Monday, July 31, 2017

The Charter for Animal Compassion

Sawshell turtle and baby
How do we motivate behaviour change so that we can align our behaviour (and its impact on other species) with our actions?
Are animal lovers doing enough to translate our beliefs and empathy about animals into behaviour? Rob Percival, founder of the Charter for Animal Compassion – a non-political, non-ideological initiative, - believes there is much work to do. Anyone can sign the Charter if they agree with it. Rob took time out to explain to us what the charter is about.

Why do we need a charter for animal compassion?

The Charter hopes to start a conversation about the significance of compassion in an age of animal suffering, wildlife destruction and species extinctions. It is predicated on the belief that as a society we have become stranded beyond an ‘empathy gap’ – we struggle to understand the experiences, emotions and mentality of nonhuman animals. As a result, we pay scant heed to their points of view in deciding how to feed ourselves, organise ourselves, or interact with our natural environment. 
In one sense, our predicament is peculiar – no society has ever undertaken such rigorous research into animal sentience, into the sensory and cognitive abilities of other species; no society has ever had such a wealth of science at its fingertips. And yet no society has ever acted with such destructive consequence. The science of animal sentience has not been translated into more empathetic behaviour. The Charter hopes to contribute towards such a shift.
Who are you hoping will sign the Charter?

The Charter aims to engage a spectrum of audiences and has already been affirmed by hundreds of people from more than a dozen countries. We want everyone to sign the Charter, to highlight the significance of compassion in our relationship with animals We’re reaching out to researchers, scientists, philosophers, lawyers, activists and advocates. Ultimately, however, our aim is to engage visual artists and creative writers.
Why have you made a specific call to artists and writers and how can they help?

The Charter poses a question: What does it mean to be an artist in an age of animal suffering, wildlife destruction and species extinctions? A hundred years from now our descendants, living in a diminished world, will look back at our time, at the novels being written and the galleries filled with art, and they will see little but distraction and dishonesty. How was it, they will ask, that the web of life was unravelling before your very eyes, and you did not respond? Where were the artists whose work confronted the reality of extinction? Where were the poets whose verse plumbed the suffering of a factory farmed pig? Why, they will ask, did our ancestors not seek to harness art, in its various guises, to engender inter-species empathy, before it was too late?
The Charter hopes to galvanise inter-disciplinary collaboration between artists, writers and researchers, with a view to inspiring compassion towards nonhuman animals. It will work to promote the artists and writers whose work responds to, interprets, or celebrates the science of animal sentience. It will be calling for a more authentic reaction to the time in which we are living.
The Charter outlines important concepts. Is there any guidance on how signatories might turn this into action?

The Charter is setting out a direction of travel. It is a call to arms and to compassionate action. Over the next year we will be compiling an online library that archives some of the key papers in the science of animal sentience and which will act as an interdisciplinary hub. We'll be featuring content from philosophers, photographers, writers and researchers, all geared towards engendering inter-species empathy. The will, we hope, include some guidance on how to turn a commitment to animal compassion into practical action.

How can people support this project?

By signing the Charter, and sharing it widely. We want to reach as many people as possible. We are also on Twitter @animalcharter, so please do engage with us on social media.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

Make yourself heard. As a veterinarian, you are on the front line of our broken relationship with the animal world - you have insights that the rest of us need to hear, you have a role to play to moving human society towards a more compassionate and equitable relationship with the animal world. Join the movement for animal compassion. The hour is already late.

Thank you Rob for your time. You can find out more at the Charter website here You can read about the award-winning Charter for Compassion (for humans) here.