When I was a kid back in the 80’s I went to Singapore for a family holiday. I was taken to the Island of Sentosha, a wildlife and themepark resort off the main coast, and remember it being the closest to a Disneyland experience I had ever gotten. A huge holiday destination in the middle of a pacific paradise, cable car rides, awesome food - what was not to enjoy? One of the attractions involved feeding alligators from meat hooked on a zipline - but making the alligators ‘jump’ out of their somewhat small and cramped concrete swamp-pond to do it. I then got to take a photo of myself sitting on one of them. In another exhibit, I got to take my picture with a leashed orangutan.
Me as a kid, in Sentosha. Seemed harmless, but totally wasn't
This kind of experience wasn’t unique to me, and right now millions of children across the world are being normalised to a way of thinking that places mankind as ‘masters of the environment’ - that we can do what we like to ‘lower’ life forms as long as we’re happy and being entertained. It took me until my adult life to finally realise that true social equity extends to all life, and that’s due in no small part to the campaigning work of the Born Free Foundation.
Actress Virginia McKenna and the Lioness, 'Girl'
The Born Free Foundation was started by actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the 1966 film ‘Born Free’, along with their son Will Travers, who is now President and CEO of the Foundation.
‘Born Free’ followed the story of a couple’s unique efforts to rehabilitate and return an orphaned lioness named Elsa to the wild. It was a film which touched the hearts of cinema-goers around the world, and inspired the creation of the Born Free Foundation, some 20 years later, in 1984.
The 'Born Free' movie advert
Today, the Born Free Foundation campaigns against animal exploitation in all of its forms - from the ivory trade, bloodsport hunting, and the use of wild animals in circuses. From a small grassroots group, Born Free has grown into an international organisation supported by hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals. Not an easy task, when one of your main goals is to end the exploitation and imprisonment of animals in zoos and entertainment.
A Cheetah cub in captivity, documented by Born Free
The Born Free Foundation’s international work includes ‘Zoo Check’, an audit of global entities exploiting animals for entertainment; active protection of marine life from irresponsible tourist activities; and a global program to build and support sanctuaries, where animals can live free from exploitation.
It’s no wonder that Gary Hodges, one of THTC’s newest collaborating artists is a patron. He’s in good company alongside Joanna Lumley, Martin Clunes, Bryan Adams, Rachel Hunter, Helen Worth, Jenny Seagrove and Martin Shaw. Gary has pledged one of his most renowned creations, ‘Boy & Christian’, to THTC. We’ve produced another exquisite graphite-screen design, printed on organic cotton, ethically and sustainably produced. 25% of sales from this t-shirt will go to the Born Free Foundation, to help spread its compassionate conservation and animal welfare message.
Boy & Christian - A Gary Hodges illustration
Born Free joins the EIA and World Land Trust as one of THTC’s key Partners-for-Change. Our Partnership initiative is a simple one - allow our community to effect positive change in the world by buying dope clothing.
We’re constantly told that animals ‘have a better life’ in zoos, or street acts with kindly masters. Here’s the thing - that ‘better life’ is usually measured on the spectrum of human experience. Wild animals experience the world in a markedly different way to humans. We’re told that ‘children need zoos to learn about animals.’ Find me a kid that doesn’t know what a Brontosaurus is, what it ate and where it lived - yet we don’t have a single one kept in captivity.
When humanity meets the wild, the wild inevitably bends like a reed. Sometimes it springs back and hits you in the face, but often it breaks. Captive wildlife doesn’t have a choice, it can’t quit or walk away from an oppressive job that works all hours. Most importantly, animals can’t speak for themselves. So it’s vital that organisations like, like the Born Free Foundation, the EIA and World Land Trust stand up to speak for them.