Once upon a time, streakers were considered daring if not outlandish exhibitionists eager for their 15-minutes of fame, considered by Andy Warhol to be everyone’s entitlement. Now though some quite respectable institutions – like the London Zoological Society – are encouraging streakers to run in aid of charity.
London Zoo got some 200 people* to run around their central London site naked in aid of tiger conservation. In my opinion, this creature is the one of the most beautiful in the world; it is just a pity that there are those who find hunting tigers a sport, or that their body parts are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Then there are the polar bears. If predictions for climate change prove to be anywhere near accurate then it is quite probable that they will loose their home as the Arctic ice disappears. To aid Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s conservation efforts on behalf of the polar bear, Andrew Calow, BN’s Yorkshire Region PRO had the idea to get people to run a half-mile (800 metre) course around the park, naked. It gave an opportunity to those who would streak for a tiger but could make it down to London, to do their bit for nature conservation.
Andrew Welch, representing BN, even told The Star, when promoting the “Bares for Bears” event: ‘Nude events in “public” locations are on the increase with members of the public realising what fun it is and how good being naked in the open air feels.’
Are they really? As far as the public is concerned, the prime motive for both events was to raise awareness, and perhaps money, in order to carry out conservation work on behalf of tigers and polar bears. Naturism hardly comes into it, even though Andrew Calow put the “Bares for Bears” event into the Park’s mind. It is like the other mass nudity ‘event’ The World Naked Bike Ride. It is a protest against car use and for the old pushbike, although other smaller protests are tagging along for the ride (forgive the pun) as it draws a substantial amount of local media. Again, at no point does naturism get a mention.
I am not suggesting that naturists shouldn’t act as an organiser of such events – as they do with the WNBR – or not participate but they should be aware that social nudity is just the means to get media interest and naturism is not the main purpose. Don’t be fooled into thinking that by streaking for tigers or polar bears that it will also advance the idea of naturism as a lifestyle.
What these events do tell us though, is that on the whole people do not have a problem with public nudity when it is linked to a good cause, like nature conservation. True, it is only anecdotal, but it is a start. What is not clear is if the non-naturist participants, like the keepers from Marwell Zoo, Clare Sweeten and Amy Wellings, thought about recreational nudity in any other context? They told The Telegraph that they looked after the big cats at Marwell and they were their passion. “Anything we can do to kind of help their survival in the world is like a really good thing,” Wellings told the reporter. Including running around London Zoo naked it seems. There is no reason to think that Sweeten and Wellings then went on to think how wonderful it felt to be naked in the open air or that they thought about becoming a naturist.
However, we could use this apparent acceptance as fertile ground to plant a seed, the idea, that clothes free living can be beneficial to the mind, body and soul of human kind. To do that we need a ‘hearts and mind’ campaign reaching out to the general public. Relying on the silly season articles from journalists or more events like WNBR and tiger streak – great as they are – will only further enrich the soil.
* In an earlier piece for H&E Naturist I said the number of people streaking for tigers at London Zoo was 700. The correct figure is ‘some 200’ as quoted by The Telegraph and the error is all mine.