Archive for May, 2017

Virginia McKenna remembers her friend Roger Moore

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Roger Moore and Virginia in "I Capture the Castle"

“I have been thinking about the date, May 23rd 2017. The news of the Manchester bomb attack and the death of a loved and famous actor revealed to us on the same day.

As a parent, I can only imagine the horror being endured by those who have lost loved ones or whose beautiful children have been brutally injured by the disgusting and cowardly attack at the Ariana Grande concert. We all weep as one and we all share a determination to resist those who seek to force us to be other than the caring, compassionate, inclusive society we cherish.

The death of Roger Moore has been a shock and is another great sadness. I knew he was ill, but – nevertheless. I understand well what his family are going through and, of course, I feel for them very much.

My personal memories are perhaps different from what we are reading and seeing on television. They go back to 1954. Bill and I together with Roger were in a theatre production of “I Capture the Castle” in London (pictured). Roger played the part of Stephen Colly and we all thought he was gorgeous and charming. So did Hollywood, as he was whisked off there, before the play ended, and signed a contract with MGM.

But, in spite of fame and fortune, Roger had a deep current of compassion flowing through his veins. Compassion for humans, expressed through his long-term work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (since 1991) – he was awarded the UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Award in 2004. And compassion for animals, where he held some very strong and critical views on animal exploitation and cruelty. Trophy hunting, the use of wild animals in circuses, the relentlessly cruelty involved in the production of foie gras (his work significantly contributed to Selfridges ending foie gras sales in November 2009).

For many years we exchanged emails on these issues. He was deeply shocked that anyone could hurt or hunt a wild creature for “fun”, sport, or a trophy.

When it came to wild animals in circuses, I know he had reserved a very special bottle of champagne to take to Downing Street to present to Teresa May if – no, WHEN – she (or whoever the Prime Minister of the day was at the time) finally ended this archaic and cruel relic of the past. We agreed to knock on her door together.

As a tribute to his memory, I once more ask Mrs May to do just that. I am aware that many issues are on her desk at the moment, but the job is done, the legislation is written, the support is overwhelmingly there. It shouldn’t take much precious Parliamentary time Prime Minister.

Surely the animals deserve that and dear much-missed Roger can rest in peace.”

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder and Trustee, Born Free Foundation

General Election – Animals don’t have a vote but they need a strong voice

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Dear Friends of Wildlife

It hardly seems five minutes since the last time, but once again we find ourselves in the midst of UK General Election fever.

However, things are substantially different this time round. The referendum result almost a year ago changed everything. Brexit is dominating the headlines, threatening to drown out discussion of the NHS, social care, education, jobs, security and the domestic economy.

Wildlife protection hardly seems to be getting a look-in. But the election could profoundly impact the UK’s future policies on nature conservation, environmental management and animal welfare, in no small part because many of our current rules relating to nature and wildlife come from Brussels.

Prospective parliamentary candidates mustn’t be allowed to forget how important wildlife protection is to the vast majority of their prospective constituents. Our next government will be negotiating our exit from the European Union and deciding which European Directives and Regulations we should keep, and which we should throw out. The Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, Europe’s nature directives, wildlife trade regulations, and many other pieces of European legislation, will no longer directly apply to the UK, and the consequences for our wildlife could be profound.

But Brexit also offers the UK an opportunity.

We like to pride ourselves as being a nation of animal lovers, and a country that leads the world on nature protection and environmental issues.

Now is the time for prospective parliamentary candidates from across the political spectrum to pledge their support for a Britain that not only accepts the need to maintain European safeguards for wildlife, but will set an example to the world by going above and beyond our current protections and put in place progressive policies aimed at halting and reversing wildlife declines and improving animal welfare.

To this end, my colleagues at Born Free and I have put together a set of election priorities for wildlife, which we are calling on all candidates and Parties to endorse. These include maintaining and improving on current EU regulations concerning nature and animal protection as we prepare to leave the EU; adopting a leading role in international efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking starting, with a UK ivory trade ban; improving protections for both native and captive wildlife against all forms of exploitation and abuse; and introducing nature education into the National Curriculum for all children.

It’s not for us as a charity to advocate or support any particular political party. But we are asking people who care about wild animals, captive or free-living, to demand that their prospective parliamentary candidates prioritise the protection of wildlife in their campaigns, and ensure these issues are given the highest priority if they are elected to Parliament.

Whatever the colour of the new Government on June 9th, we will continue to push for the highest level of protection for our wildlife, and the highest standards of welfare for all animals.

As Mahatma Ghandi rightly said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Never was this statement more relevant.

Blogging off

Will

Home in Africa

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

The week of May the 1st 2017 was an incredibly exciting week for Born Free as we helped give two needy wild animals a second chance of a life worth living.  I have asked my friend and colleague, Beth Brooks, to tell the story in the Guest Blog.

Enjoy!

Will

Ciam at Shamwari

“With his head held high, Ciam the lion stood in the middle of his vast enclosure, surrounded by the vivid greens and browns of the African bush. Proud, elegant and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of South Africa, Ciam was home.

Just moments before, Virginia McKenna had opened the gate of Ciam’s night quarters at Born Free’s Jean Byrd Centre at Shamwari, South Africa.

Ciam had spent the first seven months of his life as an ‘exotic pet’ in a cramped cage. This was followed by 18 months at Belgian wildlife sanctuary Natuurhulpcentrum (NHC), so no one knew how he would react to so much space. But he immediately began to explore his new home.

This incredible moment was the culmination of a 32-hour, 10,000km journey by road and air from Belgium to South Africa to rehome Ciam, and 17-year-old former zoo lion Nelson. I was honoured to be a member of the Born Free rehoming team which included colleagues from Shamwari and NHC.

That same morning, Nelson had been introduced to his new home at Born Free’s Julie Ward Animal Rescue and Education Centre. Nelson was rescued from a French zoo and had also been living at NHC, but wasn’t as keen to embrace change as Ciam. With a little encouragement, Nelson left his night quarters for a brief stroll around his new home, but headed back in soon afterwards. Over the next couple of days his visits to his main enclosure started getting longer, and we are confident he will soon be fully settled at Shamwari.

The different reactions of Ciam and Nelson to their new homes highlighted for me why Born Free’s Compassion Conservation philosophy is so important. Born Free has not just given two lions a new forever home – Born Free has given two individuals a new life. Two lions with completely different personalities who have had to endure hardship and deprivation. Gentle and playful Ciam took the long journey and the introduction to his new home in his stride. But the much older Nelson – having spent 17 years in a zoo – will certainly take longer to adjust. Every animal truly is different.

Ciam and Nelson can never be released fully back into the wild, but at Shamwari – and with the wonderful Born Free team there – they will receive the best care possible. Care that will hopefully erase memories of the suffering they have been forced to endure for the sake of human entertainment.

Together they highlight the plight of the millions of captive wild animals around the world – kept in zoos, circuses or as exotic pets. Individually, they show that every single animal deserves a life worth living.

It was quite an experience for them – and it was quite an experience for me. One I shall never forget.

Beth”

Press Officer Born Free Foundation

You can help us with future Big Cat Rescues with a donation

Rethinking Animals Summit 2017

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Dear FriendsNew York

I was recently asked to speak at an amazing event held in New York City, by the incredible Bonnie Wyper and the Thinking Animals United team, and supported by the Arcus Foundation.

The meeting covered an extraordinary range of issues including ‘The Threat to Human Health’; ‘The Threat to Global Security’; ‘The Threat to the World Economy’; ‘The Threat to Environmental Sustainability’; ‘Business for Sustainable Solutions’; ‘Biodesigning Our Future’; and ‘Tapping the Global Citizen’.

Speakers included Dr Paula Kahumbu (Wildlife Direct), Carter and Olivia Ries (One More Generation), Ayshar Akhtar, Crawford Allen (TRAFFIC), Philip Lymbery (Compassion in World farming), Mary Rice (Environmental Investigation Agency), Jeremy Coller (Coller Capital), Jane Lawton (The B-Team), Mike Korchinsky (Wildlife Works), Philip Ross (Mycoworks), Stephan Bognar, James Deutsch (Vulcan Philanthropy), and Annette Lanjouw (The Arcus Foundation).

I was honoured to join a panel moderated by the visionary Steven M Wise, President of the Non-Human Rights Project, to discuss ‘The Threat to Our Happiness’ together with the Reverend Fletcher harper and Beth Allgood from IFAW.

It was all totally fascinating and, I understand, the proceedings were filmed and will be made available in the future. In the meantime, if you are interested, you can download an extended version of my speech here.

Blogging off!

Will

PS Make yourself happy by reading about the lions Nelson and Ciam, and their journey home to Africa