You know him as the shaggy-maned rock star and guitarist with Queen. But Brian May also happens to be one of the most vocal animal rights campaigners in the UK. Rich Lee spoke to him ahead of his appearance at Wildlife Rocks at Guildford Cathedral on 5th May…
16.12.2014 / words: Rich Lee / image: Alessio Collace
How did you get involved with Wildlife Rocks?
It’s all Anne Brummer’s (CEO) fault, really. Anne has run a wildlife rescue, Harper Asprey in Camberley, for many years and has rescued hundreds if not thousands of animals. So I got involved when she asked if she could use some of my land for the soft release of some of her animals.
The idea behind Wildlife Rocks is to generate more interest and awareness of what’s going on and about how fast our wildlife is disappearing. It’s about what kind of world we want for our children. There’s only been one before, so this is the second one. I was just staggered by what Anne and her team achieved last time and this year’s Wildlife Rocks will be even more astonishing!
What will you be playing at the event and who are you playing with?
I’ll be playing some acoustic songs with (West End singer and actress) Kerry Ellis. I’ll be plugging in the guitar as well – there may be a Queen song in there, you never know!
We do have the Troggs playing which is making me very excited. ‘Wild Thing’ is of course a very appropriate anthem for what we do. We have the legendary Hawkwind, Shirley Higton, the wonderful founder of Born Free, Virginia McKenna, live poetry and all sorts of wonderful stalls.
It’s all very positive. Wildlife Rocks is not preachy, it’s not showing you images of animals being tortured to try and persuade you to our cause. It’s all about celebrating what we are on this planet and enjoying the freedom of animals and our own.
Brian May performing with Kerry Ellis at Wildlife Rocks
Where does your interest in animals and conservation come from?
It goes back a long way but I think I just had a growing feeling throughout my life that things weren’t right with the way human beings treated other species on this planet. I’m an astronomer and to astronomers the idea that human beings are somehow, in evolutionary or cosmological terms, more important than the rest of the planet’s species is quite laughable.
When did you decide to get political about issues of animal welfare?
I put my sword on, I suppose, in the run-up to the last general election, when I suddenly realised that what David Cameron and his buddies stood for was the return of blood sports. In the beginning I couldn’t really believe it; I thought he seemed a decent enough chap. But the more I looked into it I realised that these issues are incredibly important to that clique of people. That’s when we set up the Save Me project (www.save-me.org.uk) to fight for the creatures that don’t have a voice.
But the advocacy swings both ways?
Well they are definitely vocal about it; in the cause of animal cruelty you are up against people who are absolutely fighting you every inch of the way for the right to abuse animals. If that’s a part of human nature that’s rooted there then it ought to be rooted out! I think it’s a defect of human nature.
Is a repeal of the hunting ban still a threat?
Well, assuming a recent report that suggests that Cameron has given up on the idea of a free vote on repealing the act is true, it’s very welcome news to us. But it’s important to remember that Cameron would be reluctantly abandoning this case.
Rock star, composer, writer, astronomer, activist: how do you balance all of your diverse pursuits?
With great difficulty! It’s on the borders of insanity what I do. I’ve learned, over the years to delegate to people that I trust and that’s a big part of it. I love to create and to make things happen and if I’m not part of a process like that then I start to feel very odd, like something’s gone wrong. I’m not a person who likes sitting around on a beach doing nothing. Not for very long, anyway!
Queen with Adam Lambert
What next for the mighty Queen?
Well, we’re gearing up to do a very big tour. When you press that button, life starts to move very fast again. We’re touring with (American pop star) Adam Lambert and going to the USA, Japan, Korea and probably Australia as well. It’s turned into something comparable to what Queen were doing back in the glory days. It’s a great feeling to gear up and do things at that level, just one more time. Maybe...
For more information visit www.save-me.org.uk and www.wildliferocks.me