I was hugely happy and proud to present an award to Virginia McKenna at the recent Wetnose animal awards.
It was the climax of a long and quite harrowing evening … because of course to honour the heroes you have to see the awfulness of the situation they waded into. but the presentation to Virginia was of course for the amazing BORN FREE Foundation, but also a personal a lifetime achievement award for someone who has spent 40 years campaigning for the
cue of wild animals from captivity and suffering. A truly wonderful woman. I was so moved … and so was everyone in the room … they rose as one to give her a long standing ovation …
This file shows what I WAS going to say about her, in tribute … but in the event, the presenter, Wendy Turner, gave a whole history, and there was a film presentation of the work of BORN FREE as well, so when it came to the moment … my tribute was redundant – so I ‘busked’ it … and said something completely different … I don’t know if it was recorded … I’ll try to find out.But just for the record, here is my short tribute to one of the great animal campaigners of our time – a lady who has already changed the world. She has been very supportive of Save-Me in recent months .. and is a vital ally in our cause … the cause of getting decent treatment for OUR native wild animals.
Virginia McKenna as a young woman trained as an actress, and successfully appeared in London’s West End, until her debut as a film actress in 1952. She was to continue working at the top level in Film, TV, and on Stage for most of the rest of her life, receiving many accolades, but in 1966 she starred, along with her husband Bill Travers, in a film that was to change her life. She played the role of conservationist Joy Adamson in the true life story Born Free, in which Elsa, the celebrated Lioness, was returned to the wild, and the time Virginia and Bill spent with the lions who co-starred in the film drew them both into a life devoted to the welfare of Wild Animals. The couple soon afterwards starred in another wildlife film – An Elephant called Slowly, and when the Elephant they had worked with, Pole Pole, died tragically in a Zoo, they plunged into a campaign in 1984, called Zoo Check, devoted to improving the lot of animals in Zoos and Circuses. This led to the forming of the Born Free foundation in 1991.
Born Free, now boasting the talents and energy of Virginia’s son, Will Travers, has campaigned around the world ceaselessly, ever since, winning victory after victory for animals abused in captivity – Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Dolphins, Primates, and Bears.
I was privileged to meet her while I was campaigning on behalf of Great Britain’s own beleaguered wildlife, and Virginia jumped in to join the fight for decent treatment for our Foxes, Badgers, Hares, and Stags. In the relatively short time I have known her, I have joined the legions of animal lovers all over the world who look up to Virginia as an inspiration, a hero, and a role model. Her serenity shines through everything she does. Virginia does not need to shout to make a point … when she speaks, people everywhere hear the unmistakeable sound of Truth. Virginia fights every day for the principle that every animal that is born free deserves a life in freedom – freedom from abuse, from persecution, from captivity, true freedom to roam this planet as Nature intended.
I am deeply honoured to present this award, and I know I speak for everyone in this room when I say there can be no more deserving honoree of the lifetime achievement award than VIRGINIA McKENNA.