The Satya Interview with Joyce
Joyce D'Silva. Photo courtesy of CIWF
Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.
Considering the plight of farmed animals, the UK and the EU can be
a source for inspiration
with respect to combating some of the most egregious practices—veal
crates, gestation crates, and battery cages. Many of these animal welfare
victories are largely attributed to the hard-hitting pubic education
campaigns and aggressive political lobbying of the UK based organization,
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). Founded in 1967, CIWF seeks to
achieve the global abolition of factory farming.
CIWF worked with the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) on the first-ever
global standards on animal welfare in transport and slaughter, which were adopted
this May. CIWF also recently hosted the Darwin to Dawkins Conference engaging
worldwide discussion on animal sentience.
After reading Gandhi’s autobiography in 1971, Joyce D’Silva, had
a personal awakening leading to veganism and a life dedicated to being a voice
for farm animals. As Chief Executive of CIWF, she has been involved in many successful
campaigns. Joyce D’Silva had a chance to talk with Sangamithra
welfare legislation in Europe, corporate outreach, her concerns about factory
farming in the developing world, and offered an outsider’s perspective
on farm animal campaigns in the U.S.
Can you tell our readers a little about Compassion in World Farming?
Compassion in World Farming was started in 1967 by Peter Roberts, a former dairy
farmer. He and his wife had become very concerned about the growth of factory
farming, which was really taking off in England at the time. None of the animal
welfare groups seemed to be doing anything about it. Out of despair, he set up
his own group specifically to campaign to get factory farming banned. He had
a really rough time at first and everyone thought he was a freak—anti-farmer
and all the rest.
Initially, it was hard for CIWF to talk to the government. But over time, because
we were very clear that whatever we published was factually correct—not
over the top stuff—and because we got so much support from the public,
politicians started listening to us.
In 1985, Peter Roberts also took on a very famous court case against a veal crate
farm which was owned by some monks, who, sadly, had built a chapel from the proceeds
from the veal farm. Can you believe the law of the land was so poor at the time,
we couldn’t prove cruelty even though the calves could never turn around
throughout their whole lives? So we lost the case. But it was one of those things
that just had so much publicity that it moved the whole thing on and in 1990,
the government announced it was going to ban veal crates in the whole UK. That
was the first big victory.
Is the European Union also banning veal crates now?
It is going to be illegal starting January 1, 2007. The EU has given quite a
long phase-out. They always do. This also happened with sow gestation crates.
We managed to get the British Parliament to start an eight-year phase-out in
1991, so they have been illegal here since 1999. But in the EU, they are not
out until 2013. Battery cages are also meant to go in 2012.
Can you talk about the process of getting such animal welfare legislation passed?
The first thing we do is gather all the scientific evidence. We look at the published
papers that show welfare problems with the animals; and we usually publish that
as a report. Then we usually have campaign leaflets and lobbying briefings for
members of parliament and government ministers. We have a video as well, showing
what the system is like.
We also always produce something about the alternatives and show farms with functioning
alternatives. We set up meetings. We have campaign launches. We get all our supporters
to write to the politicians. And that really seems to work.
When we were debating gestation crates in the Westminster Parliament in 1991
at the time of the first Gulf War, several Parliament members stood up and said “I’ve
had more letters from the people in my constituency on pigs than I have on the
war!” [Laughs.] This is because we wrote to everyone saying that if you
only write one letter this year, write this one. And they did! It’s the
case of democracy actually working for once.
We also set up a coalition with about 30 animal welfare groups throughout the
With these coalitions, are you also building alliances with other groups like
environmentalists with respect to factory farming?
We have made links on specific issues where there is an obvious environmental
link. Last year we launched an “Eat Less Meat” campaign. Although
there are good vegetarian societies, lots of people will never get that far,
but everyone can eat less. We produced a report and got a very famous environmentalist
Jonathon Porritt, who used to work for Greenpeace and now heads up the government
sustainable development commission, to write the forward. He advises Prince Charles
on the environment, and it was so good to have a really well respected environmentalist
saying that excessive meat consumption is one of the gravest threats facing humanity
today. We got the campaign endorsed by Friends of the Earth, and we try to get
consumer foodie groups to endorse it also.
What has been the response of western governments to your Eat Less Meat campaign?
I understand CIWF set targets for western governments and global food and farming
bodies of at least a 15 percent reduction in meat consumption by 2020.
I can’t say what the response has been yet. We’ve got some individual
politicians that are really interested, though we are really only going to get
to the political part of the campaign in the next couple of months. Fifteen percent
reduction means about one day a week without meat. Everyone we talk to thinks
that’s a great idea, but it is too soon to say what the official response
will be. Our report on Eat Less Meat has just been nominated for the short list
for the Guild of Food Writers’ Award. We’re quite thrilled about
I wanted to talk about meat production worldwide. While there have been major
advances in the EU and UK, globally factory farming is increasing. I was just
looking at the latest trends published by the Worldwatch Institute, which showed
that grain production, meat consumption, and hunger are all on the rise. I was
wondering if you could talk about trends in the developing world and CIWF strategies
to combat factory farming globally.
Quite a bit of what we are doing at the moment is research. Our three target
countries are China, India, and Brazil. These are countries with big populations
who seem to be going down the intensification route very quickly. [In the case
of China,] how is farming developing? Who are the big players? What companies
are investing in China? What supermarkets are going to China and other countries?
We are trying to make links with people interested in animal welfare in these
countries. Obviously between India and China you have most of the world’s
population, but they have such different backgrounds culturally and religiously.
They will have to be tackled in different ways. But getting the information first
and then trying to make contacts and set things up is critical.
I was in China last October and I met the senior official in the ministry of
commerce in Beijing. As a result we’ve got a whole conference on pig welfare
in Beijing with him, the RSPCA, pig farmers and the pig slaughterers. At this
stage when we are working to get things changed, two things [come to mind]. First
of all, try to make good contacts with local campaigners, academics, and people
we can support. But also a strategy of being opportunistic. In China, I didn’t
know I was going to meet this chap, but [now we have a conference on pig welfare].
Just take any opportunity that comes your way: sponsoring an academic to write
a book about animal welfare or animal rights philosophy which we are doing in
China, or seeing if you can set up seminars at conferences. In some of these
countries there are things you can’t do that campaigners have traditionally
done in the west—going out in the streets with banners is too dangerous
in some places. You can’t just take something that worked here and plunk
it down somewhere else and presume it will work. You have to be culturally sensitive.
You don’t want to be responsible for someone getting beaten up or imprisoned
because they’ve gone on a protest.
[We are also involved in] a huge amount of awareness raising, getting our educational
materials translated and used in schools. We are trying to get to every sect
of society in a way that isn’t imperialist or threatening, but which makes
people think about the welfare and the sentience of animals, and perhaps about
their own diet and health, and the environment of course.
Have you noticed any trends of developed countries ‘outsourcing’ factory
farming to developing countries and do you find this to be a big threat?
Absolutely! We already have American giants outsourcing to the EU. Smithfield
set up in Poland a few years ago before it joined the EU. Certainly, all the
main chicken breeding companies have offices in China—Aviagen and people
In May, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) voted to adopt the first-ever
global standards for animal welfare in transport and at slaughter. Can you tell
us about this and your work with OIE?
The World Organization for Animal Health, the OIE, has been setting standards
on veterinary matters, diseases, vaccinations, etc. Just a few years ago, it
started developing global animal welfare standards, much to our surprise. It
set up working parties on land and sea transport, slaughter for human consumption
and slaughter for disease control. It got global experts—including some
from the States—and they’ve produced these standards that we’ve
Obviously these standards aren’t ideal, but they are so much better than
nothing. Now groups in the States or African countries or anywhere with poor
or no rules on transport or slaughter can go to their governments and say “we’re
not asking for anything radical but can you implement the OIE standards, after
all, everyone voted for them?”
It will help to improve animal welfare globally. Over time, we would lobby to
improve these standards and get really short maximum journey times and that kind
of thing. It is a step that can really have long-term implications. Also we think
if there is a dispute at the WTO, they may take the OIE standards as a benchmark.
So it is really quite important that we’ve got these. [And now that they
have been developed] in transport and slaughter, they are moving on to other
areas of farming. So it will be interesting to see what happens.
Speaking of transport, can you tell us about the Stop the Bull Ship Campaign?
This is a particularly nasty aspect of the long distance animal transport trade
because the EU actually pays to export live cattle to the Middle East—mostly
to Lebanon. There is a subsidy per animal paid to the exporter if the animal
is exported live out of the EU. Germany, France and Ireland are the main countries
that do this. But others are coming in on it—Hungary, the Netherlands,
Spain and so on. These poor cattle are trucked across Europe down to the sea.
Then when they get to Lebanon, they are unloaded and taken into a holding area
or [put into] trucks and taken across the country to other places. We filmed
them being slaughtered. They put a chain around their hind legs and hang them
up while they are alive, conscious and disoriented with their necks down over
a drain in the floor. Then, they cut the throat without any stunning and the
animal writhes around in agony and bleeds to death over the drain. It is just
so unjustifiable. Everyone who lives in the EU and pays tax is paying for this
What do you hope to achieve with this campaign?
We are hoping that when the EU parliament votes for their budget, they will decide
not to vote for it. We’ve also got a written declaration going through
parliament that has 84 signatures on it already showing the opinion of the parliament
members. The UK will have the EU presidency from July to December—that
means it will chair any meeting of trade ministers and agriculture ministers.
We will try to persuade the new UK agriculture minister to do something about
it on the ministerial level during the presidency. We are getting our supporters
and our coalition partners to write as well.
Can you talk about CIWF’s concerns about genetically engineered
[Genetically engineered meat] isn’t market ready here yet. I know cloned
meat is not far away. If there is any meat from genetically engineered animals,
it would have to go through some committee for approval set up by the government.
We did get all the major food markets to say they won’t sell it, so there
won’t be a market.
We have lobbied against patenting of genetically modified animals and even took
a court case to the European patent office about the Oncomouse, the first animal
to be genetically modified, and that patent was modified as a result.
We try to expose how horrible it is, but it is tough, because so many people
do see animals as creatures to be exploited for profit. The sort of prevailing
mindset in the scientific world is ‘can we do this?’ and not ‘should
we be doing this?’
It’s interesting, because animal sentience just seems so obvious,
and yet there is so much horrific exploitation.
I know! To you and me, we’ve kind of known it for years. It’s the
trouble with science. One of the themes of our Darwin to Dawkins conference—addressed
by scientists not just ethicists—was that while we are still a bit in the
dark about animal cognition and consciousness, even if we don’t know all
the answers, we should be acting as if the animals are sentient. And scientists
were saying that science doesn’t have all the answers and we should go
to things like common sense and compassion—strange words that scientists
[usually] get a bit scared around. [Laughs.]
I was just reading about research geared
toward injecting fish oils into cattle so beef will have Omega-3 fatty
acids—taking something that’s
bad for your heart and injecting something that is good.
I know! It is so sick. They’ll try anything to keep the meat market
going. They are getting worried about people like us and the Eat Less Meat
CIWF has been fairly successful in corporate outreach. Can you talk
about your work with McDonald’s?
We are mainly responsible for getting McDonald’s in the UK to use only
free range eggs. It’s really interesting because in a couple of other
European countries where there is a good animal welfare lobby, they started
range eggs. But in the States, they are just giving the birds slightly larger
battery cages. It is crazy.
One of the things on my to-do list is to contact McDonald’s to get
further meetings going to see if we can get them to put their best standards
As an outsider looking in, what advice do you have for U.S. advocates working
towards the elimination of factory farms?
First, be really sure of your facts, because if you get a fact wrong, you
lose your credibility. Don’t be afraid to go and talk to everybody
about the issue. Just get the debate going, write letters to the local papers
on radio stations. Lobbying the companies direct and lobby the politicians.
See if there can be some sort of federal law on farm animal welfare. Keep
for farm animal welfare separate from vegetarian and vegan campaigns. Otherwise
you are just dismissed before the door is open.
I think it’s important to get stuff into schools as well, so that the
younger generation will hear the message. You also have to get the media
on your side
to reach the public. Forge good contacts with the media and really invest
time in building up those contacts. And motivate your supporter base so they
as active as possible. Everyone can do something.
Things don’t happen overnight. The campaign here has been going for quite
a while. I think America has just really got into farm animal campaigning over
the last three years. I just noticed a big difference about a year and a half
ago-—I went to a conference over there and suddenly everyone was talking
about farm animals. I think groups like Compassion Over Killing are really successful,
and other people realize that they can do it too. Now with Wayne Pacelle at the
head of HSUS, I think there is real hope and he’s got Miyun Park and Paul
Shapiro to work with him. So I’m more optimistic than I was, but it
is not going to be easy.
To learn more about CIWF visit www.ciwf.org.uk.