Podcast Uploaded: Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets

The Lion – King of the Jungle, the Big Beast, Simba, star of the Lion King, one of the world’s best known and best loved animals – or perhaps more accurately a wild cat of the open plains whose population, according to a 2015 statement by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years, the unwitting star of 1997’s the Cook Report’s ‘Making a Killing‘ and the chilling and powerful 2015 documentary ‘Blood Lions‘, which uncovered the realities of the multi-million dollar predator breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.

From magnificent predators we have turned Lions into inbred animals farmed in miserable conditions across southern africa, animals rented out to be cuddled by so-called voluntourists then sold on to be shot in their enclosures by trophy hunters in canned hunts, and animals whose bones are boiled down to service the demands of traditional Chinese medicine now that Tigers have been exploited to the point of extinction.

I met conservationist, activist, author and film maker Richard Peirce at a wildlife event in Bristol where he was talking about ‘Blood Lions’ and his own excellent book ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, a scathing and in-depth investigation of South Africa’s large-scale captive lion breeding industry, from, as the book puts it, bottle to bullet. Research for ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, started in late 2016 and the book was published in mid-2018 – Rather than say, ‘I’ve done my bit’ though, Richard is now deep into the making of an investigative documentary, ‘Lions, Bones, and Bullets‘, and is planning visits to Asia, where many lion products end up

Richard Peirce really knows his stuff. He divides his time between Cape Town and Cornwall, fundraising, campaigning, and tirelessly – and bluntly – talking about the problems that Lions face. He is well placed to discuss the impact of canned hunting and the lion bone industry on what travel chiefs like to call ‘Brand South Africa’, the lies told by farm operators to overseas volunteers who come to Africa to look after ‘orphaned’ lion cubs, the huge sums of money being made by lion farmers, and the more then twenty years of effort to halt an industry which to jaundiced eyed might seem almost unstoppably buoyant.

Richard has some fascinating perspectives on lions, Africa, and activism, but I began by asking him – given that there seems to be an almost endless queue of wealthy gun owners looking to get their jollies by shooting a lion in a cage whilst at the same time East Asia is hoovering up wild animal parts at a rate never witnessed in the planet’s history – has anything actually changed for the better since Blood Lions?

Have a listen to Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets on Lush Player

Up to London to IFAW

So, last week I went up to London to the UK offices of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to interview David Cowdrey, Head of Policy and Campaigns

I’d not met David before but I had a fair idea what to expect. How? Well, one review of him on LinkedIn begins by saying that “David’s boundless enthusiasm and creativity is only matched by his expertise and professionalism” and in an email exchange when we were setting up the pocast IFAW’s press officer Frankie Ion wrote that “David has been working across the animal welfare and environmental sectors for nearly 25 years and is incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about the issues facing animals and the environment today”.

Two descriptions that are spot on. David both knows his stuff and is absolutely, genuinely in conservation because he absolutely, genuinely loves conservation and wildlife. And talking to him after his years at organisations like WWF, the RSPCA, and for the last three years IFAW, years spent working on campaigns like a UK Ivory Import Ban, on protecting everything from whales to Siberian Tigers, you discover stories and ideas and – yes, sheer enthusiasm – bubbling out of him like releasing the cork on a bottle of champagne.

David and I met at IFAW’s London offices, which are perched high above the River Thames in Vauxhall (and spookily right next to the palatial postmodern SIS/MI6 building, which bristles with antennae and probably has a full copy of everything we spoke about they might let me have if I need it and ask them nicely).

The SIS buidling (centre). IFAW and a chug of other charities are found in the rather more prosaic block to the keft.

I’d done my research and written a set of questions and a few bullet points I wanted to cover. The role, for instance, that charities like IFAW have in a world where global problems like plastics, biodiversity loss, and climate change demand global action and for everyone to be pulling in the same direction (are coalitions the only workable solution to the planet’s ills in other words); just how do charities manage to differentiate themselves from each other; David’s work tackling wildlife crime (he’s vice-chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Wildlife Crime Working Group); and whether young people will still support charities in the light of movements like Climate Strike) – but when the guest is so eloquent and incredibly enthusiastic and passionate, sometimes as an interviewer you just need to sit back and listen instead…

We talked for about two and a half hours, but not all of it with the recorder switched on. Which is perhaps a shame as David told some great stories including being chased through the bush by a semi-tranquilised Rhino and being hugged by a Panda cub, but I make it a rule never to record ‘off air’ banter and introductory chat – but what I got is good and judging by how the edit is going so far the podcast will begin with David talking about one of his great loves (elephants) and explaining how he helped pilot one of the toughest bans on ivory sales in the world through the UK parliament – the Ivory Act 2018 …

And as soon as it’s uploaded I’ll post a link…and now here it is David Cowdrey, IFAW UK