Two zookeepers, two activists, & a publisher
Sharon Matola, Jeremy Mallinson, Brian Gunn, Brian Gunn-King, and Jon Wynne-Tyson were respectively two zookeepers dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, an anti-vivisection activist, a vegetarian activist of similar name, and a book publisher, of many overlapping associations.
Matola and Mallinson, for instance, were both friends of longtime Jersey Conservation Trust director Lee Durrell, and acquainted with each other. Brian Gunn and Brian Gunn-King were often confused with each other because of their similar names and concerns, albeit that one lived in England and the other in Northern Ireland. Both were acquaintances of Jon-Wynne Tyson through their anti-vivisection and vegetarian advocacy work.
Matola, an American by birth, emigrated to Belize in 1983, less than two years after the small Central American nation gained independence from Britain. Mallinson, Gunn, Gunn-King, and Wynne-Tyson were lifelong British citizens.
Sharon Matola, 66, the youngest and most recent of the deceased, died from a heart attack on March 21, 2021, reportedly after a two-week illness.
Recalled Guardian correspondent Elizabeth Mistry, “After a wildlife film-making project she was working on fell apart,” following a stint as a traveling circus trainer in Mexico, “Matola found herself in Belize with a menagerie of homeless native creatures. She scrounged some land, wrote a sign on a piece of wood, and the Belize Zoo was open for business,” housing 20 animals including a jaguar and a tapir.
Matola, wrote Mistry, “was scrupulous about animal husbandry and determined that Belizeans would have a chance to learn about their tiny nation’s biodiversity. Lee Durrell, widow of the naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), Matola’s childhood hero, often hosted young researchers from Belize Zoo at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s academy in Jersey.”
The Belize Zoo, despite a setback when hit by Hurricane Richard in 2010, gradually grew into a 170-animal collection at what is now called the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, “including coatis, ocelots and harpy eagles,” recounted Mistry. “April the tapir, who arrived after hunters had killed her mother, was so popular that she ended up on the country’s banknotes and stamps.”
Shared pool with a crocodile
Matola herself “lived in a modest wooden dwelling with an outside toilet. Her only luxury was a pool she had dug, which she shared with a small crocodile.”
The second of three children of Janice and Edward Matola, who was sales manager for the National Brewing Company, Sharon Matola grew up in Baltimore. Joining the U.S. Air Force, she was stationed in Panama for a time, then graduated from New College of Florida in Sarasota in 1981 with degrees in biology and environmental science.
“A brief early marriage to a dentist” ended, according to Mistry, when Sharon Matola literally ran away to join the Mexican circus. That lasted until the film makers Richard and Carol Foster recruited her for the failed project in Belize.
Finished Mistry, “Her battle on behalf of the wildlife of Belize was the subject of Bruce Barcott’s book The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird (2009). The zoo is now in the hands of a capable board, which has pledged to ensure its survival.”
Jeremy Mallinson, 84, remembered by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust “as director of the Trust for more than three decades and right-hand man to our founder Gerald Durrell, died on February 2, 2021.”
Hired soon after Durrell founded the Jersey Zoo in 1959, Mallinson accompanied Durrell on several early wildlife capturing missions to Africa, undertaking others alone. Mallinson remained a Jersey Zoo employee until his retirement in 2001.
Indian conservationist and writer Shubhobroto Ghosh, a lifelong frequent critic of zoos, recalled forming a lasting friendship with Mallinson during a three-month internship at the Jersey Zoo in 1999. Mallinson was aware that Ghosh had a continuing association with the Born Free Foundation, then and now in Ghosh’s words “the world’s largest anti-captivity group,” but agreed with many of his concerns.
“I developed nothing but admiration, respect and reverence for him,” Ghosh wrote in an extensive memoir of Mallinson: Thank you, Mr ‘Just Jeremy’ Mallinson.
Brian Gunn, 73, of Hayling Island, England, near Portsmouth, died of lung cancer on December 8, 2020.
Known chiefly for his anti-vivisection photo collection Entering The Gates of Hell, published in two editions in 1987 and 1988, Gunn was associated for most of his life with the International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals.
Gunn was initially an undercover investigator for the organization, started by Colin Smith in 1969. Gunn later served as secretary-general of the International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals, after Smith died in 2001 at age 60.
Smith had recently returned from a visit to Pakistan, where he encouraged the work of 19 local humane and anti-vivisection organizations which had struggled along for decades in near-isolation from the rest of the world.
Starting work with the National Anti-Vivisection Society of the U.K. at age 16, Smith for some years edited the NAVS-U.K. journal, The Animal Defender, and then served 10 years as NAVS-U.K. general secretary. Smith in 1973, with Gunn’s help, founded the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research, and in 1984, also with Gunn’s help, organized an international conference addressing “Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science.”
Brian Gunn, inclined to stay in the background, was easily confused with the much more outgoing Brian Gunn-King, who died at age 80 on March 18, 2013, after an association of nearly 50 years with the International Vegetarian Union and World Vegetarian Congress.
An urban planner by occupation, Brian Gunn-King was elected to the World Vegetarian Congress in council in December 1967, becoming general secretary of the organization in 1968. He met his wife, legal secretary Margaret C. Patching, at the 1969 International Vegetarian Congress in India, the events of which were divided among Delhi, the Indian capital city; Mumbai, the largest city; and Chennai, home of the Blue Cross of India, the host organization.
Patching was present as assistant secretary to the Brighton & Hove Vegetarian Society and regional organizer for the British Vegetarian Youth Movement. She later was a longtime director of the Ulster Vegetarian Society.
Gunn-King also represented the British Vegetarian Youth Movement at the events in India, as well as representing the Vegan Society and Vegfam.
Gunn-King stepped down from his leadership role with the International Vegetarian Union in 1993. He and his wife remained actively involved, however, and were honored in 2002 at the 35th World Vegetarian Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, for their duration of service.
Jon Linden Wynne-Tyson, 95, died on March 26, 2020, but word of his death took almost a year to reach ANIMALS 24-7.
Jon Wynne-Tyson was the son of author and former child actress Esmé Wynne-Tyson, longtime consort and close associate of playwright Noel Coward, and Royal Air Force officer Linden Charles Tyson. Jon Wynne-Tyson’s parents separated, after 12 years of marriage, when he was four years old, soon after Esmé Wynne-Tyson became a Christian Scientist and a vegetarian, but did not divorce until he was 21.
Attending Brighton College for a time, Jon Wynne-Tyson was obliged to end his formal education at age 15, when his father re-enlisted in the RAF at the outbreak of World War II and could no longer afford to pay his tuition.
Jon Wynne-Tyson, who had become a Quaker, registered as a conscientious objector, spending World War II working as a market gardener. Married to artist Joan Stanton in 1950, Wynne-Tyson fathered a daughter with her, and they founded the publishing company Centaur Press together in 1954, but their marriage did not last long beyond that.
Wynne-Tyson re-married to Jennifer Tyson, no relation, in 1956, and fathered a second daughter with her.
As Centaur Press grew, Wynne-Tyson spun off the Kinship Library imprint, publishing works on vegetarianism, animal rights, and environmental topics. Among the early Kinship Library titles was Wynne’s own opus, Food for a Future: The Ecological Priority of a Humane Diet (1975), reissued four years later as Food for a Future: The Complete Case For Vegetarianism.
The Extended Circle
Wynne-Tyson published The Extended Circle, his anthology of quotations about animals, vegetarianism, and animal rights, in 1985.
Reissued in paperback in 1990, the volume was reputedly the all-time best-selling Centaur Press title, winning endorsements from animal rights philosophers Tom Regan and Peter Singer, but several of the quotations most often cited from it have proved impossible to verify.
Wynne-Tyson attributed to Abraham Lincoln, for instance, the remark that, “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
No evidence that Lincoln ever said that
Lincoln scholars, while refuting the oft-recited cockfighter calumny that Lincoln was ever a cockfighting referee, have found no evidence that he ever knew or used the phrase “animal rights,” or endorsed the concept. Lincoln was known to befriend animals and have some qualms about eating animals, but those qualms did not stop him from eating them.
The origin of the phrase “animal rights” is usually attributed to British writer and educator Henry Salt (1851-1939), who in 1893 formed the Humanitarian League to lobby for a ban on hunting. Salt, a year later, 29 years after Lincoln’s death, introduced the phrase “animal rights” in a book entitled Animals’ Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress.
Gandhi quote may have been condensed
Jon Wynne-Tyson also attributed to Mohandas Gandhi––a longtime personal friend of Salt––the statement that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Tyson claimed Gandhi said this in something entitled “The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism.” Gandhi, however, used this same title for countless different lectures, pamphlets, and newspaper and magazine essays during the last half century of his life, none of which have been found to include the exact phrase that Wynne-Tyson included, or any phrase close to it.
Yet Gandhi did make some longer arguments to similar effect.
Jon Wynne-Tyson’s last book, an autobiography entitled Finding the Words: A Publishing Life, appeared in 2004.
He became a patron of the organization Quaker Concern for Animals in 2016.
Founded in 1891 as the Friends Anti-Vivisection Association, it became Quaker Concern for Animals in 1978.