Should we date the millennium from the year 2000, the year 2001, or should we date the birth of Jesus at 4BC, in which case we have missed the anniversary. In any case, it is interesting to look back and consider how the world has changed. 1,000 years ago, animals destined for food lived out on the land and the common people would rarely have had animal food to eat. As a result, meat dishes assumed Norman names like pork, beef, mutton, whereas ordinary people gave animals Anglo-Saxon names like pigs, cattle, sheep. Looking just a hundred years back, we have a clearer view. The Vegetarian Society was 50 years old and the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club had shown in the previous decade or so, that vegetarian athletes were just as fit and strong as anyone else. When Gandhi studied law in London in the 1890s, he found several vegetarian restaurants there (he also found one in Paris). Some people also avoided dairy produce, although the ward 'vegan' was not coined till 1945. (It is worth noting that the founders of the Vegetarian Society in 1847 had included the words 'with or without the use of dairy produce' in their definition of 'vegetarian). Henry Salt wrote a book called 'Animal's Rights'. On the other hand, hunting and shooting were indulged in on a scale. In the first decade, an International Court of Justice was established in the Netherlands Old Age Pensions were introduced and women campaigned for the right to vote. Seeds were sown for a fairer world. All this was blown away by the Great War followed by the Great Depression and the Second World War. That war ended with the dropping of two nuclear bombs, followed by the development of the even more devastating hydrogen bomb and hostile feelings between USA and USSR led to the stockpiling of hundreds of such bombs. Wars and repressive regimes have continued around the world right to the present day. The news of human barbarity seems to come in daily, followed by news of devastating cyclones, which seem to be growing in severity, probably due to Global Warming resulting from the way the last few decades have exploited the planet's resources without consideration of the consequence.
On the more hopeful side, we have developed peacekeeping forces, organised charities to alleviate suffering and some individuals are so strongly moved that they personally drive a lorry with supplies for those in distress or adopt orphaned foreign children.
Veganism and Animal Rights are now widely accepted, but are still seen as only a minority view, yet they keep on growing and attracting more supporters. Logically and emotionally, these principles need to be a basis of human attitudes and behaviour for humanity in the coming century.
This year the Countryside Alliance, richly funded by wealthy landowners to whip up opposition to the anti-fox hunting movement, has mobilised wide dissatisfaction in the countryside and organised demonstrations and marches in various towns. Life in the countryside is becoming very difficult. Demand for most products is in decline and prices so low that small farmers are struggling to survive. For instance, farmers are paid 16 pence a litre for the milk that may retail at four times that amount. Milk is taken by the baby from the mother directly and at the right temperature without contamination in the air. To get it in bottles and cartons some days later, it has to be transported and pasteurised, but it would still seem that economies could be made in the distribution chain.
Sales of beef have been hit by the BSE (mad cow) crisis. No one has explained, let alone apologised, for such suffering of the animals and the painful death of 42 humans. Instead, farmers express outrage that other countries should ask for more reassurance about the safety of British Beef. Demand for animal products is declining, but demand for organic products is increasing strongly, yet we have to import some 70% of organic produce sold here - produce we could be growing at home. Funds allocated to encourage the changeover to organics run out and, incredibly there is no sign of restarting the programme. It takes five years to get organic accreditation, so the sooner we start the better.