THE LESS-THAN-SENSATIONAL STORY
Well, I had a lot of enquiries about the Great Freddie Gorillagate scandal, and I promised to try to find out what really happened. I have done my best ! This is not an ‘official’ account by any means, just a rough summary of the way I now understand it.
As so often in these things, it seems the stories that found their way into the media didn’t really tell it like it was.
When all the shouting began on Twitter, I knew nothing about it and I said so, but, as you’ll see, there was actually no real reason I would know, because the true source of the story had nothing to do with myself, or the Mercury Phoenix Trust, or Born Free.
I’m told ‘Break’ are the charity who have organised this Gorilla Trail event, and the returns they get from it will be used to benefit children with learning difficulties, among other things. They’re based in the UK. The link between this cause and gorillas is perhaps a bit tenuous ! But that’s not a problem. Born Free were apparently only involved as consultants, to ensure the project gets the information about Gorillas right.
The organisation that actually puts the whole scheme of ‘painted statue animals’ together is a company called Wild in Art. These guys are not in any sense a charity. They mount these projects on a purely commercial basis (they also mounted the South Africa Lions project – Pride of Cape Town – which Kerry and I launched for Born Free last year). The way it works is – these projects they create enable charities to make some money, a well as bringing visibility. So it was Wild In Art who produced this particular gorilla-shaped effigy, which they evidently had someone paint up in a yellow Freddie Wembley outfit and stick some teeth and a moustache on. Now: far be it from me to make an artistic judgement on this – you can form your own opinion – but when the model was first seen, a number of people thought it was a crude and insulting effort – probably to both Freddie and the Gorilla !
So when word of this got to Freddie’s estate, they asked for an approach to be made to Wild in Art, to ask them if they’d have another go at the painting of the Freddie Gorilla. The way it was reported, it looked as if the MPT (Mercury Phoenix Trust) had ‘blocked’ the deployment of the statue altogether, but actually the issue had nothing to do with the MPT; plus it wasn’t a block at all – simply a request for an update to the paint job, to which Wild in Art kindly agreed.
Now there were accusations of ‘pettiness’ in the media and on Twitter, but you have to ask yourself how you’d feel if suddenly people were making effigies of your dearly departed dad or son or brother, and you felt they were disrespectful. You’d want to feel you had some kind of a right to say yes or no, to protect his reputation. That’s exactly what the people who run Freddie’s estate do. They try to safeguard Freddie’s reputation, just as if he were still around. They will pursue anyone who tells a lie about him, or does something which could impugn Freddie’s integrity or image. So Freddie’s estate were quite within their rights to ask that this ‘portrait’ be improved – especially since the company who created it stand to make a lot of money out of exploiting Freddie’s likeness. Yes, the estate could have taken a more lenient view, but if they had, it would be open season. There would be nothing to stop any number of companies like this making Freddie Elephants or Antelopes, or whatever, distorting Freddie’s features just as they felt inclined, and making loads of money from lots of well-meaning people who might well feel they were contributing directly to a charity.
The normal way to approach this, of course, would have been for the event organisers to phone up Freddie’s estate and ask their permission, and give them approval of the art work. Then there would have been no argument – no ‘sensation’. But then, of course, the massive controversy around this inflated story wouldn’t have happened. I’m sure this storm in a teacup has made the whole project a hundred times more visible in the media than it otherwise would have been. Now there’s a thought.
So, in the light of all this, do we still think a bad decision was made ? Well, please tell me, if and when the new repainted Freddie Gorilla takes the stand next week. Either way, it won’t go unnoticed.
I’ll also update the story a little more at that point, if I know more. OK ?
If you’re quoting me, dear Gentlemen of the Press, please mention the ancient institution of Bri’s Soapbox, which I think was around long before the word ‘Blog’ was coined !
And, if you care about wild animals, please encourage folks to sign the Team Badger petition to save our badgers from the imminent massacre planned by our Government. Here’s the link: there is still time to use your voice.
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257 [Link no longer active]
It’s very sad that this ‘cull’ mess has been sold to farmers as a solution to their Bovine TB problems. The only ‘cure’ for the bovine TB disaster is vaccination – of badgers, but much more importantly, of cows. Yes, they’ll tell you it’s ‘years away’, so not practical. In fact it’s probably 10 years away, realistically, but viewed beside Owen Paterson’s 25-year plan for constantly culling wildlife, which CANNOT eradicate the disease anyway, 10 years sounds pretty good. Are the Government prioritising vaccination ? Not in the least. It’s now rumoured that they are spending more money on ‘Information’ than on progressing vaccination. What’s ‘Information’? That’s the constant stream of propaganda they’re putting out to try to persuade us that the cull is not, as Lord Krebs has described it, crazy.
Propaganda ? Yes – have you noticed all these bogus stories about badgers being responsible for a decline in hedgehogs (try pesticides), being responsible for TB in seals (!) or eating ground nesting birds eggs (oh, yes, hedgehogs were accused of that a few years ago). Look at all these stories out there attempting to discredit the RSPCA, Team Badger, and … yes, folks, little ol’ folks like me.
Who’s paying for this propaganda ? You are. We are. We taxpayers, who seem to have no way of stopping the Government doing awful things against our wishes. Hey !
Now there’s a real scandal.
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