I recently attended the first International Conference of Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare. The three day conference attracted delegates from all over the world who embraced the opportunity to come together to share their knowledge, experience and research findings with like-minded individuals, organisations and groups.
Each day was packed full of inspirational talks from a vast range of speakers who were willing to share both their achievements and failings, with a focus on learning from past experiences to help overcome the challenges of the future.
With so much passion and expertise in the room it was easy to visualise how theories of human behaviour change could be incorporated into our own working practices when looking to engage with communities to improve animal welfare in a sustained and meaningful way.
I have no doubt that the momentum of understanding and interest in this topic will only continue to grow, creating opportunities for innovation and further scientific research.
We watched with admiration as speakers told of the great work they were doing in their field of expertise, not least our fellow Donkey Sanctuary colleagues Tamlin Watson and Ben Hart, who both spoke about their experiences in Animal Welfare work through personal projects outside of their day job. It was great to see some of the international projects funded by The Donkey Sanctuary showcased by those carrying out the work at a local level and Anna Salliet, who recently joined The Donkey Sanctuary international department, spoke about her previous experience of working with young people in the Gambia.
An enlightening and positive three days which provided a much needed platform for the exchange of ideas and collaboration of resources surrounding this topic. There were many take-home messages & inspiring moments that emerged during the conference including this quote from Manoj Gautam
“When working with others focus on similarities not difference, closeness not distance”
A simple quote which I feel is very applicable to our ethos here at The Donkey Sanctuary but what made it so incredible was the context in which it was given. Manoj Gautam gave a highly moving talk where he spoke about the incredible success he has had when working with communities to change deeply embedded traditions in Nepal, in particular his work surrounding mass slaughter of animals for sacrifice. His presentation gave each of us reason to reflect on our own approach to change or challenge. I think everyone in the room was left in awe of this amazing human being but perhaps more importantly, we were given a reminder of what can be achieved by approaching our darkest challenges with an open mind and a courageous heart.