This year, Joyce D’Silva is standing down from a leading role in Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), after a career spanning 30 years, first as an employee, then as its Chief Executive, and finally as its Ambassador. On behalf of the Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA), I was very pleased to attend the wonderful event held on 13th July 2016 to ‘celebrate 30 years of Joyce D’Silva’ and to look back on her amazing career with CIWF and her outstanding achievements for farm animals. Joyce is a patron of AIA.
The event was held at Savoy Place in London and was attended by many people who had worked with Joyce during her long and successful career. Patron, Joanna Lumley and Chief Executive, Philip Lymbery, hosted the event, where those attending heard tributes from three guest speakers and were shown a short film of her achievements, before finally hearing from Joyce herself. Joanna Lumley said that Joyce ‘had been a beacon’ and Philip Lymbery said that Joyce had been ‘a leader, champion and pioneer’.
The first guest speaker was Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester, who spoke about the new Centre for Animal Welfare at the University, where there are under-graduate and post-graduate courses in animal welfare, as well as teacher training qualifications which focused on animal welfare to ensure that this was then taught to young people and, importantly, would save children from unlearning the natural compassion which they already had. The University also included animal welfare in its policies and their catering including only animal products from higher welfare systems. Joy said she thought the future looked bright for animals in that 70 per cent of vegetarians and vegans are under 34 and that social media was very powerful for getting animal welfare messages across.
The second speaker was Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. He criticised the lack of compassion in the environmental movement, which saw nature as a resource to be managed for human needs only. Martin pointed out that we are just a part of a much bigger whole and he thanked CIWF for bringing animals and compassion into the movement. He highlighted the important role of the faiths (who own 12 per cent of the world’s farmland) in bringing compassion back into the way we treat animals and the wider environment, and stressed that they needed to get back to some of their original teachings which had been forgotten.
The final speaker was John Webster, Professor Emeritus at the University of Bristol. He described Joyce as ‘the finest advertisement for a vegan diet that I have ever met’. Describing farmers as ‘stewards of the land’, he criticised farming subsidies for failing to reward stewardship of the environment and animal welfare, which included both farm and wild animals. He hoped that some good would come out of the fallout from Brexit and that subsidies could be revised based on the fundamental principle of respect for all life.
Finally, Philip summed up Joyce’s outstanding career, saying that she did not just fight for freedom from suffering but that animals should get joy out of life. Joyce’s many achievements are staggering. Compassion’s 1 million signature petition to the European Parliament helped achieve legal recognition of animals as sentient beings. This was then incorporated into the European Treaty. Under Joyce’s leadership, sow stalls, veal crates and barren battery cages have been banned in the EU.
What strikes me most about Joyce is her spiritual and compassionate nature. She has championed the faith-based approach to sharing compassion towards animals and has written extensively on the subject. Luckily she is still doing work for Compassion on a consultancy basis. The Animal Interfaith Alliance is very proud to have Joyce as a patron.