Question: What is the most important lesson to learn from the successful campaign which stopped the proposed US-style mega-dairy in Lincolnshire, England?
Answer: Strength in diversity. It was the key which unlocked the door to making things happen.
Look at how the mega-dairy campaign united a cross-section of people and organisations. Foodies, environmentalists, animal welfarists, family farmers and local people were united in their opposition. Each one had their particular perspective. Some cared about animal welfare. Others were concerned about the environment. Still more were alarmed for the future of Britain’s dairy industry. No one was compelled to agree with anyone else. Not everyone involved cared about animal welfare as much as we do. Nevertheless, they were united in their opposition for reasons that mattered to them. It was this diversity which made the campaign a success. The combined pressure from a coalition of interests, reflecting the community’s concerns, made all the difference. The Environment Agency delivered the knock-out blow.
The threat of industrialisation to dairy farming persists and the campaign against mega-dairies must continue. Dairy farmers, retailers, milk processors, consumers, government officials, animal welfarists and other key stakeholders now must determine how to establish a market which supports sustainable, human-scale dairying that otherwise we face losing.
Notwithstanding this challenge, to my mind, the mega-dairy campaign is a model of how campaigning could and should be in the future. I call this approach of strength in diversity, ‘Convergent Campaigning’. It consists of stakeholders coming together to work cooperatively toward achieving a shared objective. It is a multi-faceted approach which enables people and organisations to participate for reasons that matter to them.
Our long-term strategy to end factory farming by 2050 is an example of convergent campaigning. This initiative need not, and should not, be exclusively about animal welfare, although this is, of course, hugely important to us. Opposition to factory farming can also be motivated by its threat to the food we eat, the environment we protect and our public health. Also, factory farming holds us back from feeding the world’s growing population. This is why we partnered with Friends of the Earth to publish Eating the Planet. This report showed it is possible to feed the world’s population without factory farming and simultaneously provide environmental benefits, including promoting biodiversity and reduction of pollution. We also published Beyond Factory Farming which demonstrated the cost factory farming causes to the climate, the environment and our health.
The huge global impact of factory farming is increasingly understood by the public. Examples of this impact include two out of every three farm animals worldwide now being factory farmed. An area of land equivalent to the size of the European Union is used to grow feed for farm animals. More than ever before there are incredible opportunities to mobilise people against factory farming on aspects that matter to them. Our task is to inspire action, regardless of whether they are consumers, advocates, teachers, policy makers, legislators, doctors, veterinarians, celebrities, food manufacturers, etc.
But there is one door we must find the key to unlock. How do we reach out to those in society most likely to be in positions of influence in 30 years time? How do we educate future leaders like policy makers, opinion shapers and culture creatives so that they understand why we must bring about a paradigm shift in public policy to end factory farming by 2050?
Generally, society’s leaders emerge from distinct professions or social groups. Although this is not always the case as there are, of course, notable exceptions. Nevertheless, it should be possible to identify the educational tracks which many of them take before they move into positions of authority. Some professions (e.g., lawyers, economists, journalists) and those associated with agriculture (e.g., veterinarians, ethologists, agriculturalists) often have shared educational experiences and particular leadership streams. Further, it should be possible to examine geo-political trends and identify those countries or regions that generate their leaders. In short, we seek to identify tomorrow’s leaders today to educate them about animal welfare and its importance to the global sustainability of human society.
We are currently working on first thoughts for our ‘future leaders’ program. It aims to identify and educate the 2050 generation before they become adults and take positions of authority and influence. Our focus is on the end goal of ending factory farming. Our strategy is based on the new approach of convergent campaigning. We aim for an educational strategy designed to get the right message at the right time to the right people.
This approach is, in part, prompted by my own experience. I recall when I was a teenager at school; a speaker from Compassion explained factory farming to my class. I was already an enthusiastic birdwatcher and was outraged when I learned about chickens kept in battery cages. Little did the speaker know the profound impact he made on me. Nor did I know at the time it would become my life’s calling. Fast forward to 2009 and a blog I wrote here, “A paradigm shift in thinking.” I reported on a meeting of representatives from the international animal welfare movement. We discussed what was required to happen to create a paradigm shift in global policy thinking at all levels to move beyond factory farming. The question is no longer what can we do practically to oppose factory farming? The question is what must we do to end factory farming by 2050?
Today, the mid-twenty-first century feels a long way off. But those born this year will only be 39 in 2050. This is the generation which must celebrate the end of factory farming. It is our responsibility to ensure they accomplish this and understand why it is so important.
3rd March 2011