Honorary Doctorate: Joyce D’Silva's response

At our graduation ceremony on 21st Oct. 2015, we were delighted to be able to confer awards on two champions of animal welfare, including Jocye D’Silva, Ambassador to Compassion in World Farming. This was her response.

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A huge thank you to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for my honorary doctorate and to Professor Knight for his kind words. I am truly honoured.

I would just like to add my thanks to my own supportive family and friends and to Trustees and colleagues from Compassion in World Farming who are equally committed to furthering the welfare of farm animals globally.

I feel such a fortunate person to have been able to work for an organisation which does such life-changing work, because Compassion in World Farming’s work has literally changed – and is still changing - the way farm animals are treated and the quality of their lives. Much has been achieved, but a huge amount remains to be changed, until each animal is seen as an individual sentient creature, capable of suffering. With over 70 billion animals slaughtered for food every year, that is going to be a tough job, but one which Compassion is committed to.

And it’s not just the animals who suffer from being kept in factory farms. The United Nations has just published a report showing that industrialised farming practices cost the global environment some $3.33 trillion per year — more than the UK’s annual GDP.

I recall being invited to visit a huge chicken company a few years ago. Every week their slaughterhouse “processed” thousands of chickens for the supermarkets. Most of these creatures had been kept – as chickens usually are – in huge sheds, each containing 20,000 or more birds. Bred to grow at a phenomenal rate, the chicks would go from fluffy yellow one-day-old to supermarket-ready in just 6 weeks. Many would suffer from painful lameness due to their speedy growth rates. But the Director of this company was keen to show me the new free range and organic chicken farms they had set up – and they were far better. Back in the office, I asked him “Why have you gone down the free range/organic route?”, expecting him to answer “market trends, getting ahead of the competition” or some such remark. But what he actually said was, “I want to be able to tell my children what I do.” I think that’s a really good criterion to use when you are deciding on a career.

Another way to look at it is perhaps what the inspirational Mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat Zinn says: ‘Ask yourself frequently, “What is my Job on the planet with a capital J?”’ You may not get a quick answer, and the answer could change, depending on where you are in your life, but I do think it’s a great question to ask yourself from time to time.

I congratulate all of you on your academic achievements and hope that you will be able to build a career which helps to make the world a better place. I wish you every happiness and fulfilment for the future.

Joyce D’Silva D.Litt (Hon)

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Dr. Joyce D’Silva is Ambassador for Compassion in World Farming