Archive for June, 2017

Virginia McKenna Guest Blog

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

23rd May 2017 is a date that will remain engraved on our hearts always.  Some dates are like that, often for the happiest of reasons – others for the darkest.  The city of Manchester was yet another victim of the world’s perpetrators of violence and intolerance.  The cruel and arbitrary killing of innocent people, including children, seems to sweep across the world in relentless waves.  No one knows when or if it will end.  No one knows how to end it.

Overwhelmed as everyone is by this tragedy, ‘life’ goes on.  And that includes the election of a new government in a weeks’ time.  Promises of good things are made by all the Parties.  I won’t list them here but included, of course, are housing, the health service, education, defence…. But some issues are conspicuous by their absence.

I cannot specifically name political parties; as a charity we have to be a-political.  But while, in some respects, the promises made are encouraging, others are quite the opposite.  Building on ‘Green Belt’, a free vote to bring back fox-hunting, to name a couple.

There is one personal example I can give. The approval of proposals to ‘explore’ for oil in the area near where I live – which is both Green Belt and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Money turns all to dust.  ‘Oh, we will put it all back when we’ve finished’ they cry.  Do they mean replant all the trees; entice the wild creatures to return to a barren land?

Nature has never been more vulnerable, and I am not only writing about the land around us, here on this small island.  As a direct result of human activities and our ever-growing population, there is less and less room for wildlife. We are in a state of total imbalance.  On the whole, wild animals, if left alone, just get on with their lives – but that’s an ever-increasing challenge.  We like to use them – make money out of them for food, for ‘sport’, take their land, destroy their habitats.  Only occasionally do we reflect on their aesthetic contribution to the planet.

It is many years since Joanna Lumley and I wrote to the then Prime Minister, asking for there to be a ban on wild animals in circuses.  Basically we were told it would be delivered ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.  We know, for a fact, that a huge cross-party majority of MPs would like a ban.  Yet, so far, nothing has been done.  A handful of animals continue to languish in their trailers or in ‘winter quarters’, performing in the ring to command when the season begins.  We lag, shamefully, behind 19 other countries.

We permit the sale of wild animals on the internet – who knows where they have come from or where they are going?  Birds in small cages unable to fly, puppy ‘farms’, intensive poultry rearing, the badger cull, calves removed from their mothers for the veal industry, the lifetime confinement of wild animals in zoos.  And the elephant ivory trade, the poaching of rhino for their horn, the ‘trophy hunting’ of big cats – so shockingly forced into our consciousness by the meaningless and illegal death of Cecil the beautiful lion, cruelly killed in Zimbabwe by an American dentist.

I don’t want words – I’ve used far too many here.  I want action.  I implore our leaders, whoever they are, to set an example of kindness, sensitivity, compassion towards animals as well as humans.  They seem to forget, or perhaps are just indifferent to the fact, that animals also feel pain, joy, loneliness, fear, jealousy, friendship.

Here at Born Free we know, from the experience of our work over the past 33 years, that the perils faced by the natural world I have described above are not an exaggeration.

I think living creatures deserve better than that.  I think we need to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild’, where it belongs.

Virginia McKenna