Philip Lymbery | Compassion at Christmas
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Compassion at Christmas

Image Credit: Richard Dunwoody

As Christmas approaches, Joanna Lumley OBE is my guest blogger.  BAFTA winning actress, comedian, former model, author, television producer and dedicated animal campaigner, Joanna Lumley is a longstanding Patron of Compassion in World Farming and a great friend, having supported our work to end factory farming for over 30 years.  Here she shares her thoughts on the importance of compassion for all farm animals and how we can all make a difference.

I’ve always thought that Peter and Anna Roberts were so wise to use the word “Compassion” when naming their fledgling farm animal welfare organisation all those years ago. It’s such a strong word, embracing care, concern and empathy.

They were then inspired to think big and use the words “in World Farming”, at a time when the organisation was just a handful of staff working above Peter’s health food shop in Petersfield.

But their hopes and dreams have come true. Compassion has led many fantastic campaigns, not least in getting the European Union to recognise formally that animals are sentient beings. Add in the EU bans on veal crates and barren battery cages, the near-ending of sow stalls and many other achievements and this is a charity I am so proud to support.

I may add that I’ll never forget holding that dear little piglet, Babe, for a photo-call outside the Houses of Parliament, to draw attention to this campaign for animal sentience. As Babe scrabbled up onto my knees with her muddy little trotters all over me, I knew that my grey suit would never be the same again! (Babe lived out her life in a beautiful sanctuary.)

Now Compassion has offices throughout Europe, as well as in the US and China. Truly, the charity is living up to its name and changing lives for millions of farm animals worldwide.

With Christmas approaching, that word compassion, along with peace and joy, becomes increasingly ubiquitous. Yet, in a world of wars, refugee misery and climate emergency it is hard for any of us to find peace and joy in our global situation. If we turn our attention to the animals with whom we share our planet, we see more people eating meat, usually of the factory-farmed kind; many wild animals losing their habitats or facing the guns of hunters and poachers. Where is the compassion in all this?

Joanna holds Babe, the little piglet, outside the Houses of Parliament, to draw attention to the campaign for animal sentience

Perhaps it is the awfulness of these scenarios which can inspire us to get going. We can at least put our own house in order, bringing those qualities of compassion, peace and joy into our own lives and the lives of those close to us.

When choosing food for seasonal celebrations we can ensure that any animal foods are free range or organic in origin. It will cost more, but I think that’s the price of compassion. If we forego animal foods, we can create (or buy!) the very best plant-based dishes to encourage others along the way.

I think we sometimes underestimate our own power. If we think “But what can I do? I’m just one person”, then we can look to the likes of Greta Thunberg. Just one Swedish schoolgirl, who decided to take action based on her beliefs and who has inspired millions.

Compassion’s founders, Peter and Anna Roberts, were also not dismayed by being just a small group of people in a market town in southern England. Their global vision is coming true day by day as Compassion forges ahead, transforming animals’ lives and encouraging kindness and compassion in farmers, food businesses, government departments, the UN and other international organisations and in citizens and consumers across the world.

There’s a practice, probably Buddhist in origin, but applicable to people of any faith or none, of sending loving and compassionate thoughts out into the world. To those who shout this down as a waste of time, I would say “Well at least there is an extra loving, compassionate thought in the world that wasn’t there before!” Can that be a bad thing?

So, let’s join together in renewing our commitment to both the quality of compassion itself and to the organisation Compassion in World Farming, so that its beautiful aims will come to fruition ever more speedily.