Wild Animal Welfare Committee Conference 2019

Podcasting (at least the ‘one-man-team’ way I and many others do it), is a multi-stage affair. There’s the making contact stage, the agreeing the time/place/parameters stage, the research stage. the travel and the recording stages, the editing stages, the re-editing and the uploading stages…lots of stages to end up with the thirty minutes of audio that you’ll finally listen to/ignore/cross the road to avoid.

Which is how it should be. Guests give up their time, talk sincerely about something that they spend all their time thinking about/defending/protecting/working towards, and it’s just disrespectful to amble up like a stumblebum, switch on a recorder, and ‘hope for the best’.

Which is why I’m deep in to the research stage for a return trip to Scotland towards the end of this month at the invitation of the wonderful Libby Anderson, policy advisor for OneKind.

Libby is on the Wild Animal Welfare Committee and asked if I’d be interested in attending their 2019 Conference in Edinburgh which is discussing “Who are the guardians of wild animal welfare?”, and if I did would I like to do some recording when I was there?

Would I ever…

So I’m going up to talk to speakers (and delegates) with the aim of producing a ‘What the Day was Like’ type recording that WAWC can use.

Which means researching some hugely impressive (ie a little daunting) speakers including:

Dr Sandra Baker, WildCRU, Zoology, Oxford University, on Influencing behaviour with regard to wild animal welfare
Dr Chris Draper, Born Free Foundation on Welfare guardianship during conservation activities
Alick Simmons, former Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer for England on Current and future guardians of wildlife welfare in the UK
Sarah Dolman, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, with Joe Perry, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science on UK marine mammal guardianship in areas such as seal culling, ocean energy and tourism

See what I mean? Disrespect is not an option.

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

It’s been a while….

See the header image? That’s me on the right talking to (the much taller) Ian Rappel of Gwent Wildlife Trust. We’re standing in a reedbed at GWT’s Magor Marsh reserve. How did I end up standing in a reedbed with Ian Rappel? I wonder that too sometimes…

Essentially though some years ago I used to run a popular birding blog (Charlie’s Bird Blog). I was working for an airline, serving tea and coffee as a sideline to going around the world looking for birds courtesy of my employees (which is not how my employment contract put it, but I think we both knew why I was there). Everywhere I went, everything I saw I wrote about.

All good fun and things went well for several years, but a misguided tie-in with a far more voracious and single-minded blogger based in New York eventually brought the good times to a shuddering, juddering end and put me off writing. I’d already wandered accidentally towards the world of podcasting (someone told me I had a ‘radio voice’ and without really knowing what a podcast was the rest sort of followed…) I am curious about what makes other people tick – especially conservationists and activists – but, me, a podcaster? It appears so…

But, the itch to write again – even if no-one was reading what I wrote – has still been there. Lurking just under the skin like – er, something really itchy on an itchy day….

A couple of weeks ago I mused aloud on Twitter about meeting my heroes when I went to interview them but not having a way to talk about how the meetings were set up, how we got on as people rather than interviewer and interviewee, how the day went….Would, I wondered, anyone read a blog about that sort of thing?

Apparently they would, according to Twitter.

It’s been a while but let’s see if if Twitter was right

Oh, and if you’d like to hear the podcast with Ian (an extremely affable and knowledgeable conservationist) you can find it over here

Let’s see if Twitter is right….