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Dame Joanna Lumley delivers lecture on compassion at Oxford Literary Festival

News Section Icon Published 02/04/2022

We should include all life in our circle of compassion and we must listen to our hearts, not our heads. That was the clear message from Compassion in World Farming patron, Dame Joanna Lumley, as she delivered a lecture on compassion to a packed theatre today (2nd April) in honour of the charity’s founder, Peter Roberts MBE.

The BAFTA-winning actress, TV presenter and longstanding champion for animal welfare shared her thoughts on the true meaning of compassion, at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre this afternoon. She said: “I was taught that compassion doesn’t have limits... We need to include all life in our circle of compassion. We have to listen to what our hearts say, not our heads.

“What has happened to us? We have become a kind of virus eating too much meat for our own health. Eighty billion farm animals are slaughtered every year and 70% are reared in factory farms.

 “Peter Roberts taught me that it’s not enough not to harm something. You have to fight to do the right thing. By engaging with like-minded spirits it really helps us to be stronger together.”

The event, part of the 25th annual Oxford Literary Festival, saw Dame Joanna interviewed on stage by Compassion’s Global CEO, Philip Lymbery. Among the many topics discussed were how she developed empathy for animals developed as a young girl, her admiration for Her Majesty the Queen, and what made her become such a dedicated supporter of the farm animal welfare charity.

Philip, who is also the best-selling author of books Farmageddon and Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were, said: “I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to discuss the true meaning of “compassion” with our dear friend Joanna Lumley today, particularly at a time when there is so much conflict in the world. 

“These are dark days for humanity and for animals, and it is more important than ever to counter this darkness with the light of hope for a more just, peaceful, and compassionate world. We all need to be kinder, not just to ourselves but to one another, to animals and to all life on this planet.

“Factory farming remains the biggest cause of cruelty on the planet. But there is a better way, based on compassion and kindness – ending all cages and letting animals experience the joy of living.

"We are enormously thankful to Joanna for all she does to support our work to make that a reality and for providing such a wonderful lecture today in memory of Compassion’s founder, Peter Roberts.”

Peter Roberts and his wife, Anna, established Compassion in World Farming from the kitchen table of their Hampshire dairy farm in 1967 after they became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. They took up the cause of farm animal welfare and the disconnect between food production and nature at a time when few others shared their concern.

They would be proud that, today, Compassion is a powerful global movement, with offices in 12 countries, achieving profound and enduring advancements in farm animal welfare and highlighting the impacts of factory farming on animals, people and our precious planet.

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact Compassion in World Farming’s Media Team: 01483 521 615

To request a pdf version of this press release, please email


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