Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Wendy Turner Webster: on the record

Posted: 5 December 2006

TV presenter Wendy Turner Webster is a regular supporter of ADI and NAVS. She’s addressed our Lab Animal Day rallies, appeared in our videos, attended our meetings, lobbied at 10 Downing Street with us, and in January she braved the wintry weather to help “Whip the Animal Welfare Bill into shape”.

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ADI: At the start of the year, you were dressed up as a ringmaster with a whip for ADI, what was all that about?

Wendy Turner Webster: The Animal Welfare Bill had just had its second reading. We knew this was the most important time to build momentum for a ban on animals in circuses and so ADI really stepped up the campaign. This day we were launching a mobile billboard and generally trying to create press interest and a buzz. Shona McIsaac MP, who was presenting our case in Committee, came down too.

It was freezing cold but very sunny and we stood on Horseguards with the ADI mobile billboard behind us whilst the paparazzi snapped away. I was the wicked ringmaster and Joanna from ADI played a cowering tiger. The theme of the shoot was, ‘Let’s Whip This Bill Into Shape’. Sometimes fishnets, a cleavage and high heels is the only way to get any attention – and it seemed to work because we got rather a lot that day! Eventually we were moved on by a big bloke with a gun… We thought we’d better do as he asked. In any case, our job was done. The next day the costume went back to the hire shop – I was rather sad to see it go!

ADI: Within weeks, the Government committed to at least ban some animals from circuses, you must be pleased?

Wendy: Yes, it’s a start. I personally feel that a blanket ban is the only way forward. I can never understand why people are still so daft as to buy tickets to circus shows which involve animals. After all, it’s only the bums on seats which make the enterprise worthwhile. That’s what’s closed the animal circuses so far, and now a handful are hanging on with tiny audiences. The message is simple – don’t go to the circus if you know they use animals! I was very gratified to drive past a circus last year which made a point of advertising the fact that it did NOT have animals.

ADI: Why do you think it is so important to end the use of animals in circuses?

Wendy: Because most of the acts are undignified and unnatural but more importantly because the animals are usually kept in less than ideal conditions, are transported long distances without exercise and are trained by methods of force and cruelty. Seeing animals in circuses also perpetuates the notion that animals are little more than puppets waiting for humans to pull their strings.

ADI: You were one of the first people to see the horrific video footage from the groundbreaking ADI 1996-1998 undercover investigation of the circus industry; do you remember how you felt?

Wendy: I remember feeling sickened by the images but also thrilled that they had been finally captured on film and we could nail the b******s! I also remember feeling total admiration for the people who had managed to take the film – it must have been a very stressful and distressing experience for them. It proved that abuse was taking place and once that footage was released there was no denying it.

ADI: Did you envisage the shockwave that investigation would send, leading to bans in South America, Asia, Europe and finally England and Scotland?

Wendy: I wasn’t surprised. It was heartbreaking stuff and people could not fail to be moved by it. There was no way you could sit and watch that footage and not want to spring into action to put an end to it. And, of course, ADI have continued to gather more harrowing undercover footage since.

ADI: There seems to be a resurgence of performing animals in advertising.....

Wendy: This is really annoying because it’s so totally unnecessary! If you see a performing animal in an advert, you should put pen to paper and let the advertiser know that this particular form of ‘creativity’ is not appreciated and will not inspire you to buy the product! Make the complaint in just the same way as you would if the animal in question was in a travelling circus. And what I find really offensive regarding animals and the world of advertising is when a living creature is actually featured to promote the meat that it will end up as… the current one for Colemans mustard for instance has a man astride a piece of beef which is very much still alive! It is sick! Strike the stuff off your shopping list – the advert is in very bad taste and doesn’t deserve to succeed!

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ADI: You’ve often supported our anti-vivisection events...

Wendy: I am passionately against animal experiments. Indeed my husband Gary and I are patrons of The Humane Research Trust and also support the work of The Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research. One day, our descendants will look back and reel with horror at what we did to animals. I am often asked if I got upset over some of the stories I covered for Pet Rescue… the answer is two fold – if you get too upset you render yourself useless which rather defeats the object, but a person cannot begin to understand cruelty to animals until they have seen some of the appalling suffering which goes on in laboratories. That is why I am so committed to ADI and NAVS because the Field Officers get stuck in and get the evidence.

ADI: Can vivisection ever be justified?

Wendy: No. The funding available from the government and drug companies needs to be funnelled into humane research – that is my firm belief. Humane scientists are proving time and time again that methods of research do exist and can be developed which can give much better and more accurate results for humans in the long term. They just need more funding to carry on this groundbreaking work which benefits animals and humans. I find it abhorrent that the human race sees fit to inflict pain and suffering onto living creatures simply because they cannot make their own stand against such dominance.

ADI: Are you a vegetarian?

Wendy: I am a vegan and a patron of The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society. I became veggie when I was 12, my mum and dad followed and Jack and Freddie are veggie too. Gary was a meat eater when I first met him but for the past 18 months he has not had any meat either. Quite simply, you can’t say you love animals and eat them too – it just doesn’t make sense! It really angers me how kids are taught to pet some animals and eat others. We brainwash our children into thinking that killing some animals for food is OK – it’s not!

ADI: So what are you working on, when you’re not campaigning with ADI?

Wendy: I do some filming for The Baby Channel but in the main I am busy finishing a novel which I hope will be published to come out next year. It’s a fictional work based on my own experiences, during my first marriage, of domestic violence. Also, I am thrilled to have been given my own page in Lifescape magazine – a glossy monthly publication which looks at all manner of fair trade / organic / animal rights issues.

ADI: What do you do to relax?

Wendy: I spend time with my pony Charles (or Stychlands Charlemagne to be correct!). It’s also nice to go up to my parents’ house as mum and dad can take over as far as Jack and Freddie are concerned and I can relax! I love doing the T2 crossword in The Times and the Suduko puzzles. I love reading and always have a novel on the go.

ADI: Favourite movies?

Wendy: My favourite of all time is Aliens – the director’s cut. Terminator 2 is also a favourite as is Sponge Bob The Movie… I love Sponge Bob (and luckily so do my children!)

ADI: Favourite TV programmes?

Wendy: I haven’t watched mainstream TV for ages – mainly because it’s awash with tacky reality TV programmes which I detest. We were recently asked to do Celebrity Wife Swap – I was truly insulted to be considered for it! Personally I’d rather swap my eye balls for two rotting tomatoes. Anyway, back to the point… thank God for satellite! I love Frasier, Forensic Detectives, Seconds From Disaster, Poirot and Murder, She Wrote… and of course, Sponge Bob Square Pants.

ADI: And, to listen to?

Wendy: I’m afraid I’m rather stuck in the 70’s and 80’s. My favourite band of all time is The Jam. I also like Talking Heads, Abba, Blondie, David Bowie, Kate Bush and The Kinks. At the moment…. Jack and Freddie have the CD which is the soundtrack to Sponge Bob The Movie so that gets played in the car on a daily basis!

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