The Wisdom of Fathers

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Peter Roberts MBE, 7th June 1924 – 15th November 2006, Founder of Compassion in World Farming | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

My father-in-law, the late Peter Roberts, Founder of Compassion in World Farming, was a deeply spiritual man. When Peter was once asked to define ‘factory farming’, his response was “Where the individuality of an animal ends, factory farming begins”.  These words were echoed by Dr Jane Goodall in a recent Compassion in World Farming Webinar “when you start thinking of them (animals) as individuals, that really gets you to grips with the enormity of what we have done”.

This period of enforced lockdown has been challenging for us all, but also a time for reflection.  To reappraise what’s really important in life and why it matters. Love for one’s family, for community and for carers has been inspiring.  The kindness shown to one another and the willingness to help others less able, has been wonderful, whatever one’s culture or creed.

The awakening for many to the unfolding beauty of Springtime and the natural world, will be an unbinding memory for me. As humanity retreated indoors if you like, so much of our wildlife seemed to step out into the open.

As countries start to emerge from pandemic lockdown, governments are treading the delicate balance of health vs economy.

And as we do so, there is a huge opportunity to rebuild a better, more just and equitable world for everyone. One that protects people, animals and the environment on which our very future depends. And one that embraces the big message learning coming from Covid-19, which is that protecting people means protecting animals too.

I am once again reminded of the words of my late father-in-law, Peter Roberts, who thought that “the thing that would end factory farming would be the scourge of disease”.

Whilst the emergence of Covid-19 has been linked to eating wildlife, it shows strong parallels with other viruses which have emerged from a different route – industrial farming – such as highly pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza and Swine Flu. The effects of those diseases have been devastating; and they are believed to have come from keeping living, breathing, sentient creatures, chickens and pigs, in the most unnatural conditions – caged, crammed and confined on intensive farms.

There has been mounting pressure on China to crack down on the trade and consumption of wildlife and the authorities in Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, have now officially banned eating, hunting and breeding of wild animals for five years.

Yet there is no mention of any action to be taken, by any country, to limit the risk of zoonotic disease from factory farmed animals.

Philip with free-range pigs | Credit: Richard Dunwoody / Compassion In World Farming

As countries start to emerge from Covid-induced lockdown, what has become clear is that we need to reset the place of animals in society. That means moving away from viewing animals as mere commodities, goods, cogs in the machine. Instead, ending factory farming in its entirety. Setting targets for reducing meat and dairy consumption. Charting a course away toward a regenerative food system that builds back soils, preserves water, provides habitat for abundant wildlife, and allows farm animals to experience the joy of life.

Peter knew deeply that when we care for all animals, we care for ourselves; the two are inextricably linked.

Now we need to get leaders and governments the world over to embrace a better future, free from factory farming and the fear of the next pandemic; instead, creating a just, equitable and compassionate future for everyone.

Compassion in World Farming is calling on the world’s most influential organisations, including the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, to replace factory farming with a food system that respects animals, nurtures our planet, and reduces the risk of pandemics. 

Please use this link to sign our petition and join the call for a future without factory farming

Thank you.

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