Lions, Kevin Richardson, Christian the Lion, Mark Pearson, Lyn White, Kangaroos, Donkeys, William T Cooper, Climate Change, Australia, World, Dolphins, Asylum Seekers, Warlis Paintings, Petitions On Behalf of Animals
June 24, 2015
KEVIN RICHARDSON: I very much enjoyed the successful fund raising event in Sydney with guest speaker Kevin Richardson visiting from South Africa. There were many people keen to meet him and buy his book Part of the Pride so I didn’t really have time to ask my trite question “do you shampoo and blow dry your lions as they look SO gorgeous?” He answered most of my more serious questions when he delivered his talk – including the dangers he inadvertently faces even though the lions obviously adore him. Of course George Adamson is a hero of his.
Only approximately 20,000 lions are left in the wild. Kevin is a leading campaigner against canned hunting, and he explained how, despite the assertions of the South African government and others, canned hunting is NOT a contributor to wildlife management or conservation. Do beware of visiting or volunteering at wildlife parks that are ethically compromised and are actually part of canned hunting.
I was also very impressed with the work of our hosts Painted Dog Conservation Inc and their work and fund raising efforts to protect African Painted Dogs and other animals. They also support and work closely with local communities.
PETITIONS: An American recently paid US$440,000 to shoot a black rhino in Namibia “to help protect the endangered species”! Apparently only 5 Northern White rhinos are left. Please sign this petition against the “catastrophic” levels of Rhino poaching here.
One of Australia’s leading campaigners against canned hunting, Donalea Patman, has asked us to sign two petitions. The first is for the Australian Government to maintain the recent ban on the importation of lion trophies and body parts. There is a rear-guard action to overturn this. The other petition is to ask Qantas to stop the shipping of hunting trophies and follow the admirable example of Emirates, Singapore Airlines and British Airlines . Sign them here and here.
MARK PEARSON: The animal rights movement is changing and coming from the fringe into the mainstream. This was very apparent to me at the Animal Studies conference in Delhi this January. It is also heartening to see so many young advocates and activists, especially girls it seems. See this interview with Mark Pearson, the first Animal Justice Party member of a parliament in Australia. Mark has done his fair share of courageous direct action which he has found to be effective. He now feels he is a little too old to be entering a piggery or battery hen farm or cattle feedlot at night and chaining himself to a cage. Like my friend Christine Townend (and many others), Mark was initially influenced by the work of Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher and animal rights advocate.
LYN WHITE: Do read this interview in the SMH with Lyn White of Animals Australia. She has been prominent in the media over the last few years primarily exposing the cruelty in our live cattle industry – in Indonesia for example, and more recently in Vietnam and Israel. Animals Australia also exposed the use of live baits to blood greyhounds. It is the unnecessary suffering of animals that drives her. The undercover footage she obtains of the extreme cruelty to animals especially in abbatoirs, and the thoroughness of her investigations, makes her both feared – and respected, by our government.
KANGAROOS: I urge you to email the Minister responsible for the unnecessary culling (killing) of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Service – firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more information here and here.
DONKEYS: I know some of you think I ignore the plight of donkeys around the world. In recent flooding in NSW, the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary at Clarence Town in the Hunter Valley was badly damaged. Any donations to support these previously unwanted or neglected donkeys would be most appreciated – see donkeyrescue.org.au I am encouraged that so many people and organisations I have never previously heard of are doing such good work on behalf of animals.
WILLIAM T COOPER: the artist who David Attenborough described as “possibly the best artist of birds in the world”, died recently. As I live surrounded by bush I have slowly become more knowledgeable about the many birds I live amongst (cats notwithstanding), and understand why so many of you are very interested in birds! I’m also noticing many contemporary artists are painting birds…
William was undoubtedly a very good artist and he often placed the birds in context in relation to habitats and food sources etc – assisted by his botanist wife. Their work is an extremely valuable resource. I can sometimes find his paintings a little florid, or busy, and prefer, for example, the more understated work of Neville Henry Cayley (1854-1903) and his son Neville William Cayley (1886-1978) who published the definitive What Bird Is That? in 1931.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY: It was important that the G7 Group of Seven biggest developed nations recently declared that the world needed to phase out fossil fuel emissions by the end of the century. Australia has yet again been described as an international laggard for our inaction, and hopefully our government will just be dragged (or shamed) reluctantly along with the growing momentum. Encouragingly, a majority of Australians again want action on climate change, after support dropped off owing to a lack of resolution at the Copenhagen conference years ago, and no subsequent leadership on the issue.
Congratulations to Pope Francis for accepting the science on global warming and man-made climate change, and for speaking up in his encyclical. He gave quite a devastating critique of capitalism, our greed and consumerism, and the destruction and exploitation of our environment. Unfortunately he did not mention contraception and another major contributor to our plight – overpopulation.
The PM’s proposed “consensus centre” at the University of West Australia that was to be headed by Bjorn Lomberg, has been rejected by the UWA after the predicted outcry. Lomberg is the climate-change expert you use when you don’t want any action, or want to do as little as you can get away with. Read this story about him in the SMH if you are interested. I think he has received quite enough publicity myself.
See this interesting article “Progressives failing to tell the Big Story” by Alex Frankel from The Saturday Paper about how after decades of conservative political ascendancy, progressives “are yet to offer a simple counter narrative that critiques neoliberal values” or articulates “their vision of society”. Conservatives, complicit with big business and media controlled by people like Rupert Murdoch, are masters of controlling the Big Story. Progressives mistakenly think persuasion operates through reason, but “most things are shaped through stories rather than facts”.
Alex Frankel cites climate change as an example of how debates can be “managed”. Despite the evidence of 95% of scientists (and the extreme weather we are all experiencing), fossil fuel interests will delay any action for as long as possible, by “contesting the narrative”.
PM Abbott has been very successful in this debate, especially when in Opposition. The “Clean Energy Act” was renamed as the “carbon tax” which he then linked to increasing the “cost of living”, especially electricity prices.
Frankel quotes Frank Luntz who pointed out that “because the very expression “climate change” was scientifically focused, ambiguous and had no obvious story or villain, it could be manipulated by polluters”. The current debate is “normalising climate change” as “just part of life” which is exactly what the polluters want.
Frankel says it is “better to talk about industrial change than climate change, and to frame the conversation in terms of a big polluting villain and a clean energy solution”.
PM Abbott recently was brazen or stupid enough to claim “coal is good for humanity”. I suppose he meant that developing countries – especially India and China, will depend on coal for a long time. See the recent The End of Coal from ABC’s Four Corners which I think is a fair summation. Tesla energy storage will be the game changer!
Two thirds of our electricity in Australia still comes from coal, and the government’s antipathy to renewable energy was illustrated lately when PM Abbott said he found wind farms “ugly” and that they are probably health risks. Is there anything uglier – or more unhealthy, than an open-cut coal mine?
Norway, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has decided to divest itself of stocks with assets that are dominated by coal miners and coal burners, as have the Rockefellers. Valerie Rockefeller of the Rockefeller Foundation asked why Australia is “so stuck in the past and not looking to the future?”.
DOLPHINS: It is great news that Japan’s peak zoo association has announced that aquarium members will stop purchasing dolphins captured during the horrific annual Taiji hunt. Congratulations to Australia for Dolphins and CEO Sarah Lucas for their legal action that led to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatening to suspend Japan. Sarah Lucas says “This significant decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan”. Read more here.
AUSTRALIA: A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that many Australians are feeling bleak and gloomy about the future. There is declining optimism about our economic prospects. There is a greater sense of insecurity, with only 1/4 feeling “safe”, and terrorism a chief concern. Rather than making us feel safe, the government has really just succeeded in making us more fearful with Abbott recently saying to us “Daish are coming to get you”!!! His government has already proven to be incompetent when a letter the Sydney siege gunman had previously written to the Attorney General was “overlooked”!!!
Many people are depressed by the performance of both our major political parties and their adversarial and divisive conduct. We seem to be in permanent election mode and hostage to the 24 hour media cycle and polls, and policy reduced to 3 word slogans. Neither side has the courage to tackle any necessary reforms or have a strategy for increasing revenue (or employment) now that our resources boom is ending.
The Greens unexpectedly got a new leader, Richard Di Natale. He is more pragmatic than his predecessor and wants to turn the Greens into a progressive mainstream party.
WORLD: No, Palmyra in Syria has not been destroyed yet, but imagine if this 3rd century BC site was? Palmyra was a major trading intersection for China, the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Rome. With ISIS already having destroyed Hatra and Nimrud in Iraq, and the recent earthquakes in Nepal, we are losing so much of our priceless cultural heritage. It is hard not to feel worried about the world at the moment including the inept response of the West to ISIS and the territorial gains of the “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria. All eyes are nervously on Greece and the repercussions if they do default on their multi-billion dollar debts.
Even sport has been depressing with FIFA and Sep Blatter in utter disgrace, but I am looking forward very much to Wimbledon!
Australia is likely to be involved in any dispute over China’s claim and development of the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea which is creating tension in the region. Looking at a map the islands do look much closer to The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. The USA is establishing a base in Darwin, in our Northern Territory, and is apparently to host American B1 fighter jets, although we only found this out accidentally when an American official “misspoke”.
At least Tony Blair is no longer the Middle East envoy. He seemed oblivious to conflicts of interest or the appropriateness of his associations with dictators, and is now very rich. As apparently documented in the book Clinton’s Cash, it was stupid of Hillary to allow donations to Bill’s Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State.
The only positive from the recent race-hate shooting in the USA is the extraordinary forgiveness some have shown, while so many of us in the world wonder what is it about Americans and their guns?
ASYLUM SEEKERS: This of course is one of the most pressing concerns for the world with apparently 50 million people displaced. The ABC Four Corners has just shown a horrific report Journey into Hell on the fate of the Rohingas as the government of Myanmar attempts to expel them. The situation has created an asylum seeker crisis in our region. Our eloquent PM Tony Abbott said “nope, nope, nope” to any assistance, while our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop demonised them by describing them as mostly “economic migrants”. San Suu Kyi’s silence has been glaringly obvious as she has her eye on the next election, and the behaviour of the Buddhist monks has been appalling.
It seems to our government the “end justifies the means”. We are prepared to stop any asylum seeker trying to reach Australia even “by hook or by crook”. It appears Australia paid “people smugglers” US$30,000 to turn a boat at sea packed with refugees back to Indonesia. I’m not sure how this is meant to “destroy the business model” for people smugglers…and the Indonesian Government is yet again angry with us.
WARLIS: I am opening an exhibition of Warlis tribal art from India in Sydney on 27th June at Coo-ee Gallery – see here for the details. I have collected Indian tribal art over many trips to India and the Warlis painters were the first I collected and exhibited in Australia. Tribal people in India share their forests and habitats with wild animals (often part of their religion and mythology), and all are equally threatened by “development” and competition for resources. In January, while looking for lions in Gir National Park in Gujarat, I saw several tribal villages. Some had been moved to safer locations, and others had augmented their defences against lions and other animals. People in India, as they are in other countries, are working in a more enlightened way towards a more effective co-existence between animals and humans.