Wildlife filmmaker Varty joins protest to close East London’s zoo
He and his band will give a series of concerts
World-renowned South African conservationist and wildlife filmmaker John Varty is adding his voice – and those of his band members – to the call to close East London Zoo.
Varty has made more than 30 wildlife documentaries and is a staunch advocate for animal rights, particularly those kept in substandard enclosures. He was previously married to television anchor Gillian van Houten.
In 2012, Varty was attacked by a tiger, which dealt him several puncture wounds and two broken ribs, while filming on his Tiger Canyons farm in the central Free State.
Far from being deterred by the incident, he upped the ante in terms of campaigning for animal rights. In the past six years he has traversed the globe and through his protest action has ensured the closure of zoos and sanctuaries mistreating animals in 49 countries.
East London Zoo has come under fire from political and civil groups insisting conditions are unacceptable and the animals’ enclosures are too small.
Rights group Ban Animal Trading (BAT) and a group of Khoisan activists led by MP Christian Martin have been particularly vocal. The Khoisan group are protesting at Retail Park in Beacon Bay by way of living and sleeping in a cage set up in the food court.
About a week ago Varty, who leads a music group that raises the profile of animal and environmental awareness campaigns, was contacted by BAT, and decided to join the protest for the zoo’s closure.
He and his band, Wildlife Warriors, will give a series of lunchtime concerts alongside the Khoisan activists this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“The fact is that for the government, conditions at our zoos are about priority number 1,040. They are busy grappling with issues like land claims and hate speech,” Varty said.
“I have written to the president about the canned lion hunting industry, but it is so far down the list.
“National government is probably not even aware.
“When I first heard about the conditions at East London Zoo, I was going to have a screen set up alongside the cage [where the activists are living] accompanied by a recording by one of our songs.
“But when I found out more, I decided to bring the band to East London so we can play ourselves.”
He said no matter how big or small, each and every environmental issue should be highlighted to create awareness.
“Whether it’s East London Zoo or the 8,000 lions in canned hunting, we need to raise these issues.
“Gandhi said the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its vulnerable are treated. Unfortunately by that standard SA would score extremely low. On a global index we would be on a par with India and the Arab states,” he said...