Rebels & Recipes: Interview with Jane Tredgett of Humane Being
How are ya Rebels! We had a brief hiatus from our series this July, but we're welcoming this August return with quite the impressive figure.
Jane Tredgett, founder and director of Humane Being, has been busy. Humane Being is a not-for-profit organisation supporting people on their individual journeys towards a way of living that is kinder to animals and better for the planet and its people. Out of this objective and dedication came the campaign Scrap Factory Farming, which does what it says on the tin: it sets out to urge the UK Government to phase out factory farming, in order to achieve a more humane and sustainable future for animals and humans.
The campaign took off, finding important support from advocates and celebrities. It focuses on the government's failure to protect the public from the many dire consequences of factory farming. All of us advocates and animal lovers had been sitting here thinking, "Factory farming is really terrible, and leads to cruelty for animals as well as ill effects for humans - including the spread of zoonotic diseases and destructive environmental effects - but what can we do about it?" Then David Finney, part of Humane Being's amazing team of volunteers, had a brill idea, talked with Jane, and they decided, "Oh, we know what we're gonna do about it: we are going to challenge the government in a world-first legal battle." WE BOW DOWN!
In June 2021, Humane Being, Jane in her own right as a concerned citizen, and Dr Alice Brough filed a 1200 page application for judicial review of the Government’s approach to factory farming. The defendant? The Secretary of State for Defra. Humane Being claimed that the UK Government was failing to protect the public from all the consequences of factory farming for humans - causing pandemics, risking antibiotic resistance, increasing pollution, and of course, worsening the climate crisis. Focusing on the effects for humans, instead of the cruelty of animals, was a strategic decision for successful litigation.
In January of this year, the campaign went to court to ask the judge for judicial review, represented by the eminent Michael Mansfield QC. Unfortunately, the judge denied them. The team appealed, and has recently learned that the appeal was not successful. But the legal team noted that, based on the time frame of submissions, it was unlikely that the substantial amount of submitted materials were fully read before the appeal was denied, indicating a possible "lack of care, sense of duty or awareness of the seriousness of the risks to human health". As a result, the team last week lodged their appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.
While we eagerly watch that case, we wanted to get to know the woman behind the work a little more. Read on for some deep insights into advocacy, and some incredible advice.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How did you become an animal advocate?
I went vegetarian at 21, and though my personal career took me in different directions, I volunteered at animal rescues in my mid-20s. I joined the local RSPCA in Yorkshire to volunteer and later became a trustee of the national board for 10 years, 9 of those years on the Freedom Food higher welfare scheme. I gained lots of insight into speciesism and how big animal charities have tendencies towards it.
So in 2018 I set up Humane Being, a not-for-profit limited company. The idea was to have normal people join up the messaging of what was happening to animals and humans on earth, and talk about what we can do to change it. We saw that vegans understood the climate crisis, but didn’t see a lot of people putting it together that what was happening to animals affects humans and the planet. Quickly, we saw that driving change by having tables at events etc., though important, was not going to change the system. So I got involved with Animal Rebellion - they were talking about systemic change - and so we took the lead from them.
David [Finney] thought about litigation, about factory farming in particular. He felt it breached the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Legal firms said it was too hard to take specific action, and why did we suddenly want to challenge it all these years after the Act? So we looked strategically at how we could make inroads, how we could look at the environmental messaging to draw a connection. And then the pandemic came, and we were all much more aware of the reality of zoonotic disease threats and the risks of factory farms contributing to it, as well as to antibiotic resistance. The case took shape as a human rights case centred around the failings of the government to protect the public from the risks of factory farming. That’s how we set up the case.
We gained the support of Michael Mansfield QC because I have a belief that you don't get anything if you don’t ask for it. He’s one of the country’s most renowned QCs, having represented the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and the Grenfell Towers cases. So I thought, why not just ask him to help? What do I have to lose? We were so lucky when he said yes. He put an amazing team together. We applied for judicial review in the UK, which was turned down; he took it to an oral hearing, which got turned down. We knew this would be an uphill climb. Defra was not presenting any counterarguments or scientific evidence to prove their claims, so we were disappointed that it was dismissed in their favour. We applied for an appeal, but we believe the appeals process wasn’t followed properly by the court. We wondered about challenging them over that process, but instead lodged the case with the European Court of Human Rights last week because something serious has to be done about this whole thing.
(Can we just take a minute to reflect on how monumental this is??)
It’s in at the ECHR, they’ve acknowledged that they received it. But although we were on a strict timeline for submitting, the court can now take as long as they like. So we wait.
In addition to this case, we at Humane Being have been working hard all along the way. We object to planning applications, especially for factory farms or extensions to existing ones. We send FOI requests, building a picture of factory farming in the UK - where they are, what sort of species, what is happening. That’s the journey.
All of this plays an important part of the process. But no one had specifically tried this strategy before, of going to the courts for judicial review. We didn’t want to just replicate what other groups were already doing really well. So we had to go for it.
In addition to the case, what are your current goals for Humane Being?
The case has been the main time-consuming issue, but we have a lot going on, always. We have planning objections as a separate area, which are related in essence but not part of the case. They’ve all taken a real chunk of time. (We can attest to this - planning objections take a lot of time and research!) Now that the case has been submitted and we are waiting for news, it’s not taking up as much time. We already have all the witnesses and experts on file, so it’s not like we are actively looking for more statements - not that we would need them as we had 80 experts from all over the globe give statements!
So what we need to do now is build on what we’ve done. We have a strategy set out and we are working on that. We want to continue bold and different actions that no one else is taking. It might be litigation, it might be climate-related. There are opportunities there. What we have decided is that we will stick to the factory farm aspect at the moment, because you can engage a wider audience, including non-vegans, with that messaging. So many people are against factory farming. We are hopeful it will have a knock-on effect. That’s one thing we are looking at, as well as how we can support other people taking action.
As for focusing on taking action: To build on this case, we want to continue building our own expertise. We have learned so much from this case, so we want to look at ways to share this information more easily. We are looking at creating an online library, getting all the research and information we’ve found and putting it somewhere for people to find it quickly. How do we share everything we’ve learned, share the knowledge, and also connect all these experts that came out to support us? It was important for us to connect this big network of like-minded people, people who could help various campaigns and projects. For example, we had two professors come forward to offer expertise, and it turns out they were at the same university. When I met the second professor, I asked, oh do you know the first? And he said, no, why? They didn’t know each other despite being at the same university. Sure they were in different fields, but look at how much they had in common, how much they had to offer each other and others by working together? They both came forward to help us. It was an interesting eye opener, and we decided we want our next project to be this thing that connects all these people, across fields, to help people find each other.
People who are scientists, researchers, and so on are not always the type of people who raise their head and shout. Their work can be isolating. They are doing such valuable work but maybe they don’t have any network to turn to when they have questions, or need support, or want information from outside their area of expertise. We tried this sort of thing with a Slack group, but it’ll be better with this technical solution.
This network we’ve unlocked has already proved useful - we heard from another action group and we were immediately able to put them in touch with an appropriate expert, whereas they may have spent hours and hours looking for the right person.
Lorna [Hackett], one of our Scrap Factory Farming barristers, wants to build a similar sort of network with legal experts, with people interested in the same type of cases. We want to provide a platform to enable that as well. These kinds of technical solutions to build from can help all of us.
We also need to continue raising awareness, working with MPs and driving messages to them, building relationships, sending them information, really using the political arena.
There’s plenty to keep us going!
In a way, it’s a real crossroads. We’re at a stage where other people want to take ownership of certain projects, and we’re hoping that’s a way of building on what we’ve done.
What are you most proud of?
Just the fact that a little ragtag group of volunteers have taken a world-first legal challenge! The word that Lorna the barrister used at the start feels appropriate: that it was a catalyst. That we don’t know where this will go, but even if we don’t achieve what we wish legally, it will be a catalyst.
This feels like the best opportunity, time-wise. Organisations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are finally getting it. It feels like we are moving in the right direction. Awareness is growing and people know we have to move forward.
What advice do you have for people wanting to work in this area?
Just go for it! What do you have to lose? If you convert one person to see the truth, you’ve made a difference. Stop worrying if you have the capability, if you are skilled enough, just do it. Try to see what you can do to make a difference. If you fail, at least you’ve tried. The worst thing to do of all is not to do anything, not to try at all.
Was there an animal in your life or an experience that set you on this path?
I’ve always loved animals, as far as I can remember. My first companion animal was a springer spaniel named Scamp. And though I loved animals, I don’t think having them in the house was what was pivotal for me. I’m not sure it was a specific experience or event, so much as the accumulation of knowledge and awareness. But I do remember, when I was about 12, there were two articles in the newspaper at the same time. One was about bonfire night and fireworks, and the story of how some boys had tied fireworks to a cat. The other story was about fox hunting, which was still legal at that time. I remember reading these articles and feeling woken up. So I did my first fundraiser for the RSPCA at age 12! Then I started volunteering more. At the time, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but life’s path took me on a different route. I went vegetarian once I was a consumer with purchasing power in my own right (after university). Why I didn’t before, I just don’t know. I trundled along for a long time as a vegetarian, and then thought, why am I not vegan? I can remember making the decision then.
Has your relationship with animals grown or changed over time?
We always had dogs growing up. When I went to uni that wasn’t an option unfortunately. But when I was out on my own I immediately got two cats, then my first rescue dog. Then someone else couldn’t look after their dog so we took them in. We often took older dogs and dogs with disabilities in. Pretty much I have always had dogs and cats in my life. We always have at least 2-3 animals in the house! At the moment, we have 2 cats and 4 dogs, 3 of which are Romanian rescues. All are fabulous and are very different characters. We have chickens and rescue ducks! We also had 3 pigs for 2 years, since they were piglets. It was absolutely amazing. They are such lovely animals. But because they were commercial rescues, they got quite big. When it was winter, we wouldn’t leave them outside at night so we had them in our house1 We loved them, but the land we had and the setup wasn’t appropriate for them. So, in their best interest, we found a sanctuary for them. It’s odd not having them here but we’ve been to see them and they’re doing great!
I used them sneakily for outreach too. One day the Tesco delivery person said, ‘you’ve bought an awful lot of carrots!’ and I said, 'we have pigs!' I had him come meet them. I thought maybe he’d see pigs differently by meeting them. People were always amazed to see them. Obviously they got really big because they were commercial - you don’t see them at that size ever because they would be slaughtered much earlier in life. And the only ones left on the farms at that size are breeding sows, who are locked away in sheds. So they were good for talking to people about these issues.
I’ve never given up on an animal before, but it was the best move for their well-being.
But I’ve always had a connection with animals. The pandemic was interesting because I got 2 more dogs! I never had more than 2 at a time. We were getting one from Romania and I thought, getting 2 at the same time would make the travel easier for them, to be together.
Having animals makes you appreciate what you’ve got. It’s all about enjoying your time with them. They are my sanctuary. They are happy with what they’ve got, and not living to have any more.
Do you have any recommended reading or listening for advocates?
I buy lots of books but never get a chance to read them! I’m too busy! (We hear this!)
I recommend watching lots of webinars. I always learn so much from them. I learn more by listening to other people’s experiences and webinars are a great way to get great information.
How do you keep from letting the dark aspects of our work affect you?
It’s really hard - the more you know, the worse it gets. You discover some new horror that humans inflict on animals or the planet and it does knock you. You need a mourning day from time to time, effectively to take time to grieve. To allow yourself that time, rather than trying to not deal with it. It helps. Then you can say, I’ve taken my moment, and now this isn’t helping an animal. It helps you get back to focusing and trying. On my phone, I have a picture of a pig as a screensaver. Whenever I see it, I promise that pig that I’ll do everything I can for it. And I look at that face and I think, sitting here wallowing any longer isn’t achieving anything for that pig or any others. Once you take the time to grieve, it’s easier to get back to work. Recognising that occasionally you do have to pretty much grieve is important. I allow that day, and then that’s it, back to work. You can’t ignore it because all that emotion will build up.
(Full disclosure: your trustee interviewer was shook by this incredible, soul-reaching advice and needed a minute.)
I get excited about vegan versions of things I still miss, like Eccles cakes. My granddad used to bring them over on a Friday, back when I was younger, and a vegetarian. When i went vegan, I couldn't have them anymore. So i get really excited about Eccles cakes that are good and vegan! Like so much nowadays, they are easy to make vegan. And this recipe is easy full stop, which I like because i don’t have time to deal with thousands of ingredients and steps!
I can make them into squares, but I haven't cracked the round style ones yet. I’m super excited about doing that - it will be a tribute to my granddad, to the memory of our visits.
Jane shared a recipe - written amazingly with Yorkshire humour! - from Ronny at https://www.veggies.org.uk/recipes/cake/eccles.htm
Shared from that site, veggies.org:
puff pastry (you can buy the vegan 'Jus Rol' brand frozen from supermarkets. The 425g ready-rolled pack is ideal)
half a cup currants (or raisins)
quarter of a cup orange juice
quarter of a cup demerera sugar, plus a bit on the side
half a teaspoon cinnamon
1. Put yer rollers in, 'itch up yer sleeves 'an get stuck in, our lass*. Put t'currants in a basin and pour on that orange juice. Leave 'em alone fer a few hours, like.
2. Stir cinnamon and sugar into those currants. Roll out t'pastry 'an cut into four-inch squares. Spoon around two tablespoons of currants onto each pastry square.
3. Fold in t'corners of each square like a nenverlorpe, pressing seams flat. Press down with a rollin' pin in order to squash each square a bit flatter, else they'll puff up like pillows.
4. Lay each one upside down on a greased baking tray (so seams are underneath). Prick a few 'oles in t'top. Sprinkle extra sugar on, then bake at gas mark 6 (200 C) for about 15 minutes 'till golden brown. Reet luvly.
Thank you Ronny!
THE TAAP TEN
The TAAP TEN are fun, more personal questions we ask every Rebel to end our time together!
1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s not from an individual, but it’s a serenity prayer I try to use all the time, not because of any religious connotation but because of its basic essence. “God give me the courage to challenge the things that can be changed, the patience to deal with the ones that can’t be, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
2. What’s your favourite food to cook?
I do quite a good Sunday lunch meal, and a Christmas lunch for my mom and dad who aren't vegan. So that’s quite nice to do! My husband and parents really like it!
3. Would you rather order in, or go out to eat and if so what/where?
In. There’s a good Chinese takeaway nearby. I live out in the country and the food outside is nicer, so it’s a treat going out…so really, both!
4. Cake or pie?
5. What never fails to make you laugh?
The dogs play-fighting.
6. What’s your favourite movie/book?
I’m not sure I have one!
7. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People not making an effort. Too many excuses.
8. What is one ability that you believe everybody should possess?
The ability to feel empathy.
9. What are the songs that make you sing along whenever you hear them?
When I first started my own training business years ago, I put together a CD of songs that made me feel positive and optimistic. The first song is “Eye of the Tiger”. It never fails to lift my spirits. In a traffic queue, I’d put it on, or even just play it ‘in my head’ and sing along. Everyone else in this traffic jam would be stressed and miserable, and then I’m singing in my seat. And “Walking on Sunshine” is on that CD too. It’s such a great song for lifting your mood. One of the things I used to teach about self-belief or excellence is to create a list of songs that put you in the state of mind you want to be in. It’s called anchoring. We usually let our brain run us, but my training was about managing how our brains run, and positive associations are really powerful. We all have songs that make us feel something, remember something. Music has that ability for people to connect to feelings and times and places.
10. The 10th question is usually something silly about television…but…
I don’t watch television!
She’s too busy! Go do something meaningful! (Don’t worry, I told Jane I watch enough TV for the both of us.)
Huge thanks to Jane for her time and her work!
For more on Humane Being: humanebeing.org.uk
For more on Scrap Factory Farming: scrapfactoryfarming.org