September 14, 2015
BORN FREE: It was so wonderful seeing Born Free again and I just marveled at how beautiful, expressive, intelligent and socially-engaged lions are. The lions were filmed superbly, as was Africa and other wildlife. Like Joy and George Adamson with Elsa the lioness, we too took off Christian’s collar symbolically for our first walk with him on African soil and the beginning of his natural life. I will never forget it.
It is appalling to think how animal populations have diminished since 1964 when the film was made. There has been an approximately 80% reduction in numbers since, and only 20,000 lions remain in the wild.
BLOOD LIONS: There are many sad lions in Blood Lions, the recent documentary on canned hunting in South Africa (watch the trailer here). Ian Michler, a well known South African conservationist who participated in the documentary, introduced it at selected viewings in Australia. In up to 200 unregulated facilities, lionesses are forced to have too many cubs. After birth, the cubs are quickly taken away and are hand-fed to become human-friendly. Tourists pay to pat them as cubs and walk with them when a little older. Ultimately they are shot in enclosures by “hunters”. Like other animals, unwanted lions are sold for their bones and other animal parts to the Asian market. Volunteers, who pay to work at these facilities, are conned into thinking they are contributing to conservation. They are not. Breeding lions for canned hunting is not an insurance against the catastrophic decline in the numbers of wild lions.
The people making money out of canned hunting are mainly older Apartheid-era white men who, I imagine, have as little respect for the rights and welfare of lions as they did for black Africans.
President Zuma giggled about Cecil the lion’s death, describing it as “just an incident”.
Donalea Patman of fortheloveofwildlife who organised the viewings of Blood Lions, was so outraged by canned hunting that she wrote a letter to our Environment Minister Hunt. This has resulted in the ban on the importation of lion animal body parts and trophies into Australia which is an incredible achievement, and is the most effective way of eliminating canned hunting. Perhaps some of you may be inspired to write to the relevant ministers in your own countries – especially the EU and the USA.
GLOBAL MARCH FOR RHINOS, ELEPHANTS AND LIONS: On Saturday October 3rd we will meet at the Sydney Town Hall at 11.00 am and we are to be addressed by Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party in Martin Place. See details here.
CHRISTIAN THE LION: I loved a recent and very thoughtful email from Janice who said that Christian was obviously “loved, nurtured, cared for, and plain adored”. She goes on “But Christian’s tale isn’t a tale of tears. His tale is that of forever love, forever friendship, and of eternal freedom. No tears need to be shed for that lucky lion. If anyone wants to weep, he/she can weep for the Cecils who never received the blessings that were showered on Christian”.
WORLD: Europe is experiencing the largest transmigration of people since the 2nd World War. Germany is expecting 800,000 by the end of the year which is extraordinarily generous. Some other EU countries are less welcoming and because of the volume of people, there is now talk of borders soon being closed. The social and political consequences cannot be predicted. Lebanon and Jordan are also overwhelmed by refugees. Aid agencies do not have the resources to cope and urgently need donations. Winter is approaching. Beyond making donations, the Saudis and wealthy Gulf States do not seem particularly helpful.
Last year 60 million people were displaced around the world, and 120 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
You may donate to the UNHCR Syria Crisis here. It is sad that it has taken the photograph of a drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi to galvanise the world into action, despite many drownings in the Mediterranean over the last few months and 71 people recently asphyxiated in a truck. .
PM Abbott’s idea of a contribution to this humanitarian disaster is, apparently, by asking President Obama to invite Australia to drop bombs in Syria. We have accepted. Doesn’t anyone ever learn? What is the strategic aim or hoped for outcome in Syria? Bombing Syria will only cause more deaths and refugees. If Assad is ousted who will fill the vacuum? Russia is extremely unlikely to allow this to happen and is apparently ready to assist Assad.
Our unnecessary involvement can only further alienate our own Muslim population, as will the discriminatory intention to select mostly Christian Syrians ahead of others in our promised 12,000 refugee intake.
Abbott’s policies on asylum seekers of just turning their boats back to Indonesia – to an unknown future – were recently described in The New York Times as “unconscionable”, “inhumane” and of “dubious legality”. While Abbott is increasingly unpopular here in the polls, he is becoming a poster boy for some of the lunatic Tea Party Republicans in the USA. The popularity of Donald Trump is very disconcerting.
It will be fascinating to watch Jeremy Corbyn, the new socialist leader of the UK Labour Party, and see how popular he will be. He is certainly a refreshing antidote to previous leaders. In comparison, it is hard to know what our own Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten actually believes in. He is not as disliked as Abbott but is not performing well either. He has also made inexcusable gaffes, and is too close to the union movement. Unlike the PM however, Shorten’s party seems united behind him.
Update since first published: Tony Abbott has been removed as Prime Minister by his own party. Bravo. He was challenged and replaced by Malcolm Turnbull who in contrast to Abbott is intelligent, sophisticated and moderate. Turnbull is independently wealthy, arrogant and not particularly astute politically. Many Australians are very happy today that we have a new PM who is not so captive to vested interests and rigid ideology, who actually believes that climate change is real and requires urgent action, and that Australia should become a republic.
GREENIES: We are holding progress and development back in Australia! We are the new scapegoats to distract from the government’s economic failures. PM Abbott is not going to “protect the environment at the expense of the economy”. Planned legislation would prevent environmental court challenges by 3rd parties. For example, I would have no right to participate in a court challenge to a mine, or to protect the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, if I did not reside nearby. Ag-gag laws are also being considered. While ostensibly under the guise of “bio-security” and concern for the health of farmed animals like chickens and pigs, these laws are really an attempt to stop animal activists trespassing and exposing these cruel practices.
Apparently, if the proposed mining in the Galilee Basin in Queensland goes ahead, the world has no chance of limiting global warming by 2 degrees. One of the mines is owned by Mr. Adani who is a very wealthy Indian who is close to PM Modi. A port would have to be expanded and would require dredging near the Great Barrier Reef. The company does not have a good environmental record to put it mildly. This proposal is very unlikely to go ahead and it is not because of us “greenies” – an expression I don’t particularly like. It will be primarily because of the low price of coal and that coal is becoming a stranded asset. Major banks are refusing to finance the project. The momentum for alternative renewable energy and divesting in fossil fuel shares will just keep growing. Realistically, coal will have a role to play for decades to come – but it will be a diminishing one.
In a bizarre move, the Mineral Council of Australia has a promotional campaign “Coal Is Amazing” starring a lump of coal! It was immediately ridiculed widely. Our PM Abbott has of course said “Coal is good for humanity”. He also said that wind farms are “ugly” – could anything be uglier or more destructive of the environment than the Bulga mine in the photograph above? Could anything be more unsightly or unhealthy for the devastated local community? Shenhua are proposing a mine like this beside the Liverpool Plains which has Australia’s richest food -producing soil. A mine like this could only destroy the water aquifers.
CULLING: There is a campaign building to cruelly cull feral cats by baiting, and for restrictions on pet cats, I will return to this subject in due course. After an unusual 14 shark attacks on the NSW coast of Australia this year, there are calls to cull sharks, and a Jaws-like fear for the impact on the looming summer tourist season. Apparently one reason for the sharks is their attraction to the “balls” of millions of small fish unusually close to the coast. People are not sure what is causing this. There were several fatal shark attacks in West Australia last year, and the culling of sharks has been a very contentious and unresolved issue.
VALE: Oliver Sacks said “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet”. What an intelligent and interesting man he was.
Khaled al-Asaad the 82 year old Syrian archaeologist was murdered by IS in Palmyra, and now the irreplaceable Temple of Bel and Temple of Baalshamin have been destroyed..
VIEWING: Last weekend I’ve enjoyed visiting the 2015 Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and the Sydney Antiques Fair. I’ve loved watching the US Tennis Open and our Rugby League football finals. The most popular recent TV shows in Australia have been cat and dog videos – programs that were probably quickly assembled when another show was cancelled. Their success hardly surprises many of us – we know what joy these animals bring into our lives.