A Year of Progress in Unprecedented Times
As I look back over the past 12 months, my reflection comes with a mix of feelings: sadness for the hardship people, animals and our planet have suffered in the face of the ongoing pandemic and the nature and climate emergencies, but gratitude for the support our organisation has continued to receive despite these hardships; and hope for the future of our earthly home and all who inhabit it.
Little did we know that the challenges of the pandemic would continue through the year and that eco-disasters would be flashed onto our television screens on an almost weekly basis. Fires, floods and droughts; the result of our climate crisis, have impacted the lives and survival of so many people and animals across the world.
It’s understandable that many of us feel anxious. 2021 had been tagged as the ‘Super Year for Nature’ with United Nations conferences planned around the globe to help world leaders commit to action, being postponed or becoming virtual only.
But while the year has challenged us all, there is still hope. If this pandemic has illustrated anything, it is that at its heart, humanity has the unique ability to act quickly and decisively when needs must. We now have increased understanding of how our own health and well-being is closely connected with that of other species and our environment.
Never has it been so important to remember and remind the world, that protecting humanity, means protecting animals too.
Despite the challenges, I feel proud that here at Compassion in World Farming, we have still been able to make some crucial advances for farmed animals and for the environment. This could not have been achieved without the continued hard work, support and encouragement of our wonderful trustees, patrons and, of course, staff and supporters.
The Ups and the Downs
2021 started off with a landmark moment for Compassion. We worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and renowned scientific policy institute, Chatham House, to produce the report ‘Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss’.
The research highlighted how the global food system is threatening 24,000 species at risk of extinction, as well as the very future of our planet. It was an important report for us, signalling a stronger focus on how factory farming is not only cruel to the animals we produce for meat and dairy, but a significant threat to our environment. We were thrilled to see the report covered by news outlets across the globe, helping spread the message far and wide and laying the foundation for our work in this area in years to come.
A few months later, one of our key campaigns – End the Cage Age – saw huge progress on our record-breaking European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) with the European Commission announcing that it would propose legislation to phase out the use of cages for farm animals across all 27 EU member states. This means the cage age could be over for 300 million more hens, pigs, calves, rabbits, ducks, geese and quail.
In more good news, three more US States – Colorado, Utah and Nevada – passed bans on cages for hens. And thanks to a campaign by Czech animal welfare groups, including our Czech office, the Czech Republic passed a ban on caged hen farming.
These changes will protect a great many animals around the world, but we know that compassion in farming is just one piece of the puzzle. It is essential that we fix our broken food systems and raise awareness of the need for food systems transformation on the world food agenda. That’s why I was honoured to be appointed as a United Nations (UN) Food Systems Champion for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit that took place in September.
The Summit was a great success in bringing about a global conversation about the importance of food systems transformation. It was heartening to hear some governments talking about moving away from industrial farming. The Summit gave Compassion in World Farming the opportunity to advance our game-changing solutions to many of the crises facing humanity, including ending factory farming and the over-reliance on animal-sourced foods. Whilst it has yet to be confirmed, I anticipate continued involvement with the UN Food Systems Hub that is currently being established to take forward the Summit’s outcomes. I will of course, keep you informed.
In November at Glasgow’s global UN climate change summit, COP26, Compassion in World Farming worked hard to get the need for meat reduction and sustainable diets on to the agenda. It wasn’t easy. Food and farming had scant mention, despite the world’s livestock alone producing more GHGs than the direct emissions of the world’s planes, trains and cars combined, and powerful scientific evidence base supporting reductions in meat consumption, and a shift to mostly plant-based diets.
Welfare for Animals
Whilst writing, I’d be remiss not to highlight a few more of last year’s achievements for farmed animals, including:
- Our Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards saw 11 leading food businesses being recognised for their inspiring and often innovative work in the field of farm animal welfare and sustainable food production. I’m humbled to share that, since our Food Business programme and awards began in 2007, the total number of animals benefiting each year (including awards, projects and pledges), is over 2.23 billion. This is a truly amazing impact, which fills me with great hope for the future, for animal welfare, humankind and our planet.
- Big names in the food industry committed to better welfare for meat chickens including Burger King and Friday’s in the UK; KFC and Galliance in France; Carrefour in Poland, Fileni in Italy, Subway across Europe, Sprouts Farmers Market and Natural Grocers in the US, and Domino’s Pizza in Australia and New Zealand.
- We exposed endemic cruelty in the Scottish salmon farming industry, and gathered more than 130,000 signatures to our open letter urging the Scottish Government to halt the expansion of underwater factory farms.
- Our new report and campaign to stop the factory farming of octopuses – a cruel but growing practice – resulted in a huge outcry and media coverage from news outlets all over the world – from the US and South Africa to countries across Europe.
In closing, I’d like to extend a huge thank you on behalf of our Trustees, Patrons and staff, to all our supporters wherever you may be in the world. Without your unwavering support and commitment we simply could not achieve so much.
In 2022, we will bring even greater pressure to bear for an end to factory farming. We’ll hold the European Commission to their promise to introduce legislation on cages by the end of 2023 and we’ll continue to develop our partnerships with those who shape, make and fund policy to achieve our aims.
We look forward to another year of strong progress with you, working together to achieve a kinder, more compassionate world for animals everywhere. Until then, may I take this opportunity to wish you all and your loved ones, a very happy and healthy festive season.
Take care and keep safe, wherever you may be in the world.