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

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

Honorary Fellowship for animal welfare champion, Kevin Spurgeon

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 Kevin Spurgeon of Dignity Pet Crematorium, which was read by Prof. Elizabeth Stuart. Kevin received an Honorary Fellowship, for her services to business and animal ethics.

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Chancellor,
In 1988 Kevin Spurgeon’s parents’, Barry and Carole moved into their new home in Winchfield, a former brickyard and prisoner of war camp with a grade 2 listed kiln in the garden. Both the Spurgeons and Hampshire County Council were anxious to find a use for kiln which was restored in 1989. Watching a TV programme which showed in graphic detail the way in which deceased pets were disposed of literally like rubbish alongside clinical waste from the vets and subject to mass cremations, Barry and Carole decided to set up a pet crematorium where every pet would be treated with dignity and respect and be cremated on their own. Dignity Pet Crematorium opened its doors in 1992, the restored kiln became the cremator and the old prisoner of war guard house became the first Farewell Room where owners could say a last goodbye to their beloved pet. It is this business that Kevin Spurgeon now runs. His mother Carole passed away in 2014 and her ashes are scattered in the gardens of remembrance there, but his Dad still keeps a weather-eye on what is so much more than a business. The crematorium is a set in a beautiful location and the woodland and garden of remembrance hum with bees from the beehives housed there, hedgehogs looked after by Hedgehog Rescue are released back into the wild at Dignity, natural areas, bird boxes and feeders make the place a peaceful and attractive place to visit as you stroll amidst the moving memorials to Scamp, Tiger, Treacle, Fat Boy and so on. I took my dog, Arthur, there so he could see where he was going to end up. He gave me a hard stare as if to say, ‘Lovely, but what makes you think I am going first’. Solar power is used in the business, eco-friendly options for caskets and urns are provided and Dignity was the first pet crematorium to recycle the metals from orthopaedic implants. A charity wall in the Walkway of Remembrance allows people to remember their pets while supporting the charity, Hounds for Heroes, which is one of the many animal charities the business supports.

In 2009 the crematorium was named Cemetery of the Year and also won the Inspire 09 Rural Business of the Year Award. They also won the Home Business Innovation trophy in the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards. The pet crematorium is rated first out of over 1000 pet services across the UK on the Freeindex review site.

Dignity is a founder member of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria (APPCC) that sets standards for members and protects vulnerable pet owners. Kevin has been instrumental in seeking to ensure that pet cemeteries and crematoria adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. I first met Kevin at the University’s first ever Death Day at which Dignity has been a feature ever since. Several of us spontaneously burst into tears at a seminar he gave when he told us that every time an animal is put in the cremator whether the owner is present or not a commendation is said over the body by the person conducting the funeral. It is that attention to detail and that deep understanding and honouring of the mysterious and, some of us would say, mystical relationship between humans and animals that makes Dignity Pet Crematorium a very special place.

Chancellor, the University of Winchester honours Kevin Spurgeon and the values-driven and ethical business he runs and I present him to you for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of the University.

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Prof. Elizabeth Stuart is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester