It is always very fortunate if you can be part of making history. If you are given the possibility to change the stream of a river when it is running in the wrong direction and becoming a threat for everything and everyone. It is great to be able to be constructive and build on positive trends that will hopefully result in a better world. I’m, lucky to be in such a position now. As I’m currently leading the establishment of this brand-new World Federation for Animals, this makes me happy!
With great pleasure I can announce that the World Federation for Animals is a fact. With the support of 19 founding members, animal protection organisations around the world are joining forces to put animal issues firmly on the international policy agenda, including finally through the United Nations. And that is needed! If animal welfare would had been significantly present at international policy level, this COVID-19 pandemic could probably have been avoided. Ignoring the fact that our public health is linked with the way we use and treat animals has shown to be disastrous.
It is encouraging to read the new UNDP report: “The next frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene”. This stresses that a new form of development can only be in harmony with nature, if we protect wildlife and their habitats, and respect our domestic and farm animals. We have reached the limits of a development system where humans (and money) are given central importance, and we can freely exploit nature and animals for our own sake. That is no longer possible or desirable. We need to prepare for the next phase of civilisation: the post-Anthropocene society.
Industrial farming, where sentient, non-human animals are seen as “resources”, to be exploited for profit, is not only very unsustainable – but also ethically wrong.
Many other reports like UNEP’s report on how to prevent a next pandemic sing the same song, and also show clearly that the way we treat animals is directly linked to human health and well-being. To avoid ever more frequent and virulent pandemics, we need to take this fact into account. Neglecting this is bad for our health, our lives, and our livelihoods.
But political change can only be achieved if the pressure from civil society is great enough. That’s why a group of ambitious people took the initiative to build a global alliance to fight for animal issues to be urgently placed higher on the international agenda. The voice of the animals must be heard! That’s why we fully promote our Animal’s Manifesto, now signed by 170+ Animal Protections Organisations, giving us concrete ideas on what needs to be changed, and how.
The world is recovering from COVID-19, and decision-makers are racking their brains on how “to build forward better” our society, our consumption and production patterns, and our broken food systems. And that is good. But there is more: a fundamental change in mindset is needed on how to use and treat animals. Even in this “better world”, most the decision-makers still treat animals as “resources”, or “things” that are there for us, for our wellbeing. This idea is very human-centric, and if you wish arrogant.
It took civilisation decades to consider slaves as humans, to see women as full-fledged beings able to deal with a right to vote, to accept that children should not work in factories. All huge societal changes which, although different in nature, show that societies are able to re-think their currently accepted cultural and behavioural “norms”, and move forward. And that makes us optimistic. But these kinds of revolutions only happen when civil society groups and brave individuals stand up and unite to achieve that change.
There is hope. And hope has two beautiful daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to make things better than they are. I wish all Animal Protection Organisation, united in WFA, that hope. And I wish them that courage. But most of all I wish them that anger. I wish them above all that anger! Because anger at injustice is the highest form of love. Love for nature, love for animals, love for humankind.
Written by Leida Rijnhout, Chief Strategy Officer at World Federation for Animals; published 8 February 2021
Chief Strategy Officer, World Federation for Animals
Leida is a Dutch national and has a background in cultural anthropology with more than 30 years of experience in international development cooperation and sustainability. For many years, she facilitated and coordinated the global NGO community to realise their active engagement in United Nations processes on Sustainable Development (Rio Process) and Environment (UNEA-Nairobi). She is owner of the consultancy “Leapfrog2SD” helping NGOs to integrate systemic and holistic thinking into their long term strategies. She is now the Chief Strategy Officer for the World Federation for Animals (WFA).
She is expert in environmental justice and system change thinking towards sustainability. She initiated a broad EU alliance of civil society organisations SDG Watch Europe and is member of the Steering Group. As representative for this alliance she was also member of the EU Multi Stakeholder Platform on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, chaired by EU Vice President Frans Timmermans. She is board member of the Club of Rome (EU Chapter).