12th animal advocate awarded MBE since 1998
LONDON, U.K.–– British Hen Welfare Trust founder Jane Howorth, 55, of South Molton, Devon, on January 1, 2016 became at least the 12th prominent animal advocate to be admitted to the Order of the British Empire since 1998.
Membership in the Order of the British Empire is presented by the Queen of England, and is the highest civilian honor awarded to British civilians. Appointees are recognized in five ranks, from Knight or Dame Grand Cross down through Knight or Dame Commander, Commander, Officer, and Member. Appointments above the level of Member (MBE) are usually for unique achievements subsequent to receiving the MBE.
50,000 hens per year
Founding the British Hen Welfare Trust in 2003, Howorth reportedly collects, rehabilitates, and rehomes about 50,000 formerly battery-caged egg-laying hens per year, with the help of about 500 volunteers.
“I started with an ad in the local paper, offering chickens who have ‘never seen sunshine or tasted grass’,” Howorth told media. “My phone never stopped. I was contacted by people from across the country.”
European Union legislation has since 2012 required egg producers to use somewhat larger “colony” caging, rather than the battery cages used previously, but the difference in conditions for the hens is a matter of degrees in misery. Most still spend their entire lives on wire floors in artificial light, in atmospheres reeking of excreta, and are slaughtered after about a year in egg production.
Howorth rehomes chickens obtained from cooperating commercial egg producers.
Earlier MBE honorees
Admitted to the Order of the British Empire in 2013 were Elizabeth Oliver, who in 1990 founded Animal Refuge Kansai in Osaka, Japan, and Will Travers, who in 1984 cofounded the Born Free Foundation with his parents, actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. Both Oliver and Will Travers continue to head their organizations.
Previous Order of the British Empire appointees include Jean Gilchrist, now in her 45th year as director of the Kenya SPCA (2009); International Primate Protection League founder Shirley McGreal (2008); International Animal Rescue cofounder Alan Knight, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust founder Daphne Sheldrick, and the late Stella Brewer Marsden, founder of the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Association sanctuary in Gambia (all honored in 2006); Care For The Wild founder Bill Jordan, now heading the Bill Jordan Wildlife Defence Fund (2005); Dogs Trust chair Clarissa Baldwin (2003), who was also made a Dame of the British Empire; Michael Balls, a trustee of the Fund for Replacing Animals Medical Experiments since 1979 and chair of FRAME 1981-2013 (2002); and Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson (1998).
Primatologist Jane Goodall was named to the Order of the British Empire in 1995. She was promoted to Dame Commander in 2004. Film makers and authors David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell, also of note in animal advocacy, were named to the Order of the British Empire in 1974 and 1982, respectively.