Conversations that spark change: Animals and our planet
By Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA.
We're at a critical turning point where we must urgently re-evaluate our relationship with animals and nature if we're to secure our future and that of the trillions of animals with which we share the planet.
It's a terrifying prospect, but I'm approaching it with optimism, drawing on the courage, strength and determination shown by our trailblazing founders. All of whom were driven to create a kinder, fairer, more compassionate world.
In the nearly 200 years since, the RSPCA has waged many campaigns against animal cruelty. First outlawing sports such as dog fighting, bear-baiting and cockfighting. And then improving welfare conditions in slaughterhouses.
Later laws were introduced to regulate experimentation on animals. And the lives first of ponies in the pits and then of horses on the field of battle came under greater public scrutiny. These developments inspired change abroad, with the USA launching its own animal protection society in 1866. Australia and New Zealand then followed.
Opening the conversation on the future of humans and animals
The RSPCA has never shied away from a challenge. We're advocates and campaigners affecting real change. Now is a pivotal moment - the survival of our species.
In honour of one of our founders - we've created the Wilberforce Lecture to bring together the brightest and best minds. We'll be holding a yearly lecture for policy and change makers with the aim of generating positive change.
Two hundred years on from the founding of the RSPCA, it's time for a new conversation about the future of humans and other animals. To advance understanding and innovative thinking and debate how we relate to the natural world.
But it's not just talking we need - it's action. The lecture will be the catalyst to create an independent Animal Commission. This is essential in informing, advising and driving forward the change we need to ensure our survival.
We're delighted that Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of Leon, a chain of restaurants, has agreed to be our first lecturer.
Henry's the author of the Government commissioned National Food Strategy. He's also a non-executive board member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He brings an interesting perspective on the role of the Government, business and us as consumers in saving our planet.
We know that our fate on this planet is dependent on treating animals and their habitats with more care and respect. Could the UK set the standard for animal welfare in the 21st century, as it did in the 19th? Could we be the global leader in the battle for our survival?
The Wilberforce Lecture, and the Animal Commission it's supporting, will provide some answers, but there's so much left to do. It can feel overwhelming, but, like our founders, we have to face these challenges head-on. We must write our own page in the history of the animal (and human) welfare movement.