China’s wildlife trade still threatens us all

First published in The Daily Telegraph on 15 June 2020.

My new book exposing the scandal of lion farming in South Africa is, unavoidably, full of grim and distressing details. Behind the veneer of the respectable tourist industry, thousands of big cats are beaten, drugged, starved, shot and skinned every year for nothing more than profit. The exploitation of these creatures from birth to death – and beyond – will appal readers. So will the lion trade’s links to international crime syndicates and the nonchalant attitude of South Africa’s authorities. With about 12,000 captive-bred lions in South Africa at any one time, against a wild lion population of only 3,000, this problem is growing.

While the world reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, however, one alarming consequence of this gruesome business arguably rises above the rest of the ghastliness. It relates to the zoonotic diseases carried by lions which also threaten humans.

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Cricket legend, Kevin Pietersen, on wildlife conservation

First published in The Sun on 15 June 2020.

Lord Ashcroft talks to Kevin Pietersen, the former England cricket captain turned wildlife conservationist.

SIX words at the top of Kevin Pietersen’s Twitter page say it all: “Cricketer to conservationist. My greatest journey.”

And what a remarkable journey it has been too.

For two decades Kevin was one of the world’s best cricketers, playing in 104 Test matches and 136 one-day internationals for England, and also captaining his adopted country.

Yet seven years ago, shortly after he stopped playing for England, Kevin had what amounts to a “light-bulb moment” while back in South Africa, the country of his birth, when he suddenly realised he could use his worldwide fame to help endangered wildlife.

Like me, Kevin became angry and ashamed at the way some South Africans abuse big game purely for profit.

While we share a passion for wildlife, Kevin decided to concentrate his efforts on protecting endangered rhinos.

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Mail on Sunday serialisation of Lord Ashcroft’s new book, Unfair Game, published on 16 June 2020.

First published on 14 June 2020 in the Mail on Sunday.

It’s Born Free meets James Bond: The heart-stopping story of how Lord Ashcroft hired a crack team of ex-soldiers – using drones and military-grade tracking devices – to nail the criminals behind South Africa’s lucrative captive lion trade.

I CANNOT abide those who are cruel to animals, but the sad fact is that in our digital age, my strong aversion is aroused all too often. I have lost count of the number of people who post on social media platforms such as Twitter so-called ‘kill shots’ of themselves grinning at the camera (or, even worse, kissing their partner) alongside a beautiful animal they have recently slaughtered.

Revelling publicly in the death of a creature in this way is completely alien to me.

People may be brutal through ignorance or by taking shortcuts to save money, but South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry is conscious, intentional cruelty, sometimes carried out with or for pleasure. I cannot think about this without feeling a burning sense of shame. The question is: for how much longer will South Africa allow this industry to prosper?

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The parachuting padre

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 07 June 2020.

When these battle-hardened troops from the recently formed SAS dropped behind German lines after D-Day, they demanded jeeps, guns, explosives – and a gallant Scot carrying a makeshift ‘church’ in a wicker hamper…

Thousands of Allied troops were already pressing forward on the ground by the time British Special Forces flew south over the darkened fields of France on June 21, 1944.

But for the SAS , this journey, two weeks after D-Day, would be one of the most dangerous missions of the Second World War – a parachute drop into the heart of occupied France, where the Germans were digging in. And where to be caught was a death sentence. (more…)

Our emergency service workers are genuine heroes – and those who have sacrificed their lives fighting Covid-19 deserve a fitting memorial in their memory

First published in the Daily Express on 06 June 2020.

MY passion for bravery has spanned well over half a century and yet, even now, certain quotations associated with courage still stir my blood.

Thucydides was one of the first Greek historians and a skilled military general.

In the fifth century BC, he wrote: “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Nelson Mandela once said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

These two quotations, which I have long cherished, explain why I have such a deep-rooted admiration and respect for our emergency service workers. (more…)

See the June issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.

The June issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Captain Gerald O’Sullivan, who was awarded the VC for bravery during the First World War.

O’Sullivan, who was born in Co Cork, was commissioned into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1909. During the First World War, he served with the 1st Iniskillings that were chosen for duties in the Dardanelles. (more…)

Crack shot who took out 17 Germans with his rifle – then picked up his Bren gun…

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 24 May 2020.

One of 40 British troops who held off 500 enemy, his courage saved countless lives at Dunkirk – and won the war’s first Army VC.

IT WAS Britain’s lowest point of the Second World War. Amid scenes of chaos and desperation, and under a relentless assault from bombs, mortars and gunfire, our Armed Forces, helped by civilians with boats, were tasked with rescuing well over 300,000 servicemen from a small French harbour.

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going and, at the height of Operation Dynamo, as the rescue mission was called, no one showed more grit, determination and courage than Captain Marcus Ervine- Andrews. (more…)

Available for Pre-Order: Unfair Game by Michael Ashcroft

UNFAIR GAME: An exposé of South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry
Michael Ashcroft
Publication date: 16 June 2020
Price: £14.99 paperback

In April 2019, Lord Ashcroft published the results of his year-long investigation into South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry. Over eleven pages of a single edition of the Mail on Sunday, he showed why this sickening trade, which involves appalling cruelty to the ‘King of the Savannah’ from birth to death, has become a stain on the country.

Unfair Game the shocking results of a new undercover operation Lord Ashcroft has carried out into South Africa’s lion business. In this powerful exposé, he highlights the increasing dangers to public health which lions and their body parts pose. Just as China’s wet markets are widely considered to have led to Covid-19, some experts predict that the rampant trade in lion bones will spark another major health crisis. (more…)

The damage that even the threat of the virus is wreaking on St Helena

St Helena AirportFirst published on Conservative Home on 12 May 2020.

These are difficult and challenging times for many people – but spare a thought for the 4,500 islanders of St Helena, situated in the middle of the South Atlantic.

“Saints”, as the islanders are known, have encountered one problem after another over the past four years – just as they hoped their new airport would result in a huge increase in tourist numbers and, in turn, bring economic prosperity.

Now islanders have suffered another major blow: coronavirus. As yet, there are thankfully no cases of Covid-19 on St Helena but the tough measures brought in to ensure that the island remains free of the virus have once again killed off tourism for the foreseeable future. (more…)

Seventeen minutes that made our SAS the most feared fighters in the world

First published in the Daily Express on 05 May 2020.

Forty years on, respected military historian LORD ASHCROFT on the thrilling special forces operation to end the Iranian Embassy siege.

It was 10pm and Britain’s first woman Prime Minister was in the middle of a group of rugged SAS soldiers in jubilant spirits, sipping chilled beers. In a packed room at the Regent’s Park Barracks in central London, a television was wheeled in so everyone could watch the late news.

“****ing sit down, Maggie. I can’t see,” said Lance Corporal John “Mac” McAleese, a rock-hard Scot prone to colourful language.

For a moment, there was an awkward hush. It was not the way Margaret Thatcher was usually addressed. But she simply did as she was told and sat down cross-legged on the floor. Her husband, Denis, was nearby. (more…)

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