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Obituary. Sir Richard Body (1927-2018)

News Section Icon Published 19/03/2018

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Sir Richard Body, who has died, aged 90, was a Conservative MP for many years and always followed his own path rather than the “Party” line. He was passionately interested in sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming and at one time kept free range pigs himself.

At Compassion, we were already in touch with Sir Richard, when, in 1990, he was successful in the parliamentary ballot, which meant he could table a Bill of his choice. He came under huge pressure from other worthy causes to table the bills they wanted, but after, many late-into-the-night conversations, we were overjoyed when he chose Compassion’s bill to phase out the keeping of pregnant sows in narrow stalls or tethers throughout their 4 month pregnancies.

With a massive lobbying effort by our supporters, who wrote to their own MPs asking for their support, and with media publicity enhanced by the efforts of our patron, Joanna Lumley, the Bill came up for its vital Second Reading in January 1991. Sir Richard made a wonderful speech and got full support from the Labour party too. As one bewildered MP said, “I’ve had more letters on pigs than on the Gulf War” (which was raging at the time). When the final vote came, the Bill was passed overwhelmingly. The government conceded and introduced their own Bill which brought the cruel practice of pregnant sow incarceration to an end from January 1st 1999.

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This victory undoubtedly helped to get further legislation in the European Union where, since 2013, these narrow stalls can no longer be used throughout a sow’s pregnancy. Now many other countries and food businesses are following suit and bringing the use of sow stalls to an end.

Sir Richard will always have his honourable place in the history of the farm animal welfare movement. Here at Compassion we shall always be grateful to him for playing a key role in changing the lives of millions of sows.


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