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Hollywood’s Jane Seymour has joined the Standard’s campaign in demanding an end to the illegal wildlife trade

Abbianca Makoni
·6-min read
<p>Jane Seymour posing at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles</p> (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

Jane Seymour posing at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles

(Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

Those who watched television in the 1990s, will know there was only one ‘medicine woman’ and that is the British actress Jane Seymour, who as Dr Quinn healed the sick in a backwater Colorado town.

Now, however, she is attempting to treat the real-life sickness that risks being inflicted on the world by the rampant illegal wildlife trade and the ill-treatment of animals.

Over the last year, the now 70-year-old actress has been working with the conservation charity, Freeland, to raise awareness on their co-led campaign dubbed ‘Endpandemics.’

The campaign aims to reduce the risks of future pandemics by protecting and regenerating nature as well as implementing sustainable solutions.

It is also why she has now joined our Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign in demanding that syndicates stop poaching, smuggling and consuming wildlife.

I think it’s incredibly important for people to realise that whether you think Covid came from a laboratory, or wherever it is, it clearly came from animals. It is from human beings encroaching on animal space.

And now her belief is that the most “important thing” for everyone to do is “to try to stop this illegal wildlife trafficking, and find a way for farmers to do sustainable farming.”

Seymour is speaking on zoom, she is sitting on a white sofa from her home in California dressed in a simple but elegant blue top. For her the pandemic’s impact on health is not just theoretical. She herself believes she caught the virus at the start of last year - although she was not formally tested.

The effect was mild, she reassures, but nevertheless she said she had periods where she was “shaking” and had flu like symptoms.

She believes she may have got the virus while in Spain working on her latest film which is intended to be a miniseries.

Donate to the stop the illegal wildlife trade, here:ESI Media
Donate to the stop the illegal wildlife trade, here:ESI Media

Seymour had been in Madrid at the start of 2020 working on the film, when the virus first started to spread across Europe. Realising the risk, she tells me, she told her producers: “I shouldn’t be here, I should get out of here.

“Eventually I just said to them, Look, dude, I’m out of here. It is not good. I am leaving. And the next day after I left Madrid, they closed down the whole country.”

It was, she knows, a lucky escape, one that meant she avoided being locked down in a foreign country miles away from her partner and children who lived with her during the pandemic as part of her bubble.

In the following months, as lockdowns closed California as they did much of the rest of the world, it made her realise the work she had already been doing on stopping the illegal wildlife trade was now even more urgent, as the consequences of our present relationship with nature was played out minute-by-minute on the 24-hour rolling news channels.

“All our school children around the world have had to stay home,” she said, “and all they hear all the time about is the tick ticker tape on TV of how many people are dead.”

Plus, they probably know people in their own families who have either died, or been severely affected by Covid. No one’s come out unscathed.

That is why she is now determined that people know “how it’s transmitted, where it came from, and why and how it can come again.”

It is also why she is insistent that people get vaccinated against the virus to help stop its spread.

The mother of four, who has already got both her doses, said: “I had a little dinner with a friend of mine last night, and another famous actress who just spoke to me on the phone this morning about something, and they’re all refusing the vaccine.

“And I’m going ‘why!’ I mean, I couldn’t wait to get my vaccine and I think it’s incredibly important. I think it’s really important for the community at large because it’s not just about protecting yourself, It’s protecting other people.”

Her interest in wildlife causes began almost by accident. The actress founded her own charity, the Open Hearts Foundation 10 years ago to support and encourage emerging and growing non-profit charities.

In 2019 this led her to be invited to a climate change conference in Aspen, Colorado, where she was joined a panel of campaigners, who were then asked to team up and raise awareness for the work different organisations were doing.

“So I was put in the group with wildlife and animals and I just thought, well, that’s not normally where I end up. I’m usually somewhere near human trafficking, foster kids, or water,” she said.

But another organisation at the event was the Asian-based anti-wildlife trade charity Freeland, which along with the African conservation charity Space for Giants has been The Independent and the Evening Standard’s partner in our Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign.

Through them she learned about wildlife trafficking and became determined to provide her support, she explained, adding that now she is keen to do all she can to help avoid a future pandemic.

The possibility that the virus started from a laboratory leak is “extremely unlikely” and the closest relative of the virus that causes Covid-19 has been found in bats, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation alongside China.

In April last year, Freeland and 72 other organisations launched the ‘Endpandemics’ campaign. Having already reached almost two million people on social media the campaign, supported by The Independent and the Standard, is aiming in the coming months to release a roadmap translated into many languages.

It will be used to brief lawmakers, heads of state, corporate CEOs, and civil society organisations on steps to take to prevent another disastrous zoonotic outbreak.

Steve Galster, Freeland’s founder, called the actresses’ support crucial in enabling them to get their message across to the public.

“After she appeared in our campaign launch in April 2020 and then voiced over our CNN spot months later, our campaign membership went from 10 organisations to 72,” he said.

We have to treat the root causes of pandemics by changing our relationship with nature

With her daughter, Katherine Flynn, a fellow actress and producer who has acted alongside her mother, Seymour is now developing an app, currently dubbed the Young Hearts.

It will seek to link members of the public with organisations working hard to stop the illegal wildlife trade and future pandemics.

“The whole idea of the app is to connect volunteers with organisations that want volunteers, rather like a dating app,” she said.

Even though it has just been announced that she is headlining a new Irish film titled ‘Harry Wild,’ where she plays a recently retired English professor, Seymour is insistent she will remain an active part of the initiative, and thanked The Independent and the Standard for its commitment to wildlife causes.

The reason, she says, is because it is too vital a message not to try to raise awareness as wide as is possible. “To people who’ve lost jobs,” she said,” people who’ve lost hope, people who’ve lost families, people who’ve been isolated, people who can’t have relationships. It’s incredibly important. They can’t not know about it.”

People, she stressed, need to know of the virus “how it’s transmitted, where it came from, and why and how it can come again. I’m no doubt going to be continuing to work on it and I’m so glad you guys are too. I’m very proud to be part of the team.”

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