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Nevada convention to culminate with chance to hunt deer with accomplished conservationist Trump Jr and son

A week-long dream hunt with the US presidents son Donald Trump Jr is being auctioned at an annual trophy hunting convention in Reno, Nevada alongside expeditions to shoot elephants, bears and giraffes.

The four-day event organized by Safari Club International (SCI) and advertised as a hunters heaven, will culminate on Saturday with an auction for a week-long Sitka black-tailed deer hunt in Alaska with Trump Jr, his son and a guide. At the time of writing, bidding for the yacht-based expedition stands at $10,000 (7,685).

Other prizes include the chance to shoot an elephant on a 14-day trip in Namibia, an all-inclusive hunt package to Zimbabwe to kill buffalo, giraffe and wildebeest, and a 10-day crocodile hunting expedition in South Africa. The proceeds from the auction, which campaigners say could exceed $5m, will fund SCIs hunter advocacy and wildlife conservation efforts, according to the organization.

Thousands of hunters from around the world are expected to attend the convention which begins on Wednesday, where Trump Jr, an avid trophy hunter, is set to give a keynote address.

The description of the auction prize states: This year we will be featuring Donald Trump Jr, a man who needs no introduction, and whose passion for the outdoors makes him the number one ambassador for our way of life.

Don Jr shares this heritage with his son and believes in handing down these lessons to young hunters. Don Jr and his son will be hosting this years hunt along with Keegan [the guide] in Alaska.

It comes just weeks after ProPublica revealed Trump Jr killed a rare species of endangered sheep during a hunting trip to Mongolia last summer.

Last week, anti-hunting campaigners condemned the annual SCI convention, and Brian Wilson and Al Jardine backed a boycott of their former band the Beach Boys, who are scheduled to appear at the event.

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The long read: He is the most beloved figure in Britain, and, at 93, a global superstar. His films long shied away from discussing humanitys impact on the planet. Now they are sounding the alarm but is it too late?

In the late 1980s, a meeting was convened at the BBC studios on Whiteladies Road in Bristol. Its participants mainly amiable former public schoolboys named Mike discussed the imminent retirement of a grey-haired freelancer, who had been working with the BBC for almost four decades. We need to think about who is going to take over from David when this series is finished, a junior producer, Mike Gunton, remembered his boss saying. David Attenborough was nearing 65 and putting the finishing touches to The Trials of Life, the third of his epic series about the natural world. These programmes had been broadcast around the globe. They had established a new genre, perhaps even a new language, of wildlife films. It was a fine legacy. Now it was time to go.

When Alastair Fothergill became head of the BBC Natural History Unit a few years later, executives were still worrying over the same question. The BBC director-general asked him to find a new David Attenborough. I remember thinking, thats not very sensible, said Fothergill. He has always been this great oak tree under which its been hard for a sapling to grow. Today, Mike Gunton has ascended the ranks to become creative director of the Natural History Unit. He still attends meetings on Whiteladies Road. But, three decades after the subject was first broached, finding the next David Attenborough is no longer on the agenda. We still havent got an answer and I dont want one, Gunton told me.

Attenborough was born on 8 May 1926, 17 days after the Queen. And, like the Queen, he has become a symbol of stability in a turbulent world. It is hard to imagine a time before he was on our screens, affably engaging with sloths or giant turtles partly because there wasnt. Television was invented the year after he was born, and only began to enter peoples homes in the 1950s, when he was beginning his career. The first programme he made was watched by barely 10,000 people gazing at 405 flickering black-and-white lines on large boxes in living rooms in the south-east of England. This spring, his series Our Planet became Netflixs most-watched original documentary, watched by 33 million people in its first month. This autumn, the BBC will broadcast Seven Worlds, One Planet, the 19th blockbuster series he has written and presented (add a zero and then some if also counting his pre-70s series, short series and one-offs). The television executives who keep offering this 93-year-old freelancer bountiful employment agree that he is more powerful than ever.

Attenborough and the Queen are more than just contemporaries. I see them quite a lot, Attenborough said of the royal family when I met him at his home in Richmond earlier this year. He first encountered the Queens children, Charles and Anne, in 1958, when they toured the BBCs Lime Grove studios and the young presenter introduced them to his pet cockatoo, Cocky. In 1986, the year after Attenborough was knighted, he produced the first of six Christmas broadcasts for the Queen. Earlier this year, he was interviewed by Prince William on stage at Davos; the future king asked him for advice on how best to save the planet.

David Attenborough on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in June. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

In our fractured age, Attenborough is the closest we have to a universally beloved public figure. Last year, a YouGov poll found him to be the most popular person in Britain. The crowd at Glastonburys Pyramid stage roared when he appeared on stage this summer. Viewers of Love Island expressed outrage when one contestant declared she found his programmes boring. But Attenborough transcended national treasure status some years ago. He is a truly global figure now. So many Chinese viewers downloaded Blue Planet II that it temporarily slowed down the countrys internet, according to the Sunday Times. The premiere of his new series, which took place earlier this month in London, was broadcast live in South Africa and India, where rapt schoolchildren held up signs: Thank you for being you Sir David A and Sir David please come to India please. As he moves from the White House to the World Economic Forum, urging presidents, businesspeople and the public to better protect the environment, he has come to be viewed, in a way he sees as overblown, as a keeper of humanitys conscience. That man who saves the world, is how my seven-year-old daughter describes him.

There will never be another David Attenborough. What makes him special, apart from all his personal qualities, is the timing of his life, said Fothergill. When Attenborough began travelling the world in the 1950s, Fothergill noted, we were in a different geological epoch, the Holocene. Today, we live in the Anthropocene, an epoch defined by Homo sapiens disruptive dominance of the planet. Hes seen more of the natural world than any human being that has ever lived on the planet and hes also seen more change than anyone else. And he feels a responsibility.

Despite the adulation, one charge has dogged Attenborough for decades. Critics argue that he has built himself a unique storytelling platform, only to fail to tell the most important story of all: the destructive impact of people on the planet. But one reason Attenborough has thrived on screen for seven decades is because he has always sensed how attitudes are changing, and moved with the times. For a long time, he maintained that his programmes must showcase the wonders of the natural world, and not speak of the human one. Now his newest series are filled with urgent messages about environmental destruction. Still, he resists the idea that he has changed; he prefers to say that it is the public mood that has transformed. After a lifetime of caution, almost despite himself, he has become a leading champion for action.

Attenborough fell in love with the natural world as a boy, exploring his way through his neighbourhood in Leicester, looking for bugs, insects and amphibians. The middle child of three brothers, he grew up in a family of teachers. His father was principal of University College, Leicester. His mother was a talented pianist. Education was revered. When I met Attenborough in the spring, he spoke of his boyhood passions keeping tanks of tropical fish, venturing across northern England on his bike as a young teen, alone, in search of fossils.

To this day, Attenborough is still a collector of tribal art, books and music but although more than a dozen species are named after him, including a flightless weevil, Trigonopterus Attenboroughi, and a genus of dinosaur, Attenborosaurus, he is not an authority on natural history. Everyone thinks hes an amazing naturalist, said the producer and writer Mary Colwell, who worked with him at the Natural History Unit in the 2000s. He isnt at all. Hes a great storyteller. Everyone thinks he makes these programmes. He doesnt but without him they wouldnt sparkle in the way they do.

Attenborough agrees. Work and reputation get separated, he said. Forty years ago, he travelled around the world three times in order to make his groundbreaking series Life on Earth. He wrote the script, and every page of the accompanying book. But now I just write and speak the words. And people say: What was it like when you saw that animal charging in? And I say: I wasnt there. Thirty cameramen worked on this thing. Im given credit for things I dont do. I am grateful, but Im also embarrassed.

Attenborough with a bird-eating spider in 2005 during an episode of Life In the Undergrowth. Photograph: BBC/Bridget Appleby/BBC

It is even worse, he said, when viewers assume he is a source of scientific wisdom. OK, I was a biologist once, but Im a hopeless birder. If I go out with a birder I keep my mouth shut. I just nod. Mmmm. Mmmm. So to use a horrible word, Ive become a kind of icon. Using it in its original meaning, Im the image of what they think of as a naturalist. Im a reasonable naturalist, but Im not the great all-seeing source of all information, knowledge and understanding. At times, Attenboroughs self-deprecation almost sounds like imposter syndrome. When I asked him to list his failings as a person, he narrowed his eyes. Im too convincing, he laughed, comparing his own expertise unfavourably to other wildlife broadcasters such as Simon King and Liz Bonnin. When it comes to, as it were, conning your way through, Im not bad at it. Never identify things unnecessarily.

Even so, plenty of colleagues recall Attenborough relishing his ability to surprise them with his knowledge. Jonny Keeling, the executive producer of Seven Worlds, One Planet, was excited to show his presenter never-obtained-before footage from China of a golden snub-nosed monkey. Oh yes, Rhinopithecus roxellana, remembered Attenborough instantly: he knew all about it and had tried to film it many years before.

The only praise Attenborough will accept is for his skill as a storyteller. Robert Attenborough, Davids son and an anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, remembered, as a teenager, watching him in the raconteur role as a host of a dinner party and admiring the skill with which he would tell a funny story. Sometimes they get slightly improved. Thats something we used to tease him about. Of course he wouldnt do that, then or now, when making a serious point.

Attenboroughs storytelling has been honed over seven decades in television and he is, above all, a TV man. After studying natural sciences at Cambridge, he married his university sweetheart, Jane Oriel, and ditched his boring junior publishing job for the glamorous new world of television. He started off behind the camera, after one of his first bosses decided his teeth were too big for a presenter. In 1954, Attenborough travelled to Sierra Leone with Jack Lester, London Zoos curator of reptiles, to film a new series, Zoo Quest. The concept was simple: they would catch wild animals their bounty from Sierra Leone included pythons, bird-eating spiders and their big prize, the bald-headed rockfowl and bring them back to London to add to the zoos collection. At the outset, Attenborough was the producer, director, sound man and animal-wrangler. He only ended up being the presenter because Lester was taken ill after the first episode.

Zoo Quest was broadcast in black and white, but the original colour footage, which was later discovered by BBC archivists, is beautiful. Attenborough narrates his encounters in clipped, 1950s, BBC-issue received pronunciation, with little trace of his more expressive later style. Although the colonial animal-snatching conceit of Zoo Quest is extremely dated, each episode focuses as much on the human worlds he visits as the exotic animals. Attenboroughs script is factual, respectful and open-minded; his films unsensationally depict nudity, polygamy and other cultural traditions, alongside the animal hunt.

Over the next few years, new series of Zoo Quest appeared and Attenboroughs reputation grew. With his keen eye for the perceptions of his TV audience, he adapted cannily to a rapidly expanding industry. By the dawn of the 60s, as he admitted in his autobiography, Zoo Quest was looking increasingly antiquated. He realised that it was time for a new approach. His next Quest series, filmed in northern Australia, eschewed attempts to bring animals home and instead depicted the cultural lives of Aboriginal peoples.

David Attenborough with an armadillo on BBC TV in 1963. Photograph: BBC

The trip to Australia inspired him to take a part-time postgraduate degree in anthropology, but he was tempted back to full-time TV work before he could complete it. In 1965, he became controller of BBC Two, an appointment greeted with scepticism by TV professionals quoted in newspaper columns of the day. At first, he was considered lightweight, a youthful bit of eye-candy, but he was soon hailed for his unexpected success, as a Daily Express profile put it. Everybody forgot I wasnt just a naturalist I was always a trained TV man, he told the paper in 1965. Hell, I love it. I watch everything. Straight home from the office switch to BBC Two see all my babies.

As the channels controller and then director of programmes for both BBC channels, Attenborough was a great innovator. In 1967, the government decided that BBC Two would become the first channel to switch to colour, and he set about exploiting this advantage. He put snooker on the channel and helped devise new forms of sport: one-day cricket and rugby league under floodlights. Programmes that emerged under his watch include Dads Army, Porridge and Monty Pythons Flying Circus. In 1972, he championed community programming that included what has been described as the first sympathetic portrayal of transgender people on British television; he even suggested phone-ins to widen audience participation, years before they became a staple of TV and radio.

One of his lasting innovations was the all-you-need-to-know documentary, beginning with Kenneth Clarks Civilisation. Attenborough designed this epic, 12-part series about the history of art and culture to showcase the glory of colour television. These monumental series became known as sledgehammers, and there followed uncompromisingly highbrow treatments of human evolution, economics and US history. But Attenborough believed the best subject for sledgehammer treatment was yet to come: natural history.

Attenboroughs achievements at BBC Two made him a prime candidate for director-general, the top job at the corporation. But he was tiring of the senior executives life desk-bound, constant meetings and in the early 70s he resigned. The fact he didnt want to stay as an executive and wanted to go back to programming says something very important about him, his son Robert told me. Attenborough yearned to be more creative, and had seen the thankless politics involved in the top job. The Archangel Gabriel couldnt do the DGs job, he remarked to me.

Instead, he persuaded the BBC that he could create a Civilisation-style treatment of the evolution of plants and animals. This series took three years to make, and the budget was so big that Attenborough had to pitch to US networks for funding. (He still enjoys impersonating a sceptical American TV man aghast at the prospect of funding a series that opened with slime mould.)

Life on Earth was broadcast for 55 minutes on 13 consecutive Sunday evenings in 1979. It started quietly, according to Mike Salisbury, a former producer who worked on the programme. Despite the presence of a safari-suited Attenborough, binoculars around his neck, skipping between exotic locations, the early episodes often feel like a lecture with moving pictures. Our handsome presenter tries to make the best of diagrams of DNA, micro-organisms and 200m-year-old fossils. A whole lot of worms have left this delicate tracery of trails in what was mud, he enthuses in the Grand Canyon. Salisbury chuckled at the difficulty of bringing this to life on television: Fossils, for Gods sake. They dont even move.

But as its epic story slowly unfolds, the series warms up. The writing is often superb: Four million animals and plants in the world, says Attenborough, four million different solutions to staying alive. The penultimate episode, on primates, features the first memorable Attenborough two shot, where he appears alongside another animal. He joins a grooming session among mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and still has the presence-of-mind to whisper: There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know. Although some facts have changed we now know there are more than 8m species, not 4m the series stands the test of time; one Cambridge professor still shows his undergraduates the primates episode each year.

Attenborough introducing Prince Charles and Princess Anne to his cockatoo, Cocky, in 1958. Photograph: PA

For old-timers at the BBC, history is divided into before and after Life on Earth. We hadnt realised what a game-changer it was going to be, said Salisbury. By the end there were 14 million people watching it. The series established what television executives call the blue-chip natural history blockbuster. While the BBC has relinquished its dominance over most genres, it remains the pre-eminent maker of natural history programmes, according to Fothergill. So much of that is down to David, he said. Much imitated, these blockbusters are still a huge global export: the BBC will not reveal what profit, if any, these series make, but Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II were sold to more than 235 territories.

After the success of Life on Earth, Attenborough spent much of the 80s completing what became a triumvirate of blue-chip behemoths, with The Living Planet exploring ecology and The Trials of Life revealing animal behaviour. He also turned his attention to series about less fashionable subjects: plants, spiders, stick insects and other invertebrates. Audiences liked his enthusiasm, his quick wit and his affection for animals, already evident from his early days bottle-feeding a tiny African bush rat in Zoo Quest.

From Natural History Unit veterans such as Salisbury to colleagues today, everyone paints the same picture of Attenborough in the field: a team-player, carrying kit, energetic, curious, without vanity, funny, not suffering fools and preternaturally lucky. Everyone has a story about him joining a crew that has lucklessly staked out a target species for two weeks, only for that creature whether Hungarian mayfly or polar bear to suddenly hove into view. I dont like presenters on the whole. I dont think they are particularly nice people, one producer told me. But Attenborough was different. Hes not a prima donna. Hes not an ego on a stick. He doesnt need to be now.

By the early 80s, Attenboroughs programmes had been broadcast around the world and he became recognised wherever he went. But he was not yet, to use another label that vexes him, a global superstar. Until recently, when Attenboroughs series were shown on US television, broadcasters would replace his narration with voices they thought an American audience would prefer. In 2010, when Life was broadcast in the US, Oprah Winfrey was the narrator.

Viewers tend to assume Attenborough writes every word he says on screen, while TV people think his lines are written for him. The truth is somewhere in between. Attenboroughs scripts are written by production teams, but he is an unusually rigorous editor and rewriter. Even today, Attenborough rewrites each script to fit his own turn of phrase and checks for accuracy. If I send him a script, he goes through it with a fine-tooth comb. More than any other presenter, said Mary Colwell. His attention to detail is incredible and he wont say anything he doesnt want to say.

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When filming, according to Mike Gunton, Attenborough does not learn his lines precisely. He looks at it and comes back and says: What do you think if I say it like this? His turn of phrase and the way he delivers these turns of phrase its got such power. He has the same genes as his brother, meaning Richard, the Oscar-winning actor-director, who died in 2014. Ive often said hes as good a performer as his brother, Gunton said.

You change the pace, you change the timbre, you change the mood, and the commentary has organic flow, Attenborough told me. If the last sentence ended 10 seconds ago rather than one minute ago, you start in a different kind of way. I dont think other people do that. Its a craft, and I quite enjoy it, actually. His colleagues think his voice has improved with age. If you go back to the older programmes, even on Blue Planet [from 2001], its quite a clipped voice, said Fothergill. Its now the voice of an older man, but its become even more powerful, with a timbre and an emotional resonance.

By his own admission, it took some time for Attenborough to realise just what a threat humankind posed to the environment. When he was younger, he said, people knew of species that had gone extinct, such as the Arabian oryx and the dodo, but you didnt perceive it as a major ecological problem. And in point of fact, lets be honest, if the Hawaiian goose disappears, the world doesnt actually judder in its revolutions. It wasnt until Life on Earth that he came to see that species decline was systemic and actually the disappearance of the giant panda represented some major change.

For most of his life, Attenboroughs environmentalism has been the old-fashioned, off-screen variety, lending his support to numerous green charities. Ever since he was asked, as a bit of a joke, to open a visitor centre at a nature reserve by the village of Attenborough in Nottinghamshire, in 1966, he has given rousing speeches (I have seen several) at hundreds of events for nature charities across Britain. It is hard to find a visitor centre at a Wildlife Trust nature reserve that does not feature a silver plaque declaring that it was Opened by Sir David Attenborough.

To his critics, these good deeds do not make up for what they see as Attenboroughs great failing as a broadcaster. Putting the case for the prosecution, the journalist George Monbiot has accused Attenborough of knowingly creating a false impression of the world by making films that underplay humanitys impact on the planet and fail to identify the forces driving mass extinction and the climate crisis. Another environmentalist told me that Attenborough possesses irreproachable integrity, but his long silence on extinction and global warming in his television work has contributed towards a popular knowledge deficit.

Richard Mabey, a naturalist who worked in television before almost single-handedly reviving British nature writing, has long made a version of this argument. When Life on Earth came out in 1979, and The Living Planet five years later, I was concerned about the fact that this wasnt a place I recognised, Mabey told me. What one saw was magnificent, but it was what one didnt see no humans, no environmental degradation. It was like an idealised biosphere on another planet. Once, in the early 80s, Mabey bumped into Attenborough at a lunch. I asked him, genuinely curious, why this picture of the planet was so devoid of environmental strife? He said, very simply: We wouldnt have got the viewers, they would have turned off. I was quite distressed.

TV executives repeat Attenboroughs argument today. A blue-chip series costs millions to produce and requires global funding. BBC programme-makers are terrified of being seen as political. At the launch of Seven Worlds, One Planet, Keeling insisted that its not preachy. As Miles Barton, a long-standing Attenborough producer, put it: The more preachy you are, the lower the numbers are going to be. The lower the numbers, the less money the series will make, the less funding for the next. Mabey understood this equation. Attenborough has power over the audience, he said. Im not sure he has power over the money men. My initial worry about him not including environmental disasters in his early series may have been less his personal choice than corporate pressure.

Attenborough taking part in a discussion with Christine Lagarde, managing director of the Internation Monetary Fund, in Washington earlier this year. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

As a young producer, it was drilled into Attenborough that private convictions must not be aired in public. He has always upheld the values of the liberal establishment avowedly internationalist and anti-populist in his veneration of expertise and taken the traditional BBC line on party-political neutrality. Im not a political chap, I know about bugs, he protested when asked about Brexit in 2017. (When pushed, he revealed that he voted to remain.)

Like most in the Natural History Unit, Attenborough has also long defended his work with a show the wonders and then people will care argument. When we spoke earlier this year, Attenborough put it more bluntly: People ought to be concerned because they think the natural world is important. If they know nothing about the natural world they wont care a toss.

To a sympathetic observer, the lack of campaigning films in Attenboroughs oeuvre might look like a canny political calculation about the most effective way to shift popular opinion over the long-term. But it may just reflect his temperament. I made natural history programmes not because I was a rampaging proselytiser preaching about conservation, he told me. I like looking at animals and seeing what they do. Attenborough praises more outspoken broadcasters, such as Chris Packham. Chris is to be admired, actually, because he would sacrifice his career in the name of something that he thought was important about conservation. He would. And more strength to his elbow, he said. But that is not Attenboroughs way. He acknowledged that he would probably not ever risk getting banned from the BBC.

In public, he has always been reserved. Journalists have often noted his refusal to emote in interviews. This image of an emotionally repressed English gentleman, a man of his era, is not his private self at all, says his son. I regard him as an exception to all the rules of English maleness, said Robert. In personal life, hes not shy with his emotions. I would not see him as a classic English male in that sense hes a warmer person, a more expressive person than that. When Attenboroughs wife, Jane, died 20 years ago, his grief was intense and fully expressed, remembered Robert.

Even so, his public reticence and natural caution have made the final stage of his career all the more striking.

In November 2004, nearly 20 years after the phrase global warming was first coined, Attenborough attended a lecture in Belgium given by Ralph Cicerone, an American expert on atmospheric chemistry. The graphs that Cicerone presented, showing the rise in global temperatures, finally convinced Attenborough, beyond any doubt, that humans were responsible for the changing climate. Attenborough insists he was never a sceptic about man-made climate change; just cautious. Even after Cicerones lecture, he still believed his job was to make programmes about wildlife. He worried that people would think he was setting himself up as an expert on climate science.

Attenboroughs output changed, however. This distinction may mystify those beyond the Natural History Unit, but its film-makers distinguish between natural history and environmental film-making. The former focus on animal or plant biology and behaviour; the latter address environmental issues. Attenboroughs 2006 BBC two-parter, The Truth About Climate Change, was his first to address global warming explicitly. Three years later came How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?, which reflected his long-standing concern over the rising human population. (Attenboroughs position incurred criticism from some who argued he was focusing more on environmental harm caused by poorer nations rather than over-consumption by wealthier populations.) This year came a new Attenborough BBC documentary, Climate Change: The Facts. Next year, the BBC will broadcast another, Extinction: The Facts.

Extinction Rebellion protesters hold up an image of Attenborough in Parliament Square in April. Photograph: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty

The arrival of Blue Planet II in 2017 heralded a new urgency to Attenboroughs blockbusters, helping transform popular attitudes towards waste and pollution with its images of plastic enveloping a turtle, and albatrosses unwittingly feeding plastic bags to their chicks. When I interviewed Attenborough this spring, his Netflix series Our Planet had not yet been released. It was billed as a significantly more pressing appeal to save the world, and Fothergill, its producer, was keen to assert its environmental credentials. Attenborough, meanwhile, seemed equally keen to assert that it wasnt so different to his earlier work: If you forget the flummery and the propaganda and the press releases, what does it do? It shows the most breathtaking sequences youve ever seen beauty, wonder, spectacles filmed in a way that you never saw before, with drones and in fabulous colour, with surging music, and so on, and then at the end, it says its all in danger. Thats what they do. Im not ashamed of that. I think its a perfectly valid thing.

But the strange thing, when you sat down to watch Our Planet, was that it did not match Attenboroughs billing. Each episode began with him discussing the moon landing. Since then, the human population has more than doubled, his voiceover continued. This series will celebrate the natural wonders that remain, and reveal what we must preserve to ensure that people and nature thrive. The series returned, relentlessly, to this manifesto. It explained the importance of rainforest for a habitable climate, and almost no stunning sequence of wild animals came without Attenborough emphasising the precariousness of their continued existence. Likewise, in Seven Worlds, One Planet, the environmental messages are no longer restricted to an appeal at the end of each episode. The first story about the impact of climate change comes 16 minutes into the opening episode. Throughout, there are sequences that highlight the human actions climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, poaching causing Earths sixth great planetary extinction. We are a behavioural wildlife show and weve got a whole sequence without an animal in it thats a remarkable change, said the series producer, Scott Alexander.

This shift in Attenboroughs work reflects a response by film-makers, and particularly the Natural History Unit, to accusations that they have pulled punches in the past. Yet, as his protestations suggest, being environmental has not come easily to Attenborough. I dont think hes naturally an environmentalist at all, said one

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The punks were sceptical of my presence. One guy even headbutted me. In retrospect, I think it was a sign of acceptance

I was in my mid-20s when Cornell Capa, director of the International Center of Photography in New York, recommended me for a job documenting life in the American sector of Berlin while the city was still divided. As a young photographer, I was so nervous. All of these senior German officials were swanning around my studio inspecting my work.

I blurted out that I wasnt American, that I was born in Canada, almost like a confession. I felt I had to tell them. They just looked at me quizzically, laughed and started speaking in German. I have no idea what they thought of me. But I got the job.

I went to West Berlin in 1982 to document what was called Mauerkrankheit, which roughly translates as wall sickness. It was a disorder, identified in Berlin, caused by the fact that youre living in this divided city, surrounded by the tension between the Soviet and American sectors. Its a slow-motion trauma that culminates in depression. I heard that nearly 10% of people living in the east were diagnosed with it.

In the west, I discovered a different side to the disorder. Every Saturday, punks would hang out, drink beer and blare music through their soundsystems. Cars would be set alight and bank windows smashed in. The cops would arrive, teargas them and send them running to find shelter in nearby bars, and the whole cycle would repeat. They were sceptical of me to begin with. One guy even headbutted me. In retrospect, I think that was a sign of acceptance.

Getting to know them wasnt easy, and it happened in the strangest of ways. I would carry a bunch of bananas to snack on while I wandered the streets. When I found the punks, I didnt know what to say, so I offered them bananas. They just laughed at me. But they must have liked it, because they welcomed me into their crew.

As I got to know them, I realised they fitted into the idea of the wall sickness, but they were the manic side of the depression that reigned in the east. There was something psychotic about punk at the time. These werent just weekend punks and punk wasnt just a look this was their life.

The woman in this shot was called Miriam, and the rat on her shoulder is called Bestia. It was a week or so before Reagan was planning to visit, and there were windows smashed all over the city in protest. Despite the violence and the militancy, she was extremely gentle. She was big, much bigger than me, but she had a soft way of gesturing and moving.

She invited me to her place, a nearby squat. We hung out, drank tea, took some shots and became friends. She introduced me to her rat, Bestia, who lived in her oven. Being a squat, it had no electricity, so it was perfectly safe. Bestia was almost like a guardian angel for Miriam, keeping her safe amid the anarchy. I think it was useful to keep guys off her back, too nobodys messing when you have a rat draped around your neck.

People feel this image represents a moment in Berlins history, or the punk movement more broadly, but to me its a shot of someone I got to know, who welcomed me into a hard-to-reach scene. It was a doorway for me into other activist and protest scenes, and I remember the time fondly.

People seem to think that punk has died, and maybe elements of the aesthetic have. But the spirit of punk was so much more than a look, and I think that lives on, albeit in different forms. I think we saw it in the Occupy movement, within elements of the Arab spring, and I think we are seeing it today in the UK with Extinction Rebellion.

Philip Pococks CV

Photograph: Heike Borowski

Born: Ottawa, Canada, 1954.

Training: Film and television production, New York University.

Influences: Diane Arbus, Brassa, the Capa brothers, Eikoh Hosoe, Andr Kertsz, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Gordon Parks, Thomas Ruff, Aaron Siskind, Francesca Woodman.

High point: My 1997 Documenta X commission, Germany.

Low point: A life-changing accident on a film set in 1979.

Top tip: Draw with your eyes. Think like a writer. Earn trust and befriend!

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An audience is in absolute awe of this dads saxophone skills. An audience of cows, that is.

Erin Herrmann posted a two-part video of some pure dad content on Wednesday.

My parents are such goofs they drove out to the backroads so my dad could play the cows the songs hes been learning on the saxophone, Erin wrote on Twitter.

Erin told the Daily Dot that her dad,Rick Herrmann, has been learning to play the saxophonewith help from the internetfor seven months now. TheHerrmann family lives by a cow field and always makes sure to stop and say hi to Ricks favorite animals.

When he practices saxophone my dog hates it so much, she even chewed up his reeds, Erin said. My dad thought that maybe the cows would appreciate his music even if our dog doesnt.

The video has amassed over 200,000 retweets, ascending Rick to viral dad status. Erin said her dad finds his new-found fame crazy.

This was never his goal, it was my moms idea to film it, Erin said.

Erin said her mom,Kym Herrmann, was the one who encouraged Rick to play for the cows.

Hes thrilled at how many people he is making happy and just wants people to remember to look for the little moments of joy in life. Youre never too old, Erin said.

People are definitely impressed with Ricks ability to captivate such an unlikely audience.

Was Jimi Hendrix responsible for the bright-green tropical birds presence in the capital? Or was it Katharine Hepburn?

Electric Ladyland wasnt the only thing Jimi Hendrix released in 1968. One day in that tumultuous year he left his flat on Brook Street, Mayfair, and strolled down nearby Carnaby Street with a birdcage in his hands. I like to think that he was dressed in a tasselled jacket and flares, his favourite Fender Stratocaster slung across his back. Or perhaps he travelled incognito, in a trenchcoat and dark glasses. Either way, somewhere on that street, the heart of Swinging London at the height of peace and love, he opened the door of the cage and unleashed two bright green birds: Adam and Eve, a breeding pair of ring-necked parakeets.

Jimi Hendrix in Montagu Place, London, in 1967 Photograph: David Magnus/Rex Features

As they vanished, a flash of tropical colour against the grey sky, passersby merely shrugged: just more hippy weirdness. Was it a psychedelic stunt? A symbolic gesture of freedom? The result of a week-long drugs bacchanal? No one really knows. What we do know is that this incident is the indisputable origin of Londons population of feral parakeets, which now number in the tens of thousands and have spread from Hounslow to Haringey, Croydon to Crouch End.

Unless that story is not true, and actually Londons parakeets arrived in 1951 with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The Hollywood stars were in town filming The African Queen at Isleworth Studios (or Shepperton Studios, depending on who you ask). A romantic adventure set in the equatorial swamps of east Africa, the film required exotic extras, so a flock of ring-necked parakeets was unwisely brought on set. Whether these resourceful birds escaped before, during or after filming has not been definitively established they certainly dont appear in the film, which I have watched frame by frame but what lies beyond all reasonable doubt is that these cinematic escapees were the progenitors of todays population.

Unless, of course, that is fake news, and the parakeets owe their current success to George Michael in the 1990s. Either burglars broke into the singers Hampstead townhouse and wrecked his secret aviary he never reported the crime, presumably wary of police involvement or they escaped during a drunken argument involving Michael and Boy George in a flat they are rumoured to have shared in Brockley.

A parakeet in St Jamess Park, London. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

Unless they made their bid for freedom during the Great Storm of 1987.

Unless they escaped from the livestock transportation area in Heathrow airport.

Unless they fled Henry VIIIs menagerie at Hampton Court Palace in the mid-16th century and somehow remained hidden for the next 400 years.

If you ask random Londoners how parakeets came to thrive in their city streaking in squadron-like formations through parks, down roads and along canals, following regular flyways as punctually as business commuters the chances are that one of these theories will be told as fact. No one is ever sure where they heard it. They are classic urban myths, spreading through word of mouth, mutating and evolving a little with every teller. Whatever the truth, or lack of it, these stories are a sign that Londons parakeets, in their short time among us, have become deeply lodged in the citys collective imagination.

Katharine Hepburn cycles to Worton Hall Studios, Isleworth, in 1951 for work on the film The African Queen. Photograph: PA

Sadly, there is a more prosaic explanation. Small, charismatic and brilliantly coloured though voiced with a horrendous squawk parakeets have been popular as pets for hundreds of years. We have no idea how many arrived in Britain through Londons busy docks, or how many seized the first opportunity to escape, but dozens or hundreds of individuals must have gained freedom over the years, flocking together for protection and enthusiastically breeding.

Their success was limited at first. The earliest recorded sightings were in Dulwich in 1893 and Brixton in 1894. A breeding pair were reported in Epping Forest in 1930. It wasnt until the late 20th century that the first large colony was established, roosting noisily in the trees by the river at Kingston-upon-Thames, where they became such a local feature that many people still know the birds as Kingston parakeets. For decades they were an exotic novelty, exclusive to south-west London.

Then, perhaps 10 years ago, began the great green expansion.

Parakeet expansion in London map

First they spread into Richmond and Kew. Then they crossed the Thames. They established themselves in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Regents Park, and moved north into Highgate and Hampstead Heath, west into Holland Park and Notting Hill, and east along the Regents Canal into Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes. Almost overnight they appeared in places theyd never been in before, and quickly became almost as ubiquitous as pigeons. In the space of a few short years they spread to every borough and even beyond the M25, following in the path of generations of upwardly mobile Londoners by departing the grimy inner city for the Home Counties.

Amazingly, this mass colonisation an audacious ecological shift went largely unremarked upon until very recently. Despite the parakeets colour, numbers and noise, no one (apart from the urban mythologists and boozy anecdotists in pubs) seemed to consider it worthy of attention.

Henry VIII. Photograph: DEA/G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images

A clue to their unlikely success can be found in Londons map. The capital soon to be branded the worlds first National Park City consists of 47% green space, including 35,000 acres of parks, commons, woodlands, wetlands, cemeteries, allotments and gardens. To avian eyes it is less urban jungle than, well, jungle. This verdant sprawl offers parakeets an enormous range of habitats, with plentiful opportunities for nesting (in old tree cavities and abandoned woodpecker holes) and feeding (on just about everything, from nuts, seeds, fruit and berries to the offerings on bird tables).

They dont have a problem with the climate. Although people commonly assume parakeets are tropical birds at home, say, in the sweltering jungles portrayed in The African Queen their south Asian native range extends into the foothills of the Himalayas, so they are unperturbed by mild English winters. As temperatures rise year-on-year they will probably fare even better: not so much climate refugees as climate beneficiaries.

What does this population boom mean for native British birds? Do the parakeets spell disaster for indigenous species? Are they wreaking ecological havoc? Their detractors condemn them as illegal immigrants, invaders aggressively driving out the local population, and the tabloids periodically clamour for a cull. The government has quietly ruled this out as no longer cost-effective or viable, concluding that there are simply too many of the birds. In other words, they are here to stay. Their defenders admire their beauty and celebrate their diversity, holding them up as paragons of successful integration. As with the myths surrounding them, often the facts become secondary to what people want to believe. Parakeets are blank canvases on to which Londoners project their own prejudices, values, beliefs, hopes and fears. They have been weaponised.

A woman feeds parakeets in London. Photograph: Tim Mitchell

The general consensus from experts, as always, is a lot more nuanced. Rather than making dire predictions of avian apocalypse, most ecologists agree it is too early to tell. There is some concern that parakeets smart, fast and sociable can outmanoeuvre garden birds in the feeding frenzy at bird tables, and their choice of nesting sites brings them into competition with nuthatches and other secondary cavity nesters that inhabit old woodpecker holes. But so far there seems to be more than enough food and foliage to go around. In terms of the threats facing native British birdlife, the greatest peril comes not from parakeets, but from native British people.

In an age of climate emergency, with mass extinction ripping apart the fabric of the living world, when the dominant narrative of our times is one of loss and disappearance, collapse and diminishment, parakeets tell a different story. These plucky newcomers beat the odds, not only surviving but thriving. In a nature-depleted culture, when city dwellers are supposedly alienated from the environment and anything that is feral or wild, parakeets are the subject of outlandish speculation, the source of mystery, imagination and everyday wonder. They are a reminder to look up. To keep paying attention.

In the simplest terms, its hard not to find that uplifting.

The Parakeeting of London: An Adventure in Gonzo Ornithology, by Nick Hunt and Tim Mitchell, is published by Paradise Road

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Reddit continues to remain the internet’s best dumping ground for some of the funniest content out there. While Reddit has produced some great original material, users on the site equally love to pay tribute to amazing content on other sites.

This happened when Redditor u/sporite went onto to the Ask Reddit subreddit to get a general idea of what videos—viral or not—always manage to make Reddit users laugh hysterically. The result was a thread that contained a buffet of the best YouTube videos that are absolutely hilarious.

Animals, Vines (RIP), and plenty of fails are just a few of the highlights of the entire 1000+ comment thread. While there were a ton of suggestions, we’ve selected the crème de la crème of the bunch. 

So please, enjoy 20 of the funniest YouTube videos Reddit has deemed to be worthy of internet gold.

1. Nice, Ron

Ron really just finds a way to screw something up somehow, and the person filming the video makes sure he knows this.

Posted by u/coverack.

2. White Bear on Ice

During the filming for a White Bear Mitsubishi ad, a polar bear just can’t seem to get his balance. The last fall is definitely the best one though.

Posted by u/Emmaleigh3341.

3. Guy Falls Asleep Playing EVE Online

Words cannot describe the noises that are coming from Tim when he fell asleep playing EVE Online with his friends. Give the video a watch and please explain how this can be considered “snoring.”

Posted by u/Scunner132.

4. Dog Imitating a Siren

This video is both hilarious and precious. You need to absolutely check out how impeccable this doggo’s impression of an emergency siren is.

Posted by u/asd090316.

5. Cat Jump Fail 

This viral video tells such a compelling narrative whose complexity is further conveyed through the solid music choice that accompanies it. Give this video a watch to see this cat jump where no cat has jumped before.

Posted by u/PacSan300.

6. How is prangent formed

Yahoo! Answers was, and continues to remain a beautiful dumping ground for the strangest questions, and the most ridiculous spelling mistakes. This amazing video tackles the topic of pregnancy, and the internet’s inability to even spell the word.

Posted by u/HippoFalcon_.

7. Chris Pratt’s Blooper Reel from Parks & Rec

What a gem. Chris Pratt on Parks & Rec is a gift that keeps on giving. And if you aren’t convinced, then just take a look at this blooper video that Reddit users hold to a high standard.

Posted by u/PenguinWITTaSunburn.

8. Liam Neeson Doing Improv

Liam Neeson’s stern and cold delivery of every line in this sketch is absolutely hilarious. He takes his role of a hypochondriac to a whole other level that will remain forever untouched by actors for years to come.

Posted by u/furrrsurre.

9. My Waffle Wedded Wife

This YouTube video is really sweet. When a bride and a groom are at the altar exchanging vows, the bride’s husband-to-be accidentally says, “My waffl-y wedded wife,” instead of “lawfully wedded wife.” They crack up, the minister makes more jokes, and the entire audience also joins in on the laugh. Definitely a solid sign of a long, and happy marriage.

Posted by u/IveGotAnElasticHeart.

10. You Wanna Play a Little Game?

I’m not going to spoil what happens in this video, but there’s a reason why Reddit loves it. Jigsaw would be proud, maybe.

Posted by u/Stevepac9.

11. She’s a Wolf in Mouse Clothing

Animals screaming seems to be a recurring theme in the videos that Reddit users seem to enjoy. These dubbed over mice screaming into the void is both hilarious and relatable.

Posted by u/Skyeborne.

12. Funniest Game Show Answers of All Time

Sometimes coming up with answers on the spot can be a little daunting, but this compilation video proves otherwise. Some of these just really GO for it you know? My favorite one is the person who is asked about a vegetable you marinate and he replies with “grapes.” Iconic.

Posted by u/powerspyin1.

13. “A Child” Vine

RIP Vine, we hardly knew ye. This iconic 5 second clip of someone clearly not getting the point is a staple among those in Reddit. It’s dark humor at its finest.

Posted by u/_Bereavement.

14. Hilarious Jack Russell Goes Crazy with Excitement

This doggo was so excited to compete in the Agility Test at Crufts 2017. He was speedy, but he didn’t necessarily keep his eyes on the prize, or his owner for that matter.

Posted by u/doubleohnicole.

15. Hi, I’m Ed Asner

This video starts innocently enough with Ed Asner introducing himself, but then he takes a freaking knife out of nowhere?? I need an explanation, but I’m also ok knowing Asner isn’t here to mess around, I guess.

Posted by u/Starman926.

16.Sulfur Hexafluoride Blooper

Helium needs to move aside because sulfur hexafluoride is here to snatch the crown for the best gas-induced funny voice. This old blooper shows a man inhaling this gas which makes his voice incredibly deep. This rule apparently applies to burps as well considering this man lets out an inhuman belch that will shake you to your core.

Posted by u/greenagemutantninja.

17. Rammstein vs Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster apparently has an affinity for German industrial metal music. Watch this amazing collab between Rammstein and Cookie Monster that Reddit apparently hails as the world’s most iconic duo. 

Posted by u/DammitPantera.

18. Head Smashes Board

A motivational speech about believing in yourself takes an odd turn when this man tries to break a “bored” using just his head. This does not turn out the way he expected it to. Perhaps if he believed in himself a little harder, this viral video would have a different ending.

Posted by u/TagProNoah.

19. Look at this Graph

You’d be doing yourself a major disservice if you didn’t listen to this amazing, uncut edition of “Photograph” by Nickelback. 

Posted by u/PacSan300.

20. The Brakes

Who would’ve thought that Tina driving a car in Bob’s Burgers would translate so well in real life? While in this particular case there’s a massive ship, but its pretty likely the captain was experiencing the same feelings of anxiety as Tina did in this amazing dubbed-over video. 

Posted by u/silverhydra.

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Pharrell Williams is just one artist who contributed to Sophie Calle's concept album for her cat, Souris.
Image: Simone Joyner/Getty Images

For those of us who’ve lost a longtime pet, the grief can be overwhelming, but might seem inconsequential to others.

It’s something French conceptual artist Sophie Calle realised when she lost her beloved cat, Souris (or mouse, in English), back in 2014. 

So Calle opted to pay tribute to her cat in a way that she only could: An all-star concept album full of songs dedicated to Souris.

On Souris Calle, the likes of Bono, Pharrell Williams, The National, Michael Stipe, Jarvis Cocker, and Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes, to name a few, contributed songs about the cat, or wider themes of loss and grief. 

About 10 artists on the album knew the cat personally, but Calle told the Wall Street Journal she met these artists through chance encounters, or through friends of friends.

In the first track, Bono leaves a voicemail message which is actually a poem to Souris. Williams contributes a short instrumental in “A Cat Named Mouse,” while The National’s “Le violon blanc de Monsieur Souris” sounds like one of the band’s songs, but about a cat.

Calle wanted to challenge people’s view of grief for pets.

Image: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ICP

Calle challenges the idea that “we seem ridiculous” when we grieve for our pets in a way that’s similar to grieving for humans.

“When you say you’re sad about the cat, it’s a bit obscene for people,” she told ArtNet.

“You can’t say that. I mean, if I say my mother or my father is dead, everyone tells me ‘Oh, poor thing, she lost her mother, oh, poor thing, she lost her father,’ but if we say that about our cat, we seem ridiculous. It makes me laugh, when for me, in my daily life, it was almost more violent, because I lived with my cat. I didn’t live with my parents.”

The 37-track, 95-minute album, which debuted at Calle’s solo show last week, is available to stream.

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Here’s a clip that will instill immense, inexplicable joy within you.

In the short, 18-second clip uploaded by Josh Ballico on Monday, a deer walks out from the woods and climbs through a child’s play-set, and a few seconds of Collins’ original “In the Air Tonight” music video plays at the end. That’s pretty much it — and yet, for some reason this video is so outrageously funny.

The moment the deer tumbles through the play-set is timed perfectly with the song’s dramatic drum fill. And the fact that the deer’s tongue is perpetually stuck out is a gift to us all.

I have literally watched this video four times since my first initial watch, and I’m fairly certain I will be returning to this video throughout the day. It is art. I beckon you all to watch it with me in perpetuity.

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Sometimes pop stars have all the time and money in the world to make a high-production video, with all the bells and whistles.

And sometimes all you need is a tiny pig.

Ariana Grande’s newest release from her album Sweetener, “Breathin'” comes paired with a new music video starring the pop star’s tiny adopted pet pig.

Piggy Smalls is front and centre for the whole clip, and my giddy aunt he is all you need. Grande mentioned in an Instagram post that an official ‘Breathin'” video could be in the works, time permitting.

We think it’s already perfect.

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New law would ban the sale of all eggs, pork or veal from a caged animal, putting the state ahead of the EU if campaigners can get enough signatures

They call Chris Winn the signatures guy. A delivery driver by day, he spends his free time drumming up support for animal rights. When I did the shark fin ban I got 4,000 signatures, says Winn, 53. Usually Im the top guy in California.

Now hes on a new mission. Its a cold Saturday afternoon in San Francisco and Winn is jubilant, bundled in a hat and sweatshirt, scouting for signatories for a proposed law that would ban the sale of any eggs, pork or veal that comes from an animal that spent its life in a cage. If passed it would be the most progressive farm animal welfare law in the world.

The law is only possible thanks to the quirky US ballot measure system which allows organisations and individuals to bypass politicians and put potential laws directly to a vote by the general population as long as they can get enough signatures to support the measure in the first place. In California that means collecting a tremendous 365,000 signatures and so for the last four months animal lovers across the state have been fanning out on street corners every chance they get, clipboards in hand.

So far they are nearing 200,000, but even with less than two months to go before the 1 May deadline, Carol Misseldine, the campaigns northern California coordinator, is optimistic. The response has been very positive, she says when we meet, as volunteers assembled for a day of signature hunting. Most people see it as a no-brainer. That being said, we are all gonna have to hustle.

Chris Winn, the signature guy, out collecting names for the ballot measure. Photograph: Charlotte Simmonds for the Guardian

The new measure would ban cages of any kind for hens, gestation crates (known as sow stalls in the UK) for mother pigs, so narrow they cant turn around, and veal crates for calves, which restrict movement for their entire lives. By the end of 2019 all hens would have to be cage-free living, at minimum, on an open barn floor or in an indoor aviary with multiple levels for birds to go up and down.

It would have national implications, applying not just to in-state famers but to any farmer doing business with the worlds sixth largest economy. This is history in the making, says Josh Balk, the vice-president of farm animals protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), one of the numerous organisations that has supported the law along with Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion in World Farming and local groups such as the San Diego Humane Society. This is the greatest shot farm animals have ever had.

Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at Compassion in World Farming, calls the measure a remarkable step that would put California ahead of the EU which has banned battery cages since 2012 and even cage-free leaders such as Germany and the Netherlands.

The last couple of years have seen some steps forward for farm animal welfare across the US. In 2015 McDonalds announced that its US and Canada locations would be going cage-free, impacting 2bn eggs a year, while 2016 saw pledges from major supermarkets including Safeway, Albertsons, and Walmart which alone sells 25% of the nations groceries to go cage-free by 2025.

And California has been ahead of the curve, passing Proposition 2 in 2008 which banned battery cages and said animals must have space to turn around, lie down and stretch their limbs. But in 2016, Massachusetts made history with the first sales ban on products from confined animals, which passed by a landslide 78%. That currently makes it the best place to be a farm animal in America a trophy California wants to reclaim. Theres a certain pride around here, says Misseldine. We want to be back in the lead.

But some US farmers and industry bodies are deeply concerned by the changes. Nationally, the US Department of Agriculture points out that with just 10% of the countrys 300 million hens currently in cage-free housing, meeting demand would require a momentous shift and cost egg producers billions. In Iowa, the nations largest egg producer, a bill currently poised to become law would require grocers selling cage-free eggs to stock cheaper, caged eggs as well. Lawmakers say the bill, which would affect grocers participating in a federal food-assistance program, is an effort to help low-income shoppers.

Pork, veal and egg producers say Californias plan will raise prices for consumers, come at a high cost to small farmers, and in the case of veal, which has largely moved away from crates, ban a problem that doesnt exist. For farmers, the shift can be crippling. When a farmer invests in a cage system hes hoping to get at least a 20-year lifespan, explains Ken Klippen, the spokesman for the National Association of Egg Farmers. Then if just a couple years later hes got to go cage-free, which can cost up to $45 per chicken, the financial burden is so oppressive that some just give up.

Prevent Cruelty California petitions and leaflets. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

Californian poultry farmer Frank Hilliker is making the switch to cage-free, but hes worried about the price tag. His farm, Hillikers Ranch Fresh Eggs, in Lakeside was started by his grandparents. After Prop 2 he converted several barns to cage-free and others to cages compliant with the new space requirements. To date Ive spent about $650,000, Hilliker says. The bank owns me right now. And Im not even done. In total Ill probably have spent about $800,000.

Hilliker sees cage-free as a good business opportunity, but says being pushed to change too fast is unsustainable. The voters of California shouldnt be legislating the way I farm. Do they know more about egg farming than I do? Chickens live well in cages, he adds, because theyre cleaner (wire floors allow bird droppings to pass through, rather than gather underfoot) and less stressful hens are quick to establish a pecking order and, in large, free roaming groups, birds are more vulnerable to attack.

Look, I love being a farmer, he says by phone while driving into Californias central valley. I take more pride in that than anything. But sometimes I just get down a little bit, because people consider us the enemy.

But polling in April by the HSUS found 72% in favor of the new law. If the campaigners get the signatures they need, there is an excellent chance that it will be passed. Factory farming has only been a part of our reality since the 1950s, says Misseldine. I think it will be a relatively short phenomenon, historically speaking. Its just so clear that it is inhumane not to let animals that were born to move to move. Should the measure get the go ahead, shell find out if Californians agree.

Teresa McGlashan, a volunteer for the Prevent Cruelty California campaign (and also a marriage and family therapist based in Mill Vally), talking to two women about the campaign in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

Back in San Francisco, Winn is making steady progress with a crowd gathered to watch the Chinese New Year parade. A dragon puppet snakes its way past as music soars above the street. Cassandra Taylor, a 35-year-old vegan from nearby Alameda, adds her signature gladly, calling the idea common sense .

When I see these chickens all cooped up, stuck on top of each other, its not good. They can feel things. Its just wrong.

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