It is with great sadness that I share with you the death of Compassion in World Farming’s inspirational co-founder Anna Roberts, who passed away on Friday 9th August.
Anna founded Compassion in World Farming with her husband, Peter Roberts, in 1967 and was credited by him as the inspiration for the organisation.
As dairy farmers in the 1950s, they came under increasing pressure to adopt the intensive farming model that was proving so popular in post-war England.
Anna was the first to protest, highlighting the implications for the animals of the new cages and crates. They stopped farming, although they continued to home hens rescued from battery cage farms for several years. The couple also began to sell meat substitutes.
When Peter failed to persuade any of the major animal welfare organisations to take up the issue of factory farming, they decided to set up their own group, which became the international organisation that it is today.
Compassion was literally a cottage industry in its early years, with Anna and Peter running it from their home until they took a small office in Petersfield, Hampshire. Anna taught herself printing techniques so that Compassion could produce its own leaflets and neither she, nor her husband, ever drew a salary.
Anna was a full-time volunteer, deeply involved in supporting the famous 1984 court case against a Sussex farm run by monks keeping veal calves in crates, unable to turn around and chained by the neck throughout their lives. The case was lost but the public outrage it generated led to the system being banned in the UK in 1990.
Anna was also a member of Compassion’s board until the late 1980s.
Peter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991 and, as his condition worsened, Anna began to take on the role of carer, until his death in 2006.
Although Anna was never the official face of Compassion in World Farming, she was the inspiration for its founding and her determination and hard work played a key role in establishing what would become the leading global organisation solely devoted to improving the welfare of farm animals.
We shall all miss Anna very much and will remember her fondly. Through Compassion’s continuing work, Anna and Peter’s legacy will live on.