational and conservation claims of zoos are paper thin. A handful of conservation success stories simply do not justify the millions of animals locked away for life. And the fact that even research by zoos themselves remains inconclusive about whether zoos really educate the public or not speaks volumes!

So the Sunday Times article “If animals have feelings, can we justify ogling them in zoos?” really had its finger on the pulse when it reported the comments of the ethologist Mark Bekoff, “A baby in the wild is born into a large social group. What kind of life is the baby animal going to have in the zoo – sentenced to a lifetime in captivity? Zoos say it’s about repopulating wild populations but that’s a lot of bull. They’re going to make a lot of money, selling cute toys and candy.”

And I was really pleased when the paper followed up with my letter.

A Death Knell for Zoos THE tragic death of an infant gorilla has sparked global media interest in the ethics of keeping and displaying animals in zoos (News Review, last week ).We have been highlighting the plight of captive animals for 25 years, and are encouraged to see this reevaluation of the validity of zoos entering the mainstream.

Over the years, superficial changes have taken place in some zoos, but even though cages have been dressed up as “enclosures” and captivity as “conservation”, the fact remains that wild animals in zoos remain locked up for life in the name of tenuous and largely unproven education or conservation claims. Your article is right: staring at captive animals teaches us little, beyond reinforcing the outdated view that animals should be controlled, confined and dominated.

If we learn one thing from the death of this infant gorilla and the distressed eyes of his mother, it is how little zoos have really changed.”

As Edinburgh Zoo plans to bring in two Giant Pandas from China for a £2m 10 year ‘breeding loan’  and when many countries in Africa, South America and Asia struggle to fund the money to protect their natural heritage, there’s never been a better time to say enough is enough. Let’s stop messing around with wild animals and put our time, effort and resources into conserving them in the wild!

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