Archive for June, 2013

Captive Chimpanzees Endangered, Too

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

A giant step for chimp-kind! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at long last has proposed classifying both wild AND captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This would provide protection to all chimpanzees, including the estimated 2,000 in captivity in America.

It has certainly been a long mystery to me why chimpanzees in captivity are listed as threatened, while their wild counterparts are endangered. Now, thanks to a petition by a number of our colleagues, this inconsistency has a chance of being fixed. The proposal was published in the Federal Register today, launching a 60 comment period that is open to the public.

If the Service fulfills its important responsibility of listing captive chimpanzees as endangered, it will provide these intelligent wild animals a measure of protection from harm, harassment, and suffering that they currently lack. A no-brainer if you ask me. Of the approximated 2,000 chimpanzees in captivity in the United States, roughly three quarters are in research laboratories while the rest are in zoos, traveling shows and private ownership.

Chimpanzees in the wild are found in Western and Central Africa and their numbers have dwindled to an estimate around 125,000. Beyond the threat to their natural habitat including logging and encroaching farmland, wild chimpanzees are threatened by poachers, are hunted for food and captured for trade.

This is why it is important to work to protect wild chimpanzees as an intrinsic part of a healthy, natural habitat while protecting their less-fortunate counterparts in captivity. Wildlife belongs in the wild.

Blogging off,

Will

PS Make your voice heard here

Reflection on the Badger Debate

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

I sat with a growing sense of dismay in the public gallery to watch and listen to the full Opposition debate on the badger cull and was disappointed to see how few MPs actually attended.  However, when it came to the vote, although the motion was defeated by 299 to 250, I have to say I was encouraged.  Voting against your Party when there is a three-line whip could be regarded by some as jeopardising your job prospects and certainly your ability to advance in the political world is brave indeed.  Under that kind of pressure, for there to be I believe, more than half a dozen Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who voted with the opposition and for the government majority to be as narrow as 50 votes, spoke volumes.

So, now what.

I wonder just how far the government is prepared to go to persevere with a policy that clearly has little public support, lacks scientific credibility and can only secure such a veneer of political backing in the House.

As Virginia said in her speech “Clearly, the Secretary of State believes that he has no option.  I say to him that he does and I say to him that he will earn the deserved respect and appreciation of the vast majority of the British public if he is courageous enough to abandon his stated policy and to work with us – with all of us – to end the scourge of Bovine TB and to save the badger.”

To restate what I think is the obvious: We can either embark upon a badger culling process that will see tens of thousands of badgers killed resulting, at best, in a 16% reduction in Bovine TB after ten years or we can admit that we should have done things sooner, that we  must invest in both a badger vaccination programme and support the volunteers who are willing to implement it, address the European Union issues relating to Bovine TB including the DIVA test which would differentiate between cattle that have been vaccinated and cattle that have not and end up with a country that is safe for dairy farmers, safe for their cattle and safe for badgers.

Born Free is proud to be a Member of Team Badger!

Badger Debate Loss

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

I am just out of the House of Commons and the Opposition debate against the badger cull. The following three Tweets sum it up (I’ll write more extensively tomorrow):

A) Opposition debate: motion to call off cull defeated by 299 (Gov) to 250 (opposition) in heavily ‘whipped’ debate!

B) Badger debate very emotional but largely ignores best scientific brains which describe cull as ‘crazy’ & ‘mindless’!

C) Badger debate. Many conclude we now have ‘policy-based evidence’ not ‘evidence-based policy’. Thanks for all support!

Peaceful efforts to try and stop the pilot culls going ahead will continue and Born Free, part of Team Badger, will do what it can.

It is not over

Blogging off!

Will

PS you an follow me on Twitter at @willtravers

Badger March

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

I was part of the Stop the Badger Cull March on Saturday.  Seven thousand of us and more met outside the Tate and marched 10 abreast, down Embankment and around Westminster Abbey. Born Free was proud to stand beside our friend Brian May and be part of Team Badger.  I watched as Brian and my mother Virginia McKenna as they knocked on the door of Downing Street to make our feelings clear.

Virginia McKenna & Brian May at Badger March

Despite the huge numbers it was a well-behaved and peaceful march, united in the depth of our feelings. It was the ‘Best of British’ – caring and compassionate.  The badger cull is ill-conceived and totally unnecessary.  As Virginia explained, Born Free cares about every individual animal and fights to stop cruelty and exploitation.

“How else can we express our feelings – of outrage and dismay – about some of the decisions taken by our leaders, than by gathering together, walking, and communicating our views in a peaceful way?  We are peaceful because ours is the voice of reason and compassion, and does not need to be raised.

I have always believed that we live in England’s green and pleasant land.  I have always believed we are a nation of animal lovers for all the right reasons and that we believe in compassion not cruelty, in sanctuary not suffering, in welfare not abuse.

And although I know there are many things we could and should do better, I have always believed that when it comes to animals we were making progress –  until now.

If the humanity of society can be measured by the compassion it shows to non-human creatures then, should the cull go ahead, history will judge us to have taken a terrible and unnecessary step backwards.

I do not need to repeat for you the scientific evidence against the cull.  It is overwhelming.  I do not need to rehearse for you the Parliamentary debates on this issue – they have been massively against the cull.  I can only echo the public outcry on this issue – it is well-documented.

I totally understand that the Government wishes to end the seemingly endless and cruel impact of Bovine Tuberculosis on cattle and on the farming community.  I want to believe that the only reason they wish to take action is because they want to alleviate both human and animal suffering, not because it is going to save money.

But in my mind, seeking to alleviate the suffering of farm animals and the farming community by inflicting suffering on and eradicating thousands of badgers makes no sense and is morally indefensible.   And it is not as if we don’t have a choice – we do!

There are many experts on this subject who can speak at length about the raft of measures that can and must be taken to reduce the impact and prevalence of Bovine TB in dairy herds; restricting the movement of cattle; improving bio-security; enhancing on-farm hygiene, and more.  But to elect to cull badgers by the thousand, knowing that the likely best outcome after 10 years is perhaps a 16% reduction in the presence of Bovine Tb, is not only scientific, political and ethical madness, it is surrendering our cattle herds to Bovine Tb in perpetuity.

The real decision, the brave decision, the robust decision, the logical decision and the right decision, is to immediately invest whatever it takes to bring into being a cattle vaccination programme to ensure that in ten years’ time cattle no longer fall victim to Bovine Tb whether it comes from badgers, or deer or from spoor in the ground or anywhere else. Our herds will be safe because our herds will be immune and, most importantly we will not unnecessarily, callously and unjustifiably put to death hundreds and thousands of badgers, needlessly, in the process.

Clearly, the Secretary of State believes that he has no option.  I say to him that he does. I say to him that he will earn the deserved respect and appreciation of the vast majority of the British public if he is courageous enough to abandon his stated policy and to work with us – with all of us – to end the scourge of Bovine TV and to save the badger.”

This Wednesday (5th June) is opposition day at Parliament, and the badger cull is on the agenda. This is our opportunity to make a difference. Please contact your local MPs and urge them to act against this unwarranted and unjustified piece of legislation.

Blogging off

New ‘Elephant Team’ to stop the Poachers

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

As an era comes to an end in England at a time when the government has committed itself to make the exploitation of wild animals in circuses a thing of the past and, in memory of Anne, the last performing elephant in a British circus, the Sunday Mirror has agreed that funds raised in her name will be deployed by Born Free to establish the elephant team – L’Équipe des Éléphants – a new anti-poaching unit that will bring vitally needed additional security to the country’s elephants.

African Elephant

© Mike Dooley

Few places in Africa are now safe from the bloody ivory poaching epidemic that is sweeping the Continent fuelled by unrestrained demand in China and the Far East (www.bloodyivory.org). But while the world’s attention has been focussed on the slaughter of elephants in Tanzania, in Chad and, most recently in Dzanda Sangha in the Central African Republic, West Africa’s largest remaining elephant population is also under threat.

Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries on the planet, is home to about 5,000 elephants. It is the last remaining stronghold for the species in an area the size of western Europe. The authorities are dedicated to trying to prevent widespread elephant poaching in its national parks but they need help and they have turned to Born Free and the Sunday Mirror for that help.

As an era comes to an end in England at a time when the government has committed itself to make the exploitation of wild animals in circuses a thing of the past and, in memory of Anne, the last performing elephant in a British circus, the Sunday Mirror has agreed that funds raised in her name will be deployed by Born Free to establish the elephant team – L’Équipe des Éléphants – a new anti-poaching unit that will bring vitally needed additional security to the country’s elephants.

This action follows hard on the heels of an International Wildlife Crime Summit at St James’s Palace hosted by HRH Prince Charles and HRH Prince William, together with the British government, last Tuesday, when conservationists, non-government organisations and wildlife experts agreed that without new and resolute action, many of the world’s most iconic species, including Africa’s magnificent elephants, face a bleak future.

Here, just a few days later, is our response. A new force for conservation, a new force for elephants, an investment in the survival of the species led by Born Free, the Sunday Mirror and the brave men and women who make up L’Équipe des Éléphants, the elephant team in Burkino Faso. I hope that this will herald a new dawn for the world’s beleaguered wildlife species. For far too long organised wildlife crime syndicates and poaching gangs have had their brutal way.

Enough is enough. The fight-back starts now.

It is our intention for L’Équipe des Éléphants to be operational for at least a year, but we cannot do it without your help. To donate and contribute to the running of this anti-poaching unit, visit www.bloodyivory.org