Compassion in World Farming
Despite what its name might imply, Compassion in World Farming shows little compassion to farmers and was created with the goal of preventing progress in modern agriculture. Armed with a deceptive playbook, CIWF has slowly attempted to work away at the freedoms that farmers around the world have enjoyed.
Founded in 1967 by British dairy farmer turned health food store owner Peter Roberts, Compassion in World Farming was one of the first organizations devoted to regulating farming with the intent to control what people eat. Upset with the importation of American cattle that were farmed and imported via newer methods—unlike the preindustrial ones Roberts used–Roberts swarmed the press with letters. The letter campaign he started evolved into Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).
As CIWF began to grow he targeted a veal farm owned by the Catholic Church in Sussex, England. CIWF was successful in causing protests against the Pope and driving attendants away from the local church. On the back of the protests, CIWF successfully lobbied for a ban on individual veal stalls in the UK.
Allying with Anti-Meat Activists
While it may seem at face value that CIWF supports small-scale, more organic livestock farming, it works with activists who have the goal of eliminating meat entirely.
CIWF’s US executive director is on the board of Global Animal Partnership. GAP is a small certification program founded by Whole Foods, and it restricts farmers from using mainstream, veterinarian-approved animal husbandry practices. As a result, GAP-certified meat can cost significantly more—and for vegan activists, that’s exactly the point because higher prices will drive down demand.
CIWF has aligned with a cabal of other vegan groups such as Mercy for Animals and The Humane League to launch shakedown campaigns pressuring restaurants and supermarkets to only buy GAP-certified products. GAP’s board also features several animal rights/vegan activists, creating concern that activists could keep changing GAP’s certification standards to make meat, dairy, and eggs harder to produce—while threatening anyone who considers leaving the program.
CIWF has received a considerable amount of money to boost its fledgling operations from the wealth Open Philanthropy Project, which has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-meat groups in the US, UK, and EU. CIWF USA received a $1.5 million grant from OPP in 2018–and its budget that year was only $1.7 million. CIWF USA also received $30,000 in 2017 and $550,000 in 2016.
In 2016, 75% of CIWF USA’s funding came from 3 sources (including OPP), according to tax records. That year, for every dollar spent by CIWF USA, more than 15 cents went to pay Leah Garces, then the executive director (she now runs Mercy for Animals).
OPP has also given millions to CIWF’s home office in the UK–close to $7 million between 2017 and 2019. That’s a big chunk of the group’s $12 million-per-year budget.
The executive director of CIWF global headquarters is Philip Lymbery. The Guardian has described him as a realistic radical: “a pragmatic campaigner. He knows he can’t overthrow the whole system in one go.”
Its US executive director is Rachel Dreskin, a former restaurant manager.