Lions, George Adamson Experience Tour, International Fund for Animal Welfare Awards, Tony the Tiger, World, Paris Climate Change Conference, Birds, Animals etc
November 27, 2015
Stephen Dalton has won the Fritz Steiniger Prize for his contribution to high speed photography for this photograph of a basilisk or Jesus Christ lizard running across water. I believe this had never been photographed before.
These prizes are yet more examples of the many competitions for photography enthusiasts these days.
We want Tony the Tiger (and all caged animals) to experience this as well, so we must try even harder for the release of Tony from a cage at a truck stop in Louisiana, USA, to a sanctuary. Please sign the petition here if you have not already.
The tireless Donalea Patman, founder of For the Love of Wildlife, and Federal MP Jason Wood have both been honoured by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for their commitment to lion conservation. Their great achievement has been the introduction of legislation prohibiting the importation of lion trophies and body parts into Australia. France has just followed suit! Donalea said “I do it because I believe Africa’s wildlife is under siege”.
Other news is that the president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), who has viewed the documentary Blood Lions, acknowledges how the campaign against the breeding of lions for “canned” hunting is making the PHASA position “untenable”. He points out that with some airlines and shipping companies refusing to transport hunting trophies, PHASA has to realise that this issue is putting at risk “not only the reputation of professional hunting in South Africa but its very survival”. He also noted “broader society is no longer neutral on this question, and the tide of public opinion is turning”. At their just held AGM, PHASA voted that they could no longer support lion breeding and lion hunting.
Congratulations to Donalea and Jason, CACH, the makers of Blood Lions and everyone that is campaigning against canned hunting. We should all be very encouraged to keep up our opposition.
Aidan Basnett has organised another tour to Africa next year, the Adamson Experience Tour 2016. Apart from experiencing the beauty of Africa at Maasai Mara, Meru and Shaba National Parks, other highlights of the tour include visits to what are now almost regarded as Adamson and Elsa “sacred sites” including Elsamere (where we met Joy Adamson) and Elsa’s Kopje. Email Geoff@yellowzebrasafaris for the itinerary and more tour details. See here for Aidan’s George Adamson Legacy Australia Facebook page.
It is encouraging that SeaWorld in the USA will stop the killer whale shows at its San Diego park by 2017, and they promise the new killer whale attraction will have “a strong conservation message”! The reality is that more and more people are finding cruelty to animals unacceptable, and SeaWorld’s share prices and attendances have both been falling.
It is very encouraging that the US National Institute of Health quietly ended the Federal Government’s use of chimpanzees for biomedical research.
ART: Sylvia Ross photographs and loves pigeons and I have used my own photograph here of pigeons in front of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India. Sylvia has curated an exhibition called The Bird Show at SPOT81 (81 Abercrombie Street Chippendale, Sydney) until this Sunday, 29 November. More details about the show here.
WORLD: I listed many of my geo-political anxieties last blog…and I did have a sense of foreboding, especially the more I learnt about the apocalyptic nature of ISIL, and how good they are proving to be at creating fear and dividing populations. However, like most people, I was deeply shocked by the Paris bombs and horrific loss of life. The event raises so many questions: Why did the bombings in Beirut with 42 deaths, and over 100 dead in a “peace” march in Ankara, Turkey, receive so little attention in comparison? Why are we ignoring the fact that many more Muslims are being killed by ISIL, let alone the millions displaced? Why has France (and Belgium) failed so completely over decades to “integrate” their Muslim populations? How should moderate Islamists respond to the fundamentalists, and how will Islam reconcile with modernity? Are the West responding (in this case with the retaliatory bombing of Raqqa in northern Syria) just how ISIL has strategised, and is this boosting recruitment? What are the causes of radicalisation? What are the real agendas of countries like Saudi Arabia who have a record of supporting terrorist organisations?
The complexities and competing agendas in the region have been illustrated by the shooting down of the Russian jet by Turkey who are probably more concerned about the Kurds than ISIL, and the Russians who have been attacking Turkmen villages and are more interested in supporting Assad.
In Australia the Grand Mufti has been criticised for saying in a statement that the violence was “provoked by discontent at racism, Islamophobia, security laws,and foreign policy decisions” and I think this is a legitimate comment. We are experiencing the inevitable reaction here from racists and xenophobes that can only further alienate our own Muslim fellow Australians. The responses of Trump and Ben Carson in the USA was appalling.
Are Bush, Blair and our own ex-PM Howard ever going to be held accountable for the chaos in the Middle East that resulted from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that has given rise to ISIL? Other more historic causes include the artificial creation of “countries” by colonial powers oblivious to tribal and sectarian differences, and Western support for appalling dictators when it suited them, especially in the pursuit of oil.
See Australia’s Waleed Aly’s informative and indeed refreshing article The fight that goes around in circles in the SMH on the Middle East conflict here. IS is the “Middle East’s illegitimate child: a byproduct of the power vacuums of a broken region”.
Our own PM has been attending various meetings with world leaders and he seemed to have struck an immediate rapport with President Obama. PM Turnbull proposed a Lebanese model of a power-sharing arrangement in Syria. However, an opposition Syrian spokesperson has said that unfortunately each group would have their own militias and proposed instead a combination of the “reasonable” elements of the Assad regime (who apparently exist), and the “reasonable” elements from the opposition. After the vacuum created by the removal of Saddam in Iraq, no-one is quite sure what to do with Assad.
(Apparently Obama is aghast that Australia has leased the port of Darwin in northern Australia, where the USA now have a base, to China, for 99 years!)
It is wonderful that Aung San Suu Kyi won the election and hopefully will assume power in Myanmar. I’d love to speak about her unreservedly given her long struggle and sacrifices, but I have to say however, for political expediency, under pressure from the Buddhist ultra-nationalists, she has studiously ignored the genocide of the Rohingyas.
Australia, however, has recently been severely criticised by the UN Human Rights Council by paragons of virtue like North Korea and Iran for our inhumane policies on asylum seekers, and the men, women and children who remain imprisoned on off-shore processing centres. I am ashamed to say these policies are supported by both major parties, although just when the Australian population finally seemed to be becoming uncomfortable about this, the events in Paris have hardened attitudes again.
While Malcolm Turnbull is still polling exceptionally well, it is primarily because he isn’t Tony Abbott, and in comparison he appears so measured, moderate and intelligent.
Turnbull likes saying that everything, like necessary tax reform for example, is “on the table” as in “up for debate”. The problem is that this government has been in office for over two years and so little has been achieved. An old Labor war-horse Graham Richardson recently wrote that Turnbull’s career has mostly been as an advocate, but that now was the time for some over-due action as “both the Coalition and Labor have no plan to offer but a plan to develop a plan”.
PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: This event begins next week, and I hope the optimism for this climate change conference will be justified. It will be the first test for our new PM who as an intelligent person knows action to curb carbon emissions is essential, but he now leads a party which has been sceptical of climate change and indeed, unimaginable as it seems, has even appeared to be anti-science. The government policy has been to do as little as they can get away with, PAY the polluters with our taxes, and provide $5 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel production.
Do see a recent article by Ross Gittins Growth doesn’t need to cost the earth from the SMH about the limits of economic growth and sustainability of our natural resources – “economic growth cannot continue indefinitely because the natural world – the global ecosystem – is of fixed size”.
While Obama has cancelled the proposed Tar Sands Pipeline from Canada, Australia has just given permission for a friend of Indian PM Moti, Mr. Gautum Adani, to mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland. The development of EITHER the Tar Sands or Galilee Basin would on their own, ensure that the global target of restricting global warming to 2 degrees warming is impossible.
I am hoping for a global moratorium on any new coal mines, or the expansion of existing ones. The planet requires it.
The Australian Conservation Foundation is taking the Australian Government to court over the deleterious effect the development of the Adani-owned Carmichael Mine will have on the Great Barrier Reef. – and for failing to protect our lives! See here.
The ACF has also organised the People’s Climate Marches around Australia on November 27 -29th to coincide with the Paris Conference and many other people marching around the world. In Sydney we are meeting at 1 pm in The Domain on Sunday 29th November. See here for the day and times in other Australian cities.
Mr. Adani’s companies do not have a good environmental record in India, and one of his mines in Zambia polluted a river which was a source of drinking water, fishing and irrigation for many people. The company did not even report it. Greenpeace has recently been kicked out of India which is not a good omen.
However, Australians cannot be righteous either as the recent collapse of a dam in Brazil owned by BHP Billiton (and Brazil’s Vale) has killed over 30 people, displaced 500, destroyed villages and polluted land and water for hundreds of kilometres.
More than half the recent studies published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society indicate that human caused climate change has substantially influenced either an event’s frequency or intensity, or both.
We have already experienced the first bush fires of our summer season in West Australia and more recently South Australia. Lives have been lost and the fires have been described as “unstoppable” and “catastrophic”.
MISC STATS: about 120 Australians are in the Middle East fighting with groups but mainly ISIL; only 27% of Australians think Prince Charles who has recently visited Australia should be our next head of state; and people are hoping that the actors De Niro and Di Caprio have donated the obscene $10 million that they were each paid to appear in a short film promoting our James Packer’s casinos. De Caprio has been a very generous and active supporter of environmental issues.
VALE: Jonah Lomu, who despite kidney disease, exploded on the Rugby Union scene in 1995, has died at 40. I loved this fax sent by a 14 year old at the time: “Dear All Blacks, Remember, Rugby is a team game. All 14 of yers, pass the ball to Jonah.” Like many Pacific Islanders, despite his extraordinary ability, Jonah was a modest and humble man.
MAIL: thanks to many of you who keep me informed and amuse me. Thanks to Christine Townend for drawing my attention to Will the Lion, and an article entitled Your cat probably wants to kill you which many cat owners may relate to – or understand – I do! Thanks to Tim for the peacocks in his garden at Bayview, and “Hi” to Hugh who has watched Christian’s documentary or our reunion with him over 200 times, according to his mother!
Congratulations to Bindi Irwin (our Jungle Girl) who has won the US version of Dancing with the Stars.
BIRDS: So many birds have ended up – almost inadvertently – on this blog, but this probably reflects the interest so many people have in them. Like so much wildlife and the Atlantic Puffin and European turtle dove, the Carnaby’s Black-cockatoo is struggling to survive urban sprawl in West Australia. Birdlife Australia’s Cocky Count co-ordinator has said that on current trends their population would halve again in the next five years. They are the most endangered of the species which includes the Glossy, Yellow-tailed, Red-tailed and White-tailed Black cockatoo. I quite often see a flock of Glossy Black cockatoos in the same area as I drive out of the Royal National Park from Bundeena.
Bird keeping has a long tradition in Indonesia and competitions for song birds (kicau-mania) are hugely popular. Birds are assessed on their volume, power, melody and their ability to mimic other birds. This hobby took off when many men were made redundant during the Asian economic crisis of 1997-8. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, their popularity and their shrinking habitats are contributing to declining songbird populations.
The disastrous and ongoing march of the introduced poisonous cane toads across northern Australia has nearly driven the Northern Quoll into extinction – like much else. The Island Ark Project established a colony on two islands and next year they will be introduced back to the mainland. They will hopefully have been conditioned by “taste aversion” to no longer eat toads. Read more here.
Tasmanian Devils have had their populations decimated by an epidemic of devil facial tumour disease. Over 4 years a healthy colony has been established on the mainland as an “insurance population”, and they are to be re-introduced back to Tasmania. See Devilark.org.au for more details.
The issue of species extinctions is both complex and contested and this recent article Animal pragmatism by Maddison Connaughton in The Saturday Paper is a good introduction. “The battle against species extinctions is ethically fraught, with questions about the purpose of zoos and how we go about choosing winners in the animal kingdom. As habitat diminishes, what is the purpose of conservation?”
PETA however, are unequivocal about zoos: “Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to interfere with animals and keep them locked up in captivity”, and I certainly agree. Do see this article from Animals Australia titled “5 things we need to stop telling ourselves about zoos“.
August 12, 2015
Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 at Ilfracombe Zoo, in Devon, UK. His parents were Mary and Butch. A few years ago we were told that Christian was actually hand-reared by one of the staff. This probably explains why Christian seemed so comfortable with us right from the start.
We are often asked how long do lions live? I usually say 10-12 years but they can live longer in zoos. Christian was last seen in 1973 and even at four years old was growing into one of the biggest lions George Adamson had ever seen. He proved to be courageous and smart and survived the most dangerous years. Ironically, George regarded Christian, the lion from London, as one of the most successful rehabilitations.
The murder of Cecil the lion by an American hunter in Zimbabwe continues to be condemned around the world.
Let’s ensure Cecil’s death was not in vain. There are several petitions in circulation relating to Cecil – the AVAAZ petition is to the EU and the USA authorities asking them to classify lions as an endangered species and to ban the import of any hunting trophies. This is probably the most effective way to stop these senseless deaths, and you may want to sign here.
The United Nations has recently passed a Resolution “Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife”.
All of us must redouble our efforts to fight canned hunting, and Cecil’s death will add momentum to the campaign against the breeding of lions for hunting, and the importation of animal body parts and trophies. I ring travel agencies that advertise tours to Africa and ask airlines about their policies on these issues. All volunteers and travellers to Africa should look at this updated Volunteers in Africa Beware Facebook page to ensure they are supporting reputable wildlife sanctuaries.
Last Monday was World Lion Day and I cannot resist sharing last year’s message from Kevin Richardson and Tau the Interrupting Lion – who roared throughout! Watch the clip here. I met Kevin when he was in Sydney recently and he posted this photograph of us on his Facebook page and there are of course wonderful photographs of lions on there too.
I am told our YouTube reunion with Christian in Kenya in 1971 is circulating on Facebook again and I am receiving emails, especially through the website, www.alioncalledchristian.com.au, from people just discovering Christian’s story. For example, Monique has just emailed “And wasn’t Christian just the most remarkable being? He took everything in his stride and managed to bridge the animal and human worlds wonderfully”.
Many of you have let us know over the years the influence Christian’s story has had on you, and we of course will never know the full extent of his legacy. I also recently received an email from a volunteer at Stichting Leew (Lion Foundation) in the Netherlands. I was thrilled to read that the owner was so inspired by Christian’s story and his successful rehabilitation that 3 years ago he opened his own big cat sanctuary to rescue animals from circuses, zoos etc. Their aim – see here – is to look after all animals that come to them, but to return purebred wild cats to the “semi-wild” where possible. This is of course a very complex indeed contested issue.
Also based in Holland is AAP and I do know much more about their marvellous work with rescued animals, especially big cats, after meeting their representatives at the Animal Studies Conference in Delhi in January.
AAP are soon to officially open their Spanish branch, Primadomus, and the first occupants – 2 lions and 2 tigers rescued from a French circus wagon, are already in residence. See here.
GEORGE ADAMSON: The 20th of August is the anniversary of George Adamson’s murder at Kora in 1989. I love this photograph of George and Christian as it shows the love and familiarity of two good friends. Christian looks so big I think the photograph must have been taken early in 1973 and is possibly the last photograph of him. George, we thank you for your giant contribution to our understanding and protection of animals, and Christian…how can I express what you still mean to us and to so many others?
OK, I confess, as it is his birthday I’ve just watched the Youtube reunion and sniffled through it as I did with Born Free last weekend. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN.
August 20, 2014
Today is the 25th anniversary of George Adamson’s death. The Kenyan Wildlife Service are going to acknowledge this with a service at George’s camp Kampi Ya Simba at Kora, Kenya, on the weekend of the 30th August..
Through their observations, books, journals, photographs etc, Joy and George Adamson assembled the largest documentation about lion behaviour in the world. The book and film Born Free of course reached many millions of people and Elsa the lioness altered people’s perceptions of animals. While some argued their methodology was “unscientific”, this huge archive may prove to be invaluable with only 20,000 wild lions left in Africa.
While Joy Adamson loved animals, she had a volatile and rather frenetic personality. George on the other hand, was very calm and considered. He managed to create a neutral space where the two apex predators managed to co-exist with each other with respect and understanding. These days he would be called a “lion whisperer”. Looking back now I wonder if he had too much confidence in all of us – the other people around, visitors, lions etc.
George’s assistant Stanley was killed by the lion Boy and was shot by George. When we were first there Boy would walk in and out of our tent at will. At that stage Boy did not like “our” lion Christian and we were always uneasy about him. He had had a troubled life and we did not know him. He was however, Christian’s introduction to the lion world. Boy could have killed him as Christian was a potential rival as a younger male. But after many months of rejecting him, Boy came to accept and love him and they became inseparable. Christian had waited very patiently for this, but it had been heartbreaking to watch.
On the 20th August 1989 a guest at Kora was driving to collect another visitor arriving by light plane when she was held up by Somali “bandits” on the road. George Adamson heard gunfire, jumped in his vehicle, and then drove straight at these people. He died in the proverbial “hail of bullets”.
George was 83. He was actually getting too old to remain living in such isolation – although he had described it as the happiest period in his life. I love this photograph in the hut where George worked, ate and socialised. Note the large photograph of Christian and George’s assistant Tony Fitzjohn on the wall. George did not play favourites but he deeply loved Elsa, Boy and Christian – and they loved him back just as deeply.
George Adamson was buried at Kora, beside his brother Terence. The lion Boy, who George had known since he starred in Born Free, is buried nearby.
I also love this photograph – two friends just sitting together. This must be one of the last photographs of Christian (early 1973?) as he is very big. In a recent blog I mentioned what I interpreted was Christian’s “cry for Africa”. “MoonieBlues” consequently sent me this fantastic “cry for Africa” from one of Kevin Richardson’s lions roaring as Kevin is recording a promo for World Lion Day!
CACH: Months ago I rang and then emailed the South African High Commission in Canberra to ask them their position on Canned Hunting. I have to say their response, when I finally received it, appalled me. I was sent the “position paper on lion hunting” from the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA)!!!
My opinion is that the South African Government are allowing the shocking farming and hunting of lions to go more or less unchecked, most probably for the income it generates. PHASA claims 9,000 overseas hunters visit South Africa every year making it the top lion hunting destination in Africa! Not a claim to boast of. Tourism is one of the Governments “six core pillars of growth” and PHASA disparages “photographic eco-tourism” as “not commercially viable”. Let’s show them how wrong they are. I’m sure in time they will notice a boycott by tourists who are opposed to the killing of Africa’s iconic wildlife, and who want their contribution to be one of protection not exploitation.
A conveniently ambiguous distinction is drawn between “canned hunting” (shooting drugged lions in a confined space) and the “responsible” (whatever that means) hunting of “captive-bred” lions on private lands. Canned hunting is actually illegal, while shooting captive-bred lions and trophy hunting is not. PHASA states that private enterprise owns 3 times more land dedicated to wildlife (and 4/5ths of game) than all state owned parks and reserves. PHASA states that it will monitor the aptly named South African Predators Association (SAPA) – but who would actually police the activities on private land?
I just do not believe that hunting contributes to conservation, helps local communities with training and jobs etc, and builds a “sustainable” future for lions and other wildlife. PHASA even claims that trophy hunting was a major contributor to saving the white rhino!
Australian rugby union player Clyde Rathbone recently visited a lion park out of Bloemfontein in South Africa where young lions were handled, and Clyde realised that he and the others had been drawn into “complicity in the exploitation of African wildlife”. Read his thoughtful blog here. His behaviour contrasts with another rugby team visiting South Africa. The Crusaders from New Zealand were photographed with a zebra they had shot!
The more I learn the more horrified I become. I am determined to be part of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting and I will keep you informed and I ask you to keep me informed.
I suggest you contact the various South African High Commissions and let them know your feelings about the farming and hunting of lions. I also ring travel agencies that advertise tours to South Africa and I ask if visits to wildlife sanctuaries include cub petting and walking with lions.
George Adamson and his brother Terence were both born in India. I am looking forward to shortly visiting there again – this time to give the Keynote Address on September 12th at the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) INDIA FOR ANIMALS conference in Jaipur.
August 12, 2014
Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 in Ilfracombe Zoo, Devon, UK. As most of you are aware, we don’t know what happened to Christian. He was last seen by George Adamson in 1973 setting off in the direction of Meru National Park, Kenya. We like to assume he created his own pride and lived happily for quite a few more years. Free. Lions live approximately 10-12 years in the wild, although up to 18 years in captivity.
These photographs are stills taken from my Super 8 footage on our visit to Christian in 1972. I never saw Christian (or George Adamson) again.
I don’t advise kissing lions – unless you know them very very well! George Adamson loved lions above all other animals, especially their capacity for love and trustworthiness. However, he did say “why should we expect lions to be more trustworthy (and predictable) than humans?”.
Miraculously, we did not have one incident with Christian. He could be mischievous, naughty and boisterous – but he was never anything but loving with us. He seemed to know our circumstances were unique, and that he could trust us implicitly.
Of course I appear a hypocrite now, protesting about wildlife sanctuaries that farm lions and encourage cub petting and walking with lions. Our circumstances and our relationship with Christian were different however, although we now accept we should never have been allowed to buy him and that we were participating and perpetuating the trade in wild animals.
Part of Christian’s rehabilitation by George Adamson in Kenya was to minimise his contact with humans as in the future they would be a threat to him and vice-versa. This is probably why Christian was initially cautious as he walked down the hill towards us when we had our first reunion with him in 1971.
World Lion Day was celebrated everywhere. Thanks for your responses – and apologies to any organisations and websites I didn’t mention last blog – like Great Cats of The World. They re-blogged, and linked to similar blogs and Facebook pages. View here.
Last night I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Singer of Animal Liberation fame. He was asked when did he become aware that animals have feelings – are sentient beings. He replied it was just obvious growing up with the family cat Buddy. I think most of us have had similar realisations. Of course his lecture about the major issues we face – like poverty, farming of animals, climate change etc was hugely instructive. Apart from becoming vegans, he did emphasise that if we want to contribute, we can donate to the many causes close to our hearts.
TONY THE TIGER URGENT ACTION: We have been asked to urgently circulate and sign these petitions by August 17th for Tony the Tiger, still in his cage at the truckstop in Louisiana, USA
Petition 1 – Sign HERE.
Petition 2 – Sign HERE. After signing this petition, an email will be sent to you & you must click the link in the email to verify your signature and make it count!
Tony’s continuing imprisonment despite the efforts of so many people makes me feel very frustrated as a blogger and an animal rights advocate. However, I am told that when I ask if you would consider signing petitions I think are important, there is a discernible spike in signatures and that makes me very very appreciative of you all. As a group – we can make a difference!
But this is Christian’s day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I find it extraordinary the spell he still casts over me – and many of you. Now more than ever we need to make the world and all who share it more united, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, and caring……
CACH, AVAAZ, Tony the Tiger, Action for Angel, Alice Walker, World, Climate Change, Environment, Aboriginal Culture, Animals, Jeffrey Masson, Australia, Edward Snowden, Obama, Institute of Public Affairs, Christian the Lion, Gordon Bennett, Michael Riley etc
June 28, 2014
CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANNED HUNTING: The CACH campaign seems to be growing – and not surprisingly, as so few reasonable people would support the farming of lions to be hunted. I now ring travel agents when I see advertisements for tours to Africa and check they are sending their clients to reputable wildlife sanctuaries. Canned Hunting was also mentioned in a recent 60 Minutes story on Kevin Richardson and his lovely shampooed looking lions in South Africa. Richardson is on the “reputable” list – but I do think he takes risks with the lions, even though they adore him. I did finally watch the story that was on Dateline SBS in January How Much Would You Pay to Kill a Lion? I could hardly watch as lions were shot and the hunters gloated over their successful kills.
In Australia, a Liberal Party MP Jason Wood gave a speech in the House of Representatives about canned hunting and against importing lion and animal parts into Australia. I very much appreciate his efforts. You can sign his petition here. This is what needs to happen in the USA and Europe. I received a formal (unsigned) response from The White House and Barack Obama to my email about the importation of lion and animals parts into the USA. He “shared my concern for animal welfare”. At least someone received it!
AVAAZ: They are running a campaign in South Africa against the trade in lion parts. They intend for this campaign to hurt South Africa as a tourist destination so sign their petition here. There is also a petition about the illegal sale of exotic animal parts – and ivory – on eBay – sign the petition here. Whenever I say “sign here” rather bossily, I know you all make up your own minds, but I know most of you care deeply about many of these issues.
TONY THE TIGER: Shamefully, the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has “quietly” signed a bill allowing the owner of Tony the Tiger to keep him as a roadside attraction. The ALDF are filing a lawsuit for violating the State Constitution. This is SO depressing – I do urge any Americans to ring the Governor and express your displeasure. This is completely unacceptable. Read more on the update here.
ACTION FOR ANGEL: Yet another story of an imprisoned animal for our “entertainment”. Angel, the albino dolphin calf is in a tiny indoor tank at the Taiji Whale Museum. Sign the petition here organised by Australia for Dolphins – and they ask for us to circulate it. The Japanese seem determined to continue hunting whales…and their annual slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. This Sunday 29th June there is a Whale of a Debate at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney (at 2.30pm) discussing historical and contemporary anti-whaling. Speakers will include members of the Sea Shepherd and conservationist and photographer Jonny Lewis.
ALICE WALKER: The Sydney Writers Festival was on recently and while I did not attend, I heard and saw various interviews on radio and television. It did make me think – we have so many intelligent, perceptive, compassionate and ingenious people in the world – why is our country (and the world) run by so many moronic people that just don’t get it? I know I can be slow onto some things, but I am now mad on Alice Walker – she get’s it! I hung on her every word and will now start reading her intensively. I feel as if I know The Color Purple although I’m not sure if I read the book in the 1980s or saw the movie.
When asked for her advice for Obama Alice said “RUN”! She hates the use of drones and that he is part of the “war machine”. “Aren’t we smarter than buying weapons?” “We have to change the system” – all presidents are hostage to it. The capitalist system is now part of the problem. She supports the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and thinks women would make more empathetic leaders.
While nature is for her a “balm” that we “abuse”, writing is a “medicine”. She listens to, and “only”works for her ancestors. Fiction has a “freedom”, while poetry is autonomous. It “descends”, you “can’t chase after it”, and the “muse comes at will”. She named Tolstoy and Dostoevsky first when asked which writers she admires. She saw her mother and grandmother enslaved by their many children so didn’t particularly want to be a mother. I thought she was amusing about her daughter who has been quite critical of her in the past, although I’m sure this was hurtful. She wants us to” turn to each other” and “talk things through”. Life’s purpose and why she isn’t sitting on her cushion meditating “or scuba diving” is “we exist to help each other”. “The deep joy is to show up for others”. For her, this included being part of the flotilla that sailed to Gaza in 2010.
USA: Last month saw yet another senseless mass shooting in the USA. One of the victim’s father Richard Martinez was so articulate asking: “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians, and the NRA…. What has changed? Have we learned nothing? Where the hell is the leadership?… Life doesn’t have to be like this”. When members of the US Congress rang him offering him condolences he said “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and DO something”.
In Glenn Greenwald’s recent book No Place to Hide he describes his encounter with Edward Snowden. He had to put his mobile phone in the hotel mini bar – as now anything can be transformed into a listening device! He says the Snowden cache reveals a regime seeking “the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide”!
Hillary Clinton was very articulate in an interview on our ABC promoting her book Hard Choices. Phillip Adams and his guests were not flattering about her on his radio program. They found the book mostly tedious and boring. Adams choked over the $14 million advance! They acknowledged that she is very hard working and clever, but thought she was a better administrator than a politician. It appears as if she is already campaigning for the Presidency and certainly has a chance, especially as she has such good “name recognition”. Adams prefers Elizabeth Warren. Hillary and I are about the same age (and both Scorpios) and I have fantasised, as you do, wondering if I could physically and mentally do a big job like that now. I don’t think I ever could have! Americans are less ageist than we are in Australia, and I do think Hillary appeared quite good as Secretary of State, especially compared to John Kerry.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Well done Obama for acting on climate change with the US cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2020. Our PM Abbott was recently in Canada and wanted to form a conservative climate change deniers club with PM Harper, but the UK and NZ did not want to join. Next day (after dinner with Rupert Murdoch) Abbott was star struck meeting Obama and said he and Obama’s climate change policies were very close, which is just a complete lie. Next day he was praising King Coal in Houston and saying the world would be dependent on coal “for decades”. What does this man actually believe?
Abbott has succeeded – so far – in ensuring climate change is not on the agenda at the November G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia!
GOOD ARTICLES: Paul Krugman has written an excellent article on climate change in the New York Times. Krugman argues that the economic impact of carbon reductions is actually quite modest – despite the scare mongering, and the debate is a “toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism” which is very true of our conservative politicians and businessmen in Australia.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate change movement 350.org writes in an article that Abbott and Harper have put nations “on the road to disaster”. He points out how Harper was a former oil executive and how he has been described as a bully, “intolerant of criticism and dissent”. The development of the Canadian tar sands and Australia’s coal in the Galilee basin alone could ensure it would be impossible to ever bring the world’s temperatures under control. He notes, however, that their extremism is spawning “widespread resistance”.
There was an excellent summary about action on climate change in the editorial in the SMH June 24th see here.
Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive, recently wrote in the SMH that our federal government “is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free market ideology centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up-and-ship-it-out economic growth model”. Dunlop goes on to say that the government’s Direct Action white paper has no scientific and economic grounding…and is “the climate policy you have when you don’t want a policy”.
Uncertainty is affecting – as was intended – investment and confidence in the renewable energy sector.
Encouragingly, the tide may be turning, and just when this government is about to remove our effective carbon tax, 63% of Australians are now increasingly concerned about climate change (again) and now believe we should be taking a “a leadership role in reducing emissions”.
In the most surprising move, our billionaire mining maverick politician Clive Palmer, who through several senators holds the balance of power in the Senate, turned up at a press conference with Al Gore by his side! No-one is sure yet what this means for action on climate change, and if this was just a stunt and Gore has been played as a sucker. Palmer mines coal and nickel so will love not having to pay a hefty carbon tax. We could be left without an emissions trading scheme and a plan to do nothing, but Palmer, apparently at Gore’s urging, seems to now want to retain the Renewable Energy Target and oppose the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority.
CELEBRITIES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: About to air in the USA is a television series, Years of Living Dangerously which urges action on climate change and has the involvement of industry heavyweights and celebrities like James Cameron, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.
Leonardo DiCaprio recently spoke out about the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, which is at risk of being listed as “in danger”. Leonardo has witnessed the changes for the worse since he first swam there 20 years ago. This year he has donated $US10 million to ocean conservation, and $4 million to tiger and elephant projects.
Geoffrey Rush spoke up about our government’s attempt to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests which has just been rejected by the World Heritage Committee. Our government’s arguments for delisting were described as a “feeble justification”, while many people were shocked that the delisting had been attempted in the first place.
IPA: I am only just beginning to comprehend the undue and insidious influence of the conservative “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia. This ideologically conservative group is our Tea Party, but smarter and therefore more dangerous. Abbott addressed them in April last year and the audience included the unholy alliance of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal Pell!!!
Until I read this article I had no idea of the influence of the IPA on the country, and on Abbott who is implementing many of their policies. I have already discussed the appointment of several of these climate change denying, older businessmen to key positions and reviews: Tony Shepherd conducting the heartless Commission of Audit; Dick Warburton reviewing the Renewable Energy Target; and Maurice Newman, Chairman of the PM’s Business Advisory Council.
The IPA are skilled propagandists and work through fronts such as the Australian Conservation Foundation which is actually anti-conservation! They “muddied the waters” recently over the attempt to delist part of the Tasmanian forest. In what has been described as a “global conspiracy” the IPA have led an active campaign (courtesy Murdoch press) against the plain packaging of cigarettes, trying to make a case it has led to more smoking – which apparently it has not. The IPA are funded by companies such as Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Esso and Caltex.
Our PM was recently abroad – his school boy French in France was excruciating – worse than mine, and he has a certain gaucheness which could be endearing if he was not our PM. I liked the letter to The Australian newspaper which stated “I am confused – there appears to be two Tony Abbotts travelling around North America, one as described by the Fairfax and ABC media outlets and another Tony Abbott as reported by The Australian”. (from Michael Burd, Toorak, Victoria).
Australia does seem to be currently divided along these lines. Murdoch controls over 70% of the print media and unashamedly and uncritically supports the government, backed up by a few popular and shrill radio shock jocks. Their targets consistently include the Fairfax media and especially the ABC.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks starred in the film Jedda which was a very dramatic and tragic Australian film made by Charles Chauvel in 1955. Jedda was about race and forbidden love, and was way ahead of its time. After retreating to a convent, Rosalie emerged to become a respected Aboriginal elder and leader.
Recently on a television program (Q & A on the ABC) a fellow guest who I think was Peter Coleman, suggested that the “Aboriginal problem” could be “fixed” by assimilation into white society. Rosalie responded with the most brilliant and emphatic declaration of her Aboriginality and who she was. She was reported (inaccurately) in the press as saying:
“My language is (Arrernte) in spite of the whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem”. See the footage of her full response here.
UTOPIA: John Pilger’s documentary Utopia examines the present situation for Aboriginal people. Rosalie actually comes from Utopia. The documentary is too long but devastating nevertheless. Pilger has filed several stories over the decades on this subject, and very little seems to have changed. One wonders if things have actuallyeven got worse in many respects for Aboriginal people: their housing; health; employment opportunities; incarceration rates; suicide epidemics etc. These days the Labor Government and the “left” are criticised with some justification for failing Aboriginal people. Many people like myself have supported Aboriginal “self-determination” and we have also been criticised for caring about digging up and trashing the environment. Apparently we have held Aboriginal people back from economic development. I would caution Aborigines from expecting too much from conservative governments and the mining industry…
Alice Walker: “The coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse – I don’t see it – even today”.
MICHAEL RILEY: Michael Riley was a leading Aboriginal photographer who died in 2004. The National Portrait Gallery recently purchased a selection of his portraits taken between 1984 and 1989 and these photographs are currently on exhibition. Michael’s subjects at this time were his extraordinary generation of attractive and talented Aboriginals that had emerged and broken the stereotypes in many ways – not least how they were represented. They included artist Tracey Moffatt, politician Linda Burney and curators Djon Mundine, Brenda Croft and Hetti Perkins. I was asked to speak at the NPG as I was a friend and had exhibited Michael Riley. I am also on the Michael Riley Foundation. More of Michael’s work can be seen at www.thecommercialgallery.com or www.michaelriley.com.au.
Animals Category winner in the iPhone Awards, Michael O’Neal of San Francisco said that he came across this friendly fox in the Wyoming wilds. “I sat in the road for 10 minutes with him…no cars, not a soul around, just me and this red fox” he said. Foxes and cats are primarily blamed and demonised for Australia’s extinction rate of native animals which is “the worst in the world”. We are losing one mammal every decade and have lost 28 or 29 since colonisation in 1788, with 60 presently endangered.
AG-GAG LAWS: It is going to become an offence to film inhumane conditions for animals in Australia. In the USA it is already an offence for any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility. Why is it not an offence to have animals cruelly confined in appalling conditions?
ISRAEL: The Australian government created yet another unnecessary problem for themselves by arguing that East Jerusalem was “disputed” and not “occupied”. Israel is the only country in the world to articulate similar views. Our government argued that this was not a change of policy, but they have been changing their position over Israel by stealth, illustrated by several votes, or abstentions, at the UN. Trade sanctions over our cattle, sheep and wheat exports were subsequently threatened against Australia by Arab and Islamic countries, and 22 international diplomatic representatives demanded to meet our Foreign Minister in Canberra.
Israel is building 3000 more settlement homes in the Occupied Territories as a punishment for the reconciliation between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas, who control Gaza. Many Palestinians are also being punished at the moment because of 3 missing Israeli teenagers. While their disappearance is extremely concerning – what about the 7 Palestinians that have been killed in the search for them? Israeli forces seem to have rampaged through many Palestinian houses, and harassed and detained hundreds of people.
Alice Walker on Israel: “The land they are taking is not theirs and they have to give it back”. She actually made her remark that “the coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse” about Israel, but said it applied everywhere – Australia, USA etc. She also said that with $3 billion a year coming from the US to Israel, “we can’t afford you”. Her participation in the flotilla to Gaza in 2010 demonstrated her courage and commitment.
MIDDLE EAST: Iraq is disintegrating and in the absence of any solutions it is tempting to just think Iraq and Syria should be left to unravel. Their borders are an unnatural colonial construct and they should regroup along more natural tribal and sectarian lines. It is the humanitarian catastrophe for so many innocent civilians that is most concerning. Tony Blair is still in denial, blaming the Iraqi PM and inaction over Syria. I loved Boris Johnston saying “Tony Blair has gone mad”. George Bush Jr and our John Howard have been VERY quiet. Cheney is as cocky and without remorse as ever, and seems to blame Obama.
Many millions of us marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq, and we were right! I did mention the threat and ambitions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) several blogs back – how has everyone been taken by surprise? It is a complete intelligence failure. The thug in the suit, Nouri al-Maliki was an appalling choice as PM by the West and he has made no attempt to include the Sunnis or Kurds. Even now he is refusing to consider a unity government. One of many disastrous decisions by the USA was to de Baathify Iraq as it left no-one with any experience for administration or the army, and just created many disaffected and resentful enemies. The Sunni-Shiite split goes back to the succession to the prophet Muhammad after his death in 632! Shiities say Ali, the prophet’s cousin was the rightful successor and was cheated by the Sunnis “Rightfully Guided Caliphs” Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali!!!!!
READING, LISTENING & WATCHING: Wimbledon is on and I was thrilled of course that Rafa won recently in Paris. This was his 9th French Open. It was a great victory and he is now equal second with Pete Sampras on 14 Majors. Elizabeth Wilson has recently written a book LOVE GAME A History of Tennis. Her book sounds very informative historically and unlike most sports, women participated from the start. Like many people today, she prefers Federer’s graceful style to Rafa grinding his opponents down in a “python strangle”.
NSW has finally won the State of Origin rugby league after Queensland won for 8 years straight. I am sort of watching the World Cup but prefer the news reports of the few spectacular goals. This sport is building in Australia, especially as there are serious injuries – especially concussion, in the rugby union and league codes. Soccer officials will have to do something about the blatant corruption, like awarding the World Cup to Qatar.
OK, I confess I have been watching The Voice. I don’t care too much about the contestants but I love the judges: Ricky Martin is, well, Ricky, Kylie Minogue has been surprisingly engaging, Joel Madden goes down very well in Australia and will.i.am is brilliant!
I haven’t read anything by the serial novelist (4 books a year) Alexander McCall Smith. I heard a repeat of his interview at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2013 and he was hilarious and laughed along with the audience at his own jokes and the madness of life. I’ve just bought his book on his favourite poet What W.H. Auden Can Do For You.
JEFFREY MASSON: I’ve just read Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s latest book BEASTS – What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil. I think Jeffrey combines all of his experience, knowledge and intelligence in this book, examining the huge question of violence in humans and animals and the “search for the origins of human violence”. It is a complex debate, and I found the book very thought provoking as he argues, for example, how agriculture, property ownership and the domestication of animals changed human behaviour. The book contains fascinating information about many different animals and species, and the effects of human intervention in the natural life of animals.
Christian the lion is mentioned as an illustration of a wild animal expressing friendship and love for another species – especially a predator, and how Christian’s wild lioness friends “indulged” us which we also found astounding. This made me think about Christian and the other lions in George Adamson’s man-made pride, as they were an “intervention” into the territory of wild lions already established at Kora. These lions mostly tried to kill most of George’s introduced males and cubs, but mated with the lionesses. Christian, however, seemed to come to what has been described as an unusual “truce” with them, but he ultimately had to look for his own territory elsewhere. BEASTS also made me think very deeply about the behaviour of cats!
WORLD: China is being quite confrontational/active/defensive in the South and East China Sea offending Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and the USA. Russia is getting more actively involved in Asia and cooperating much more with China (suppyling natural gas etc). 6 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan, thousands of survivors are still without homes in the Philippines. Military leaders seem to be on the move and are usually bad for the economy – and for press freedoms and democracy. In Egypt an Australian journalist Peter Greste working for al-Jazeera has just received a 7 year jail sentence. He and two other journalists have been caught in the machinations of the Saudi Arabia vs Qatar enmity. al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and is regarded as the “mouthpiece” of the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the Brotherhood are still facing imprisonment and even the death penalty in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is now giving Egypt $12 billion, compared to $650 million in aid from the USA. The military are installed in Thailand and Frank Bainimarama is bound to win in Fiji. Ex general Pabowa Subianto, who has a terrible human rights record is gaining momentum for the next presidency in Indonesia, while the running mate of his opponent Joko Widodo also sounds pretty frightening. Papua New Guinea’s PM Peter O’Neill is fighting corruption charges, and while we are not entirely innocent in Australia, corruption does seem endemic in our nearest neighbours PNG and Indonesia.
MAIL: Thanks to Scott, MoonieBlues, Bob, Tim, Aidan, Jeffrey, Sylvia and others for sending me interesting articles and images. My thoughts are with William who lost his beloved cat O’Malley, and Ines who takes in cats from shelters and recently lost another one called Bonnie.
To keep up to date with interesting articles and animal related activities all over the world see the latest Minding Animal Bulletin No22 here, especially about a Documentary Festival in New Delhi 13 -20 January 2015, and interesting articles and reviews in Vol 3 Number 1 of the Animal Studies Journal here.
VALE: One of Australia’s leading artists Gordon Bennett has died unexpectedly. Many of his works concerned his identity as an Aboriginal person, but his subject matter and styles were wide ranging. He could out post-modernist the post-modernists! I was lucky to have known him and curated his work into several of my exhibitions. He summed up what I wanted said so eloquently about colonisation – the way Daniel Boyd has more recently. He was highly intelligent, attractive and quite shy and private. His work is currently in the Berlin Biennale. See Richard Bell’s article on Gordon Bennett in The Guardian here. My condolences to his mother, his wife Leanne and daughter Caitlin.