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The Profound Pope

August 3rd, 2015

Pope Francis © iStock neneos

Pope Francis is proving himself to be quite the radical reformer.

His recent Encyclical, Laudato Si’, addresses not just Catholic bishops, but everyone. He roundly condemns the modern paradigm of growth and profit at any cost and calls on political leaders to pay more than lip service to the earth’s massive environmental and social problems, from climate change to the lives of the poor, saying: “A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress”.

His challenge extends to all of us: “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes”. This is of course something I whole heartedly agree with, having witnessed habitats being systematically destroyed in the pursuit of mass consumption and factory farming.

Not only is our massive misuse of resources deplored, but the encyclical goes so far as to say “we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development”. This is enlightened thought indeed!

There is a better way. The Pope proposes an “ecological conversion”, which is based on “attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness” and which “entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” He says that this change in lifestyle “could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”

Although factory farming is not condemned as such, the encyclical emphasizes the importance of caring for the earth and its creatures, including “showing care for other living beings”, assisting small-scale farmers, planning a diversified and sustainable agriculture and the rotation of crops – just what we at Compassion believe in.

Our relationship with the other creatures in the world is clearly of great importance to Pope Francis. He quotes from the most recent edition of the Catechism which he says “clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: ‘Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things’”.

As the organisation which led the successful campaign to achieve recognitions of animals as sentient beings in the European Union, we welcome this emphasis within the encyclical. Add to this, the Pope’s recent speech at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), where he deplored the wastefulness of using so much of the earth’s crops as animal feed, and we can feel that here is one religious leader who is largely in sympathy with Compassion’s own aims of a fairer and more compassionate food and farming system.

Gadhimai Bloodshed Over

July 30th, 2015

© Jim Philpott PhotographyI was delighted this week to hear the wonderful news that animal sacrifice has been banned at Gadhimai Festival. My team has worked tirelessly with Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) to put an end to so many animals being slaughtered, in the name of ‘tradition’.

The festival has been held every five years for centuries, and has seen hundreds of thousands of animals sacrificed, all in the name of the goddess Gadhimai. The festival has caused immeasurable suffering to all the animals involved. Thousands of animals ended their lives in fear and pain.

It’s estimated that more than 500,000 buffalo, goats, chickens and other animals were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. Thankfully in 2014 the numbers were reduced significantly after an intense local campaign and the Supreme Court of India prohibiting the movement of animals across the border into Nepal.

This year came even better news: “The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.“

This monumental announcement comes after rigorous negotiations by AWNN directly with the Temple Trust. Supporters of Compassion in World Farming also played a major part in ending the bloodshed. Supporter donations helped to fund educational and campaign materials that were used by AWNN in Nepal and my campaigns team with over 134,000 supporters addressed the Nepalese Government, pushing for a ban on slaughter at all festivals in the country, of which Gadhimai is the largest.

After letting our Patron know the good news, Joanna Lumley said “I am so thrilled and moved to think that these awful animal sacrifices are to be ended at Gadhimai. For the sacrificial creatures who would once have died there is now life, and that is the best outcome we could ever have imagined.”

Although this is a huge stride forward and should be celebrated, unfortunately animal sacrifice still continues in Nepal. Without an official organisation lobbying for the continuation of animal slaughter, it’s now hoped that this landmark decision at the Gadhimai Temple represents a catalyst for the Nepalese Government to enforce an outright ban of all slaughter at festivals in the country. Over the next five years, education and campaigning at grass-roots level will be essential to change attitudes towards animal sacrifice so that the ban can be implemented effectively.

All animals deserve a life free of pain and discomfort, and a death that is humane.

The fallacy of Old Macdonald’s farm!

July 27th, 2015

FARMSET all_animals_zoomed_out_angled_CV1A9629It’s the old cliché, a myth peddled to children before they can even walk or talk, with colourful picture books showing happy animals grazing by duck ponds and hens clucking around the yard.

In these story books the farmer and his wife are a plump picture of health – their bonny children and a mischievous-looking collie at their sides. But in reality this idyll is no more reflective of the average working farm than a schmaltzy Hollywood romance is of the average relationship.

Each year, 50 billion farm animals are processed in factory farms. But it’s not a well-known fact. So my organisation, Compassion in World Farming has created YOUR FARM – The Honest Farm Toy to show what life is really like down on the farm.

It’s about time we packed away the fake farm toys and saw that animals raised on farms worthy of a Disney film are in the minority. Instead, two in every three farm animals across the world, live in misery – imprisoned in factories where they are routinely deprived of the freedoms that are so central to their welfare.

When I read George Monbiot’s recent article in the Guardian I wholeheartedly agreed with his observations of the farming industry, and see the vast majority turning a blind eye to the exploitation of the world’s farm animals and inhaling the spun fairy-tale at every opportunity.

In England today, only eight per cent of farms are ‘mixed’ – rearing more than one type of animal and also growing crops. They face a desperate struggle to survive. They have all too often been replaced by farms that specialise in one area: whether it is producing cereals, eggs, chicken, milk, pork or beef. These places would make a dismal day out for anyone, and would shock most schoolchildren. The Old Macdonald fallacy won’t stay credible much longer.

I think that if we are to truly reconnect with our food, we need to know where it comes from and this is where YOUR FARM comes in.
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A cage is still a cage

July 21st, 2015

vlcsnap-2015-04-16-10h40m32s1Back in 2012, after many years spent tirelessly campaigning, my organisation, Compassion in World Farming celebrated the battery cage ban – making barren battery cages illegal across the European Union.

Many have a rose-tinted view of the battery cage ban, believing that for the last three years all egg laying hens have been kept in free-range environments. In reality, this is not the case. Sadly, it is far from it.

While the ban was an opportunity for a huge stride forward in the welfare of Europe’s laying hens, there was a flaw in the legislation. A flaw that I am afraid to say, many in the egg industry have seized upon – simply replacing barren cages with so-called ‘enriched’ ones. Unfortunately, this means that a staggering 60% of Europe’s 500 million hens still spend their lives in cages – 20 million in the UK alone.

Barren battery cages confined laying hens to small wire cages with less space than an A4 sheet of paper each. These conditions left hens unable to exercise or to carry out many important natural behaviours and caused immense psychological and physical suffering.

‘Enriched’ cages provide hens with just a small amount of extra space – the size of a postcard per hen, to be precise. As the name indicates they also provide hens with ‘enrichment’. However, this bears only a distant resemblance to the things that matter to hens, such as a place to nest, a perch and a place to dust-bathe. Ultimately, they confine the hens and constrain their behaviours.
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Questions for FIAPO

July 15th, 2015

FIAPO logoLast September I was very fortunate to be in India to launch Farmageddon at a conference Compassion helped to sponsor organised by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations. FIAPO is at the forefront of the Indian animal protection movement. Its members are movement leaders: visionary activists and organisations whose strength is multiplied by working together for animals. Compassion is proud to be a sponsor of their vitally important work in halting industrial agriculture in India. I’m pleased to be sharing with you my interview with FIAPO’s Director of External Relations, Arpan Sharma.

Philip: When and why did FIAPO form?

Arpan: The initial idea about an Indian federation was discussed after the Asia for Animals conference in Chennai in 2007. Indian animal groups and activists met and agreed to unify our dreams to make India a better place for animals. FIAPO was formally launched in 2010. We speak in a stronger voice for animals but not as an alternative to existing organisations. On the contrary, we’re an expression of their strength and an amalgam of their collective expertise and passion.

Philip: How does FIAPO work to foster collaboration among India’s animal protection organisations?

Arpan Sharma, FIAPO’s Director of External Relations

Arpan Sharma, FIAPO’s Director of External Relations

Arpan: FIAPO enables the work of smaller, local federations of animal protection groups with a fixed geographic or thematic focus. For example, we research and contact all existing animal protection groups in a target city and bring them together as a united voice for animals. We emphasise the importance to network, build capacity and take local, targeted action for animals. We conduct training workshops to help fill knowledge gaps within organisations.

Philip: What are the most pressing animal protection issues in India? How is FIAPO and its member organisations addressing them?

Arpan: India needs specific attention to curb ongoing cruelty to animals. For this reason, FIAPO launched two campaigns to create awareness and encourage people to treat animals with respect. First, the Living Free campaign reaches out and educates urban populations. The focus is to reduce the consumption of animal products by mobilising a grassroots movement to spread awareness. We focus on conducting outreach to consumers to make behavioural change happen.

Second, our Farm to Freedom campaign prevents — and whenever possible — removes animals from the most appalling conditions. We’re a collective voice against the rise of factory farms. Our focus is to improve the life of farmed animals by regulation, education and intervention.

Philip: Which victories for India’s animals would not have been possible without FIAPO?

Arpan: We’re determined to improve the lives of animals across India by collaborating with organisations, activists and other stakeholders. We strive to run every campaign and project collaboratively. For example, we filed a legal challenge to the chicken battery cage in India as public interest litigation. The court recognised the illegality and cruelty involved with the widespread practice of raising chickens in battery cages for producing eggs. This collaborative effort involved a number of experts and colleagues from across the country.

We also lobbied and successfully prevented the establishment of a mega-dairy by IFFCO-Fonterra in Andhra Pradesh. It was to house 40,000 cows at a single location. As a result of rigorous advocacy and public engagement, FIAPO achieved victory when the Ministry of Environment and Forests prohibited the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. We’re also creating a national platform (‘India for Animals’) for the Indian animal community to work behind.

Philip: Why are farm animals a priority for India and FIAPO ?

Through its network of organisations and individuals, FIAPO is reaching out to people throughout India with its message of compassion for animals.

Through its network of organisations and individuals, FIAPO is reaching out to people throughout India with its message of compassion for animals.

Arpan: India is the world’s second most populous country and we have the world’s largest dairy herd. We’re also after Brazil the world’s largest exporter of beef and the world’s second largest producer of eggs. The combination of these massive populations of humans and animals makes for a perfect storm for widespread animal cruelty and exploitation in farming.  As incomes rise, India’s vast middle class increasingly consumes animal foods produced from farmed animals who suffer under poor governance mechanisms, including lack of regulations and effective law enforcement. For these reasons, farm animals are a key priority in India.

We’re very fortunate to partner and collaborate with Compassion, the only organisation with an exclusive focus on farm animals, to develop long term protective regulations and build capacity in the Indian animal protection community to work on these issues. Up to now, the focus of most Indian animal protection groups has been on direct companion animal care and spay/neuter, which is necessary work and must continue.

But we need to enhance consumer awareness in farmed animals, which is within the overall framework of your excellent book, Farmageddon. Our commitment is to develop a critical approach to farm animal exploitation and implement a strategy based on evidence and the specific conditions prevalent in India.

Farmageddon on film

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About Philip Lymbery

Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat. He is an internationally respected authority on the impact of industrial agriculture on people, animals and the planet.