TONY THE TIGER:  It was extremely good news that the ALDF won the court case for Tony the Tiger.  You can sign this petition click here to try and have him released prior to December when the permit will not be renewed.  There are unanswered questions however including who will have ‘custody’ of him and determine where he goes next?  It is essential to get him out of his cage as soon as possible to make his last years more enjoyable. 




COOPER THE CAT:  Every cat owner wonders where their cat goes to and this is one of the reasons I love Cooper’s photographs!  For over three years he has been fitted once a week with a lightweight digital camera which takes a photograph every two minutes.  Who would have thought the photograph (at top) was taken by a cat?  He now attends his own exhibition openings and media interviews – which would be an impossibility for me with my cats.  Although I know it sounds hypocritical coming from me, I have noticed more animals being used inappropriately lately – a lion cub unnecessarily in a Vanity Fair photograph, and an elephant in the city at the opening of the film Water for Elephants.


'Risqué' by Cooper the Cat


AUSTRALIA:  In 1964 Donald Horne, a well known academic and writer described Australia as “a lucky country”.  This quote was misunderstood as he actually went on to say “run by second rate people who share its luck”.  This seems particularly true at the moment. 25% of our mining exports go to China and were worth $58 billion in 2010, 37% higher than in 2009.  This helped us survive the GFC so successfully.  Political “discourse” has been reduced to whether or not there should be a carbon tax, and both major parties competing to be meaner to asylum seekers and refugees, and people on welfare.  Shock jocks are inflaming their listeners, and politicians are playing to them primarily, although many would probably not even bother to vote if they didn’t have to.

UK:  Congratulations to the government and the bi-partisan support to cut carbon emissions by 50% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2027, although funding for clean-energy technologies has been cut.  In Australia, our negative  Opposition persist in their pretend policy, ranting against a carbon tax.  The myth of carbon storage and capture (“clean coal”) seems to have finally died.  Malcolm Turnbull, who lost his position as the Leader of the Opposition over his support for action on climate change is looking thinner – don’t they say that’s a sign someone is about to make an attempt for the leadership?  It was true in the case of a newly trimmed down new Premier of NSW who is already looking as bad as his predecessors – retrospective legislation over solar panel rebates, and courting the dreaded Shooters and Fishers Party, by allowing more hunting in National Parks.



EASTER:  I know Easter is now a distant memory, but as a Republican, an agnostic, and a pacifist I felt very marginalized over Easter and saw ironies and hypocrisy everywhere, and resented everything was closed!  Amnesty International has just criticized Australia for a lack of leadership on human rights issues (discrimination against indigenous communities, asylum seekers and refugees), but our PM was lecturing the Chinese about human rights while we were getting tougher on asylum seekers who dared to protest in detention over the long delays in their processing.  There are 7000 locked up in detention here including women and children, but there are 20 million refugees in the world.  Many are fleeing wars where Australians are actually fighting – like Afghanistan.  A proposed new political fix is to send them to Malaysia, a country with a reputation for not treating refugees humanely.  After Easter we also had Anzac Day “remembering” “celebrating” or even “romanticizing” a famous military defeat.  One can be very grateful for those who fought for Australia (or were cannon fodder for Britain), especially those that made the ultimate sacrifice, but all our remaining old soldiers seem to say war is just appalling and should be avoided if possible.  The last World War I veteran just died – Claude Choules joined the navy at 14 and lived to be 110.  Our other colonial cringe over Easter was Royal Wedding fever, and I must admit as an antidote I loved Dame Edna Everage’s bitchy commentary on television.

CHINA:  The Chinese talk about their “advances on human rights” but we seem to be witnessing the opposite –  the most aggressive crackdown for decades.  It has been good to see the international art world unite with concern for artist Ai Weiwei and after 43 days his family has finally been able to at least contact him.

MIDDLE EAST:  600-800 killed in Syria, with 8000 detained since the crackdown…finally sanctions against the regime…recriminations (and questionable jubilation) over Osama’s execution…Fatah and Hamas in Palestine kiss and make up…Palestinians protesting on Israel’s various borders…the International  Criminal Court moves on the Gaddafi  regime…and unfortunately Obama’s recent attempt to provide an overarching narrative and a way forward for the emerging democracies in the Middle East has been mostly met with disappointment or hostility.  Platitudes about international aid and economic support, no “circuit breaker” on the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and Saudi Arabia not even referred to, has only fed cynicism of U.S. motives.


With my sister Lindy Bourke at The Cross Art Projects


JEFFREY MOUSSAIEFF MASSON:  At the opening of my exhibition of Indian tribal art, I met Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.  He is very well-known for his books about the emotional life of animals and I have ordered several.  I am especially looking forward to The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats – A Journey into the Feline Heart.  “We need cats to need us…It unnerves us that they do not.  However, if they do not need us, they nonetheless seem to love us”.  His book The Face on your Plate may make me a vegetarian!   His blogs are very interesting to read and his website is very informative.   His blogs are more like essays or a meditation on one subject – most recently he asks Do Animals Get Depressed? and Shark Attacks: What’s the Truth?  He is very well-educated in various disciplines, and he is making a very valuable contribution to our understanding of animals, and human and animal relationships.  View his site




 MUHAMMAD YUNUS:  I have long admired Mr Yunus for pioneering micro loans to the world’s poorest people.  He was recently forced to resign from the Grameen Bank he founded in Bangladesh and which now has 8 million members.

SYDNEY PEACE PRIZE:  Awarded to Julian Assange – congratulations!  Isn’t it a relief to have a highly intelligent if enigmatic “celebrity” in the spotlight for a change?

ACCIDENTS:  At a recent steeple chase horse riding event in Victoria a horse died, many jockeys fell, and onlookers were injured when a riderless horse jumped a fence. This “sport” seems unacceptably dangerous. 



RUDYARD KIPLING:  I’ve just read Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling by Charles Allen.  It deals very comprehensively with the influence of India and other factors that made him such a successful writer in his day. It was hard searching for clues to his extraordinary empathy with animals as it wasn’t the central thesis of the book, and he had systematically destroyed as much information about himself as he could.  As a very young child “Chang” his Chinese pug had been his “best playfellow”.  It seems that there was a confluence of influences in his late 20’s.  He was already very well-known, he was about to write the Jungle Books, the Just So Stories, and his “masterpiece” Kim.  He had just had his first child, and he was asked to write some children’s stories by a well-known writer.  A primary influence was his early childhood in a tropical Bombay garden, and the stories told to him by his Indian ayah.  Apparently every European child raised in India heard these stories from the Jatakas which were originally based on Buddhist moral tales, and were about the interaction between birds, animals and men.

The other influence was his tolerant, compassionate and rather wonderful sounding father whom he sometimes collaborated with, and who had just published and illustrated his own book Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in their Relations with the People.

Interestingly, I’ve just noticed that my late godparents Beth and Mick Busby gave me The Second Jungle  Book, in addition to my most favourite book Orlando the Marmalade Cat, and I do wonder what influence these books had on me!

MISC STATS:  …soon there will be 700 billion people in the world…Australia anticipating 36 million by 2050 (how will we manage our finite resources and live sustainably?)…20 species and sub species of birds have become extinct since European settlement of Australia (1788), and presently 30 are listed as critically endangered…tropical forests around the world are disappearing at the rate of about 13 million hectares each year (the size of Greece)…there are 2.14 billion Christians – and growing in Africa, Asia etc…only 14% of people now get their news from the newspapers…and tennis player Novak Djokovic has had his 39th consecutive win. 


My Cats


CHRISTIAN THE LION:  Dana Broe emailed and asked me to clear up a few discrepancies about Christian on Wikipedia and in the Daily Mail.  We flew Christian to Kenya in 1970.  We returned and saw him in 1971 (the YouTube reunion), and again in 1972.  He was last seen in early 1973 heading in the direction of Meru National Park.  As a male it was impossible for him to remain at Kora competing for the limited resources with the wild male lions there.  I now understand if he had established his own pride somewhere else, it would have been impossible for him to leave them unprotected and come back and see George Adamson and his assistant Tony Fitzjohn, who is now the Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust  This information is in our revised A Lion Called Christian (2009), and Tony writes about this in his recent book Born Wild.

Lions can live approximately 9-12 years in the wild (up to approximately 18 in zoos), and George Adamson thought that as Christian grew into one of the biggest lions in Kenya, he could defend himself, and the effective “bush telegraph” never reported the sighting of a lion this size, dead or alive.  So we are optimistic or hopeful he continued to lead a natural life for several more years at least.

PS:  Our thoughts are with those people and animals currently struggling with floods and other catastrophic events particularly in Quebec and America.  Recent reports say there is mounting scientific evidence linking climate change to the intensity and frequency of these natural disasters.