Our hearts know that a more beautiful world is possible¹ – a world wherein humankind, as part of Earth’s web of life, is in a benign and compassionate relationship with all other beings; a world in which we treat other-than-human animals humanely and with respect; a world in which all animals are free to engage in natural behaviour and to flourish according to the natures of each species.
The One Web of Life (OWL) Programme adopted by SAFCEI in October 2014 is not content just to wait for such a world to be brought into being. Compelled by the Golden Rule² to “treat all others as you’d like to be treated yourself”, OWL encourages people of faith to think consciously about their relationship with all the creatures that share the Earth. While we do aspire to kindness and compassion, generally we reflect far too little on how the fundamental tenets of our various faiths might be calling us to relate with compassion to our fellow beings.
The OWL programme aims to:
1 To raise awareness and challenge people of faith to consider how our religious belief systems and forms of spirituality guide us in our relationships with and treatment of other beings such that heightened levels of individual awareness and mindfulness are visible;
2 To encourage, facilitate and support people of faith to live in benign and compassionate relationships with other beings such that this is visible in our individual practices and behaviours;
3 To mobilise people of faith, as individuals and as faith communities, in exercising our democratic rights to support compassionate and humane treatment of animals, as well as to oppose and bring to an end all cruel and inhumane treatment of animals, such that changes in corporate policies and practices as well as in Government policy and legislation (including the Constitutions of the countries of the SADC region) and regulations and enforcement, are made;
4 To encourage organizations that share a concern for the welfare and protection of animals to work together in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.
Initially OWL will focus mainly on factory-farmed animals whose needs at this time are especially dire. With this in mind, three specific campaigns are envisaged focusing on factory-farmed pigs, chickens and cows respectively.
SAFCEI has always been committed to upholding the principles of the Earth Charter. The principles of “Respect Earth and life in all its diversity”, “Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love” and “Treat all living beings with respect and consideration” speak specifically about a more beautiful relationship with all life on Earth. Now the OWL programme will be able to actively promote SAFCEI’s commitment to the interests, welfare, rights for and protection of other-than-human animals.
In this its foundational phase OWL is being staffed by volunteers with the enthusiastic support of SAFCEI staff. So far its work has been done mainly by the volunteer members of OWL’s Programme Coordinating Group whose members are listed below. The next crucial step is to set up Task Teams comprising members of particular faith communities to work specifically with their fellow faithful.
While founded in faith and while there is so much that can be achieved simply by volunteers sharing their time (that is, sharing themselves), for OWL to fulfil its potential, funds will be needed – for materials, for getting people together and for contributing to SAFCEI’s core operation on which all SAFCEI’s programmes depend. In the longer term and ideally OWL, like SAFCEI’s other programmes, will also need the assistance of paid programme staff.
To achieve its objectives OWL needs the following:
1 Support for OWL’s campaigns as they unfold, active assistance with growing awareness in each faith community and participation in the observance of World Day for Farmed Animals and World Animal Day on, respectively, 2 and 3 October 2015;
2 More volunteers – not every major faith community in Southern African has a voice in OWL’s Programme Coordinating Group yet and volunteers are also needed for the faith-specific Task Teams;
3 Funds – several funding proposals have been submitted but ‘leads’ are needed for other potential funding partners and donors;
4 Prayers, please!
For more information, to become a supporter and/or to join the OWL network, email email@example.com.
Volunteer members of the OWL Programme Coordinating Group:
Sonia de Villiers, Prof Stephen Finn, Dr Elisa Galgut, Fozea Fryddie, Dr Les Mitchell, Frank Molteno, Ani Tsondru Sonam and Tozie Zokufa
1 With thanks to Charles Eisenstein for this image taken from the title of his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books; 2013)
2 “Always treat all others as you’d like to be treated yourself” or “Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you”.