This year, let’s put kindness at the centre of society
Reflections, Challenges and Hopes for a Glorious Future for all Living Beings
Looking back on the last year has taught me how far we’ve come as a movement and how much further we need to go, and fast.
Thirty years ago, we were amid a popular protest against UK live animal exports, whereby two million sheep and lambs and half a million calves were sent on horrendously long journeys to other countries. For sheep on arrival, their likely fate was slaughter. Calves would be destined for veal crates – tiny coffin-like boxes where they could never turn around for their entire life. It was a system so cruel it was already banned in Britain, yet there we were sending animals away to that cruel fate.
Thirty years on, and the UK Government has introduced a Bill to end live animal exports for slaughter or fattening forever. I and colleagues were privileged to be asked to a meeting with the Prime Minister’s office to discuss plans for a ban. Indicating welcome political intent, the Bill was quickly introduced into Parliament and before the festive break underwent a successful Second Reading with all-party support.
Banning live exports
Thirty years since those protests, it’s heartening to see the UK Government itself adopting our message that live exports are not only cruel but unnecessary and should be consigned to the history books. Thirty years ago, it was a distant dream. Now it looks like becoming a reality. Finally.
For the year ahead, a big focus for us will be getting this long-awaited reform over the line once and for all.
When I look back to that same time, thirty years ago, climate change was but an emerging issue. There were no UN Conferences of the Parties (COPs), no global gatherings of governments to talk about it.
Climate changing cruelty
Since then, there have been 28 UN COPs and of those, 27 have ignored the huge impact that food and factory farming has on warming our planet. How was that even possible? It seems an amazing oversight given that about a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from food, with a big contributor being animal agriculture. The livestock sector globally produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s planes, trains and cars put together.
Scroll forward 30 years and last year we saw COP28 in Dubai opening with a Presidency Declaration on food systems, farming, and climate. A landmark statement of intent signed by 158 countries to put urgent transformation of the food system at the heart of the climate talks. As animal advocates, it gives us a rich canvass of opportunity rewrite the future for animals, people, and the planet.
Thirty years ago, being vegetarian was often seen as cranky. Eating lots of meat wasn’t an issue. As for vegans well, most people back then didn’t know what vegan meant. Or worse, I recall a national newspaper referring to a Vegan Society meeting as a gathering of the ‘Flat Earth society of food’. That’s how far away we were three decades ago.
Now we have Veganuary, and veganism is everywhere!
Eating more plants and less but better meat has become mainstream. ‘Better’ meat meaning from animals given a decent life in organic systems, in free-range or in pasture-fed systems – and mixing it up with more plant-based alternatives.
Meat but not as we know it
And now the concept of meat itself is changing: thirty years ago, the only meat available was from a slaughtered animal.
Over the past year or two, we’ve seen the emergence of cultivated meat grown from stem cells in a bioreactor. Now, in the USA, diners can eat cultivated chicken whereby no animal gets slaughtered. How wonderful is that? And what happens in America quickly spreads to much of the World. Which is why I’ve speculated on whether a future Royal Banquet might soon feature cultivated meat too.
Looking back, we’ve come a long way, and the year ahead will be hugely important in keeping up momentum.
And you know what, with things starting to change fundamentally, the stage could be set for one of the greatest escape feats of history.
As things stand, with impending climate crisis, the collapse of nature, and the rising risk of future pandemics, human society could be lucky to make it past the 21st century.
But with new opportunities opening up for a rethink in our relationship with animals and the natural world, things could at last be taking a turn for the better. What I can see is that the future can be bright for all of us.
A better tomorrow is as simple as putting kindness at the centre of our society. Thereby ending the cruelty and planetary destruction of factory farming and the long-distance transportation of animals. Instead, basing our society on life-affirming, compassionate solutions where animals are given a decent life as part of regenerative food systems, together with healthy diets with more plants, thereby creating a gloriously sustainable future for our children.
Here’s to a game-changing 2024!