Virginia McKenna Guest Blog

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

9 Responses to “Virginia McKenna Guest Blog”

  1. Carole Woollard Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything written here, by such an amazing woman. Every day I feel upset and helpless about the amount of animal cruelty and thoughtlessness that goes on in this country and the whole world. Having said that, I try to at least to ‘do my bit’ whenever I can and have noticed how often signing petitions online can reach so many people , who would want somewhere to register their feelings easily, and that then get positive outcomes very often according to updates. Could you therefore perhaps please set up a petition concerning all of the subjects brought up here – preferably to then get sent through to the government – whoever that turns out to be. I think it could be extremely popular. Thank you and sorry if you have already done this.

  2. Pam Bean Says:

    I agree totally with all that you have said Virginia.
    My MP, Clive Efford, is well aware of my concerns regarding all wildlife and domestic pet matters. He is very sympathetic to all the causes I have written to him about. He will undoubtedly get back in as our MP. Whereas I would not normally vote for him, I have decided not vote this time in protest that Conservatives are threatening a vote to bring back fox hunting and their policy regarding pensions and proposals for making people with Alzheimer’s pay from their care and a few other things. I shall be writing to Mrs May telling her of my views! Bring back Ann Widdecombe!
    There are so many terrible things happening to animals all over the World and it seems all we can do is sign the petitions and make a donation. It is so often depressing how slowly the wheels of change turn, but little things are improving such as Taiwan stopping the killing of cats and dogs for food and the Bears that Jill is rescuing in China. Perhaps this is the start of new improvements in animal welfare in the Far East – I do hope so.

  3. Jenni sanders Says:

    I’ve been following the born free foundation for years. Wild animals should be wild and free

  4. Susan Says:

    I totally agree with all you have said. If we don’t change our attitudes, and realise that our greatest asset is the diversity of our world. We need to appreciate our world and take better care of it.

  5. Anna Spencer Says:

    Very eloquently said, Virginia. Compassion for animals, as well as humans, seems to be rapidly diminishing in our society, where the power of money appears to be paramount. Action by governments is needed and not just empty promises, if we want to ensure the survival of endangered species. The dreadful possibility of some species disappearing for ever reminds me of the words of the song ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ popularised by Marlene Dietrich. We must not permit such a parlous situation to occur.

  6. Sarah Earnshaw Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have written. As a lover of animals it appals me when I see and read of the needless slaughter of animals. Circuses should be banned or have no animals in them. We should not be using them in the labs to test for chemicals WE KNOW are harmful to us and our environment. It is all done in the name of money and how much profit we can make from them. I am really sick of the human race I hope you are sucessful in your endeavours to help all gods creatures. Many thanks

  7. Psm Huntley Says:

    You have said, so gently but with strength, what so many of us think. Thank you Virginia for being such a kind and caring leader – yes, I do mean ‘leader’ in the true sense of the word. Leading people to get together to help our animals, our greenspaces, our planet. You are an inspiration.

  8. Tobin Hendricks Says:

    You are trully an inspiration Ms.Mckenna! Action is the key indeed!I hope my actions for a return to balance on our Mother Earth will bring me to your side one day and stand in the presence of a true hero. I am amazed that you (an old woman to me at the age of 5 crying after watching Born Free) are still alive and I mean REALLY ALIVE, and still so beautiful. I wish Bill was still with us. Thank you for being you Ms. McKenna. I am on board with you and we must succeed! No other option is acceptable
    Peace on Earth, Tobin

  9. Lesley maclean Says:

    I agree, all of the natural habitats are disappearing. Soon nothing will be left. Humans should have birth restrictions, not poor animals. I personally feed , all wildlife. I should not have to ( if it had more feeding areas ) I love to see the Badgers, foxes, birds , in my garden. They always have a safe sanctuary there.
    I did join a ” Badger society ” but it was all about money, and arguments, with the local council. Which is all well and good ( if the members of the council are not corrupt !!!) Particularly in the town I live in ” developer’s ” are allowed to build on any land and with not full building consent ( as it is far cheaper for the developer to pay a small gone , than to give up the land ) then the green areas sadly disappear.
    So many children now , are boughf up to dislike, or have no interaction with animals, and therefore , never, really get to see how the true , real , eco systems work.
    The work that you do at the ” Born free organisation ” is so great! Without people like yourselves, all animals, would be endangered! Let us hope , new government and education, means that animals too , have a voice.