Honorary Doctorate for animal welfare champion, Joyce D’Silva

At our graduation ceremony on 21st Oct. 2015, we were delighted to be able to confer awards on two champions of animal welfare. Below is the encomium for Jocye D’Silva, Ambassador to Compassion in World Farming, which was read by Prof. Andrew Knight. Joyce received an Honorary Doctorate, for her services to animal welfare and ethical food production.

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Good morning everyone. I’m Andrew Knight, a Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, and Director of Winchester’s new Centre for Animal Welfare.

I’ve been involved in animal welfare campaigns for some 20 years, and before that, in campaigns for human rights, the elimination of poverty, and others. There is an army of people who toil on such issues around the world, and yet these problems can continue, in ways that too often seem pervasive and unchangeable. Just occasionally, however, one comes across a person who somehow seems to have the power, drive and sheer persistence, to make changes that are really big. Joyce D’Silva is one of those few. And I am incredibly proud to have the honour of introducing you to her today.

Joyce is an Ambassador for the animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming - or Compassion, for short. Compassion was founded almost 50 years ago around a kitchen table by Peter and Anna Roberts - a British farming couple - and a few of their friends. They had become concerned at the growing disconnect between modern agriculture, and the well-being of animals and the environment. From those humble beginnings, Compassion has become the leading charity worldwide, that campaigns for the protection and welfare of farmed animals.

Joyce took her first steps upon this pathway in 1970, when she read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. Taking his messages to heart, she became a vegetarian, and later, a vegan. In 1985 she joined Compassion as a Campaigns Officer. She rose all the way through the ranks to the position of Chief Executive, which she attained in 1991, and held for 14 years. In 2005 Joyce became Compassion’s Ambassador. She now delivers presentations on farm animal welfare and protection at venues such as the World bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the European Parliament.

Joyce has had far more highlights to her career than I have time to describe today. However, when I asked what had given her the most satisfaction thus far, two stood out. In 1994 she successfully delivered a petition containing over a million signatures, to the European Parliament, which resulted in animals being recognised as sentient beings, within the Treaty of Amsterdam. At last, animals were no longer merely property, but were recognised within the most fundamental treaty of the European Union, as living, feeling, sentient beings. This has paved the way for better treatment of animals in law and public policy, throughout Europe.

And in 1991, she persuaded parliamentarian Sir Richard Body to propose a bill to ban the confinement and tethering of sows in stalls so tiny they could typically take only one step forward and back, throughout the duration of their 4 month pregnancies. And so sow stalls and tethers were banned in the UK from 1999. And to this day the effects of that reform continue to ripple outwards, saving millions upon millions of these highly intelligent animals, from extreme frustration and suffering, as state after state, and country after country, follows suit.

We at the University of Winchester are similarly committed to animal welfare, as well as environmental sustainability. The meat and dairy products we use are free range, organic and locally-sourced, and we are incredibly proud to have been among the first universities to have received Compassion’s prestigious Good Egg, Good Chicken and Good Dairy Awards. In recognition of our shared interests in advancing animal welfare, both academically, and in the most practical sense, we have recently entered into a formal, strategic partnership with Compassion. We have been very proud to welcome another Compassion champion, its current CEO, Philip Lymbery, as a Visiting Professor at Winchester. And we are similarly delighted to be able to recognise the sustained and ground-breaking contributions that Joyce has made to the field, today.

Chancellor, may I now present to you, Joyce D’Silva, for the degree of Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa.

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Prof. Andrew Knight is Director of Winchester's Centre for Animal Welfare