David and the lion’s den

Sounds like a twist on a biblical story, doesn’t it? Well, there are a couple of things of epic proportions in this latest update.

Just a day after posting my recent interview with Captured in Africa about their work rescuing and relocating lions that have either fallen into the trophy hunting trade that saw Cecil the lion killed and beheaded (see my blog post Bred for the bullet for further explanation), or that have been kept captive as pets; I joined the biggest ever march against trophy hunting — taking to the streets of London alongside Born Free actress Virginia McKenna and representatives from the charities: Lion Aid, IFAW, Save Me Trust, Four Paws, One Protest and of course Born Free Foundation.

virginia mckenna march I donned my best lion themed attire, to listen to stirring speeches from campaigner Dominic Dyer, Green World TV’s Anneka Svenska and Game of Thrones actor and staunch lion advocate James Cosmo and Virginia herself (among others), as a huge crowd of hundreds of men, women, children (and dogs) of all ages called out to ‘save our lions!’ and ‘Stop trophy hunting!’.

kate on conservation protest

Given that I know full well the perils that lions go through during a life cycle in the trophy hunting industry (from petting farms as a cubs, to get them accustomed to human interaction and build a state of trust; to overcrowded pens as adolescences, where their teeth and claws are often forcibly removed; and finally a fenced off enclosure as an adult, where they have no escape from being shot with a gun or bow and arrow depending on the request of the hunter): I can’t believe that any mainstream media outlet can champion cub petting in any form, particularly in the name of conservation.

But this week, RadioTimes seem to have done just that.

imageI refuse to share a picture of myself and the magazine alone, without this weekend’s march banner, as I feel so strongly that anything that can be seen to advocate cub-cuddling is a part of the problem.

Another part of the Goliath-sized dilemma is that I am such a huge fan of Sir David Attenborough.

IMG_8429I expect, from the magazine’s standfirst stating that: “As a birthday celebration we paired him up with two playful cubs, for our exclusive photo shoot at his home” that these must be captive zoo lions, as the photo shoot is said to take place in his home, rather than at a sanctuary of any sorts.

I know that Sir David’s early work centred around zoos, with his first television series, Zoo Quest, discussed here (NOTE: a more recent blog post, which clarifies my updated stance on zoos can also be viewed here, for anyone who’s interested), but this really isn’t about zoos, or where conservationists stand on the age-old debate of do they help with awareness and conservation, or don’t they this is about encouraging photographs with lion cubs.

Literature handed out at the Global March for Lions

Literature handed out at the Global March for Lions

Please take a moment to view the image above, which details the role that cub petting tourist attractions and cub-raising volunteer programmes play in the much darker trophy hunting industry, which sees adult lions hunted for cash and their heads flown to the hunters’ home turf, to be mounted on the wall.

This is a great opportunity to add that if you haven’t seen the incredibly powerful documentary, Blood Lions, please, please check it out, to fully understand this issue.image

I would still like to know more about the lion cubs used for the RadioTimes cover: who/where do they belong to? Why were they used for this photo shoot? And why did Sir David chose to go along with it? In the meantime, I shall just returned to all the other, much-loved David Attenborough-based literature I have to hand, including the last RT issue that featured him on the cover: which only gets about as dark as the 3D glasses he is wearing! image

I’ll also be adding my name to this petition, started by Paul TullyRADIO TIMES – EXPLAIN & REMOVE YOUR COVER FEATURING DAVID ATTENBOROUGH HOLDING A CAPTIVE LION CUB and praying that Sir David uses this opportunity to open the world’s eyes to the industry surrounding commercial lion cub petting.

Want to know what happened next?

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10 thoughts on “David and the lion’s den

  1. This is more than a bit sensationalist isn’t it? David Attenborough is a lover of animals. Full stop. If we queried every sound bite, every image in such a hyper critical way as you have I think the world would be full of paranoid dillusionists.

    But I think you already know the above. Your article is at best a publicity stunt for your blog. At worst, an insult to an honourable man who has dedicated his whole life to animals and has achieved far more in that vein than you ever will.

    Bon chance.

    • Thanks Tony for the comment (sincerely), I think it’s only right I should be held to account on any opinion I express (a blog is, after all, a lot of one person’s opinion – though I do try to intersperse with conversation and interviews from various public figures, including Sir David himself in the past).

      I completely respect and admire most of David Attenborough’s incredible body of work (I say most, as I am not a supporter of zoos, and find his early series where he captures animals from the wild to be placed in London Zoo difficult watching) and am sure, as you quite rightfully say, I will never achieve as much as he has in terms of dedicating my whole life to animals in that way – I only wish I could find a way to pay the bills AND promote wildlife conservation, but alas; it currently alludes me. I don’t make any money at all from this blog – I just spend money on the tools and event tickets needed to make it happen!

      I’m genuinely sorry that I come across as hyper sensitive, or attacking towards (as I say in the article) one of my biggest heroes. The intention is to draw attention to the potential misinformation that someone in his position (a most loved and trusted wildlife hero) may convey by being photographed for a front cover image playing with cubs.

      People look to him as a leader of appropriate behaviour towards the natural world, and I’m afraid that to me, and my knowledge of the canned hunting industry, this particular photo shoot is not something I condone. That does not mean I don’t support him and his other work and everything he stands for – it’s just that I think he has a responsibility that comes with his status, to promote animal welfare as well as animal behaviour.

      I too have cuddled lion cubs for photographs in the past (in a situation even more dubious than this – in South Africa, and the place I did it was found to have links with trophy hunting!), but when I discovered the truth, I used the experience to discuss the realities of the trophy hunting industry on this very blog! I sincerely hope Sir David uses this opportunity to do the same.

      I would say that you are right that I’m using this opportunity for publicity (like Sir David is using the lion cubs for publicity, and RT are using Sir David for publicity), but not for promoting myself – for publicity on the issue of trophy hunting and the mass demo that took place through London this weekend and why it happened, which I’ve also detailed in the post – above the photos of Sir David, so that it gets higher priority of readers attention. I work in media externally to this, and have a fair idea of how to use it to my advantage. I just hope you can believe that I’m doing it for the purpose to highlighting what canned hunting is, not who Kate Snowdon is (I’m a 25 yr old female with a passion for technology, animals, education and Disney, if you are interested – there’s not much more to me than that!) 🙂

  2. A huge fan of your blog and passion to let the cat out of the bag (pun intended) but this is grasping at straw’s right? Sir David’s work stands alone and I think it’s pretty trivial to dedicate an article to what is basically ‘I hope he did his research’.

    If his vast, fervent, stunning body of work is anything to go by, documenting nature in the most extreme circumstances whilst always do his utmost in making sure the integrity and nature of the environment be conserved, I don’t think you have much to worry about with this magazine cover. There is no malice intended to my tone, I understand where you’re coming from, there’s simply much, MUCH bigger evils to slay right now. Let us preserve at least one emblem of our youth and happiness 🙂

    • Thanks Shane. I don’t intend to undermine Sir David’s entire back catalogue of work – I just think this was massively careless. I feel stronger than “I hope he did his research” – there’s no room for such catastrophic (pun not intended… Or maybe just a little bit) error of judgement when you’re as high profile as he is.
      The problem is that by playing with cubs, it sends a message out that there’s nothing wrong with that – so when people go to tourist destinations where you pay to cuddle a cub, no one questions that there maybe something more to it than that. They’ve seen David do it, afterall – and they trust that he knows best. But behind that tourist destination is a whole industry based on getting lion cubs accustomed to humans and human contact so that when they’re adults, rich people can pay thousands of pounds to shoot an animal that doesn’t fear humans.

  3. I think for me you have raised awareness of the very difficult relationship we have with wild creatures. We seem to need them in zoos, and contact. We went on a wolf walk once with a wolf conservation charity in the UK whereas the Portuguese one had the rescued wolves in as large a wild pen as possible. I blame the BBC! Sir David is 90 and has raised so much awareness. I think now we need to be wary of our love of the wild and for some of hunting.

    • Thank you for the comment. I’m glad this has raised awareness for you. I did think: “What are his PR team/ the BBC thinking?!” – it comes down on many people’s shoulders.
      I don’t know much about wolf conservation in the UK – it’s something I’ve been meaning to look into and your comment has sparked that interest even more (watch this space!), but I have in the past been to lion petting “sanctuaries”, I’ve been to SeaWorld and I’ve rode an elephant in Bali – all done believing that these things somehow contribute to conservation efforts/ funds. It’s often been a hard pill to swallow – to discover the realities of the places I put my faith in – and it’s only really through keeping this blog that I’ve had my eyes opened to the complexities of captivity.

      • I think we should always be open to reconsidering.The media seem so hysterical in reactions to ‘stuff’. But also blind to challenging real issues and considered responses.I also find comment sections on these and other social media can be so opinionated and at times abusive.

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