The Nature of Hope
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about hope.
For me, hope comes from a belief that things can and will change for the better.
So, for there to be real hope, there must be action.
Hope without prospect of real change, of action is well, false hope. Something that should make us very angry.
Many people are now becoming motivated to get involved with issues of climate chaos or animal cruelty, not out of hope, but out of anger, indignation, a fear for the future.
I remember my own journey into animal protection nearly forty years ago. I got involved, not through a sense of hope that animals would miraculously start being treated better, but out of anger. Anger at humanity’s treatment of animals in the cheap meat industry, on factory farms, in long distance transport, at the slaughterhouse. I remember sleepless, that burning sensation inside that things were wrong. Very wrong. And I had to help put them right.
I didn’t want soothing stories about how things weren’t as bad as I thought. How it would all be alright. I didn’t want to be patronised.
I wanted realism. Honesty. Straight-talking. A way to help make things change. But, most of all, I wanted action.
So, I looked for ways to get involved. I started to read around the subject. I saw books as weapons; I would arm myself with the facts and come out fighting for change. Not with my fists, but with my mind. With my heart, my soul, my passion for change and any semblance of persuasion I could muster. I started my own local group. I got stuck in at national and then international level with leaders like Compassion in World Farming (Compassion).
My involvement with Compassion has since spanned thirty years; in that time, we’ve made great strides. We’ve achieved bans on some of the worst systems and practices across Europe, like narrow veal crates for calves, the chaining of pregnant pigs, and keeping chickens in the smallest of battery cages. Over the last twelve years, we’ve focused on getting major food companies to commit to better practices, resulting in better lives for nearly two billion animals a year. In the UK, across Europe, the USA and even as far away as China and South Africa.
Working with hundreds of thousands of supporters, we’ve created our own hope. Hope through change inspired by action.
Now timelines are shrinking, and the stakes are getting higher. With every passing day, the odds stack up against humanity and the living world. The need for hope rooted in action grows ever more urgent.
In a world where we have just years to solve climate change, where whole swathes of our food are threatened by the decline of pollinating insects, where wild fish stocks could be gone within a generation and where we have just decades in our soils, hope for hope’s sake isn’t hope enough.
And what is the common link running through all these things? The food on our plate. Factory farming. The way we treat animals.
As Extinction Rebellion would say, this isn’t a drill.
Enduring hope comes through change and change comes through action.
As teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg said, “Yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
We can all act to change things three times a day; food is so important to the wellbeing of our families and to the environment; the food we choose matters a lot. Choosing to eat more plants, less and better meat, milk and eggs, in itself changes things. It can help unlock a healthier diet, reduce damaging demand for cruelly produced products, and sends a signal, loud and clear, to the food industry and politics.
In this way, we create our own hope. Hope that is rooted in realism, a tangible sense of progress to a better way.
Whilst there is still time, the question must surely be can we act far and fast enough? Can we motivate enough people to act with their anger, their indignation, their fear for the future, be it for farm animals, wildlife or the future of their children? To do something, however big or small, to make all the difference? Can we persuade leaders to act or compel them to make it happen anyway?
Let’s hope. No, let’s act. Together. For the benefit of people, animals, the climate, the future of our children.