By Philip Lymbery, Global CEO
Despite a difficult year with profound challenges for all of us, not least from Covid, 2021 will be remembered for seeing some of the greatest strides ever for animal welfare and our mission to end factory farming.
This was the year when the European Commission announced the end of the cage age – that it would bring forward legislation to ban all cages for animals farmed for food. A far-reaching pledge brought about by the most amazing campaign. Led by Compassion, 170 organizations joined forces to gather 1.4 million signatures from EU citizens calling for this seismic change. And it is testimony to everyone involved, from our supporters, staff teams across our coalition partners, celebrity supporters, companies, and politicians who rallied to the cause, that this unprecedented stride has been taken for animals. Some 300 million animals are set to benefit from better lives free from cages as a result.
In more good news, thanks to a campaign by CIWF Czechia and other animal welfare groups, the Czech Republic passed a ban on caged hen farming. In addition, three more US States – Colorado, Utah, and Nevada – passed bans on cages for hens.
As well as progress on political reforms for animals, our relentless corporate outreach has seen another suite of companies pledging to move to higher welfare standards across whole tranches of their product lines.
Big names in the food industry committed to better welfare for their chickens reared for meat, 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.
To date, since our corporate engagement program started in 2010, we have achieved company commitments to better welfare that are set to benefit more than 2.23 billion animals annually.
Further inspiring progress was seen in the UK with the government announcing perhaps the biggest shake-up of animal welfare in British history, including proposed bans on live animal exports, legal recognition of animal sentience and the outlawing of the sale and import of cruel products such as foie gras. This could finally put an end to horrific export of calves and sheep over long distances, a campaign hard-fought by Compassion and kindred societies for half a century.
As well as driving impact for animals on traditional issues including cages, confinement systems, and live exports, this year also saw us exposing cruelties in the forgotten factory farms under the water.
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.
We exposed endemic cruelty in the Scottish salmon farming industry, gathering more than 130,000 signatures to our open letter urging the Scottish Government to halt the expansion of underwater factory farms.
And after much pressing in Europe for fish wellbeing to be taken seriously, we were delighted that the EU Commission published new guidelines for fish and seafood farms, which, for the first time included a special section on the welfare of farmed fish.
As well as being the greatest cause of animal cruelty on the planet, factory farming, whether at sea or on land, is also a major driver of some of the climate, nature, and health emergencies facing us all.
With 2021 having been declared the ‘Super Year for Nature’, we worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Chatham House scientific policy institute to produce a study setting out the devastating impact of factory farming on the natural world.
The report, Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss 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 lifted the curtain on a big year of involvement by Compassion in UN conversations about the future of our food and climate.
Talk of transformation
Compassion worked energetically to put the need to reform the livestock sector and end factory farming across to a gathering of world leaders in September at the United Nations Food Systems Summit. Billed as a ‘people’s summit’, it brought together a diversity of voices globally, including young people, Indigenous Peoples, civil society, researchers, food producers, the private sector, finance, and governments. Its aim was to focus on transforming food systems to drive our recovery from Covid-19 and get us back on track to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
We were instrumental in seeing off a high-profile takeover bid of the debate by the conventional livestock sector.
In November at Glasgow’s COP26 UN climate change summit, Compassion pressed hard for world leaders to embrace one of the clear, ready-made solutions to the climate emergency in ending industrial animal agriculture and cutting back on over-consumption of meat. After all, the world’s livestock alone produce more greenhouse gases than the direct emissions of the world’s planes, trains, and cars combined. But as time runs out, pressure will continue to build on world leaders to stop ignoring the need for action on cruel and climate-ruining factory farming.
And so we look to the year ahead with great excitement that, thanks to you, our supporters, partners, staff team, and trustees, change is happening. Animals are living better lives. The world is starting to wake up to the need for transformational change of what we eat and how we produce it. In short, the stage is set to end factory farming.
Thank you for being part of that compassionate movement for change.