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Celebrating our moral compass

                                  A significant anniversary: but aren’t they all?


This year (2024) sees the 200th anniversary of the  establishment  of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which went on to obtain Royal status in 1840. The society was formed by liberal-minded people who objected to cruel sports such as bear-baiting and cock-fighting. As for children, the welfare of children working in factories was addressed in 1802 by Sir Robert Peel’s Act, though this legislation was toothless and unenforced. It was not until 1833 that an enforceable Act was passed by Parliament. While taking nothing away from this step forward in civilisation, it is worth noting that it was only in 1838 that slaves in the colonies (excluding areas ruled by the East India Company) were freed – and only after slave-owners, rather than the slaves themselves, received compensation. And in 1974 we had the Health and Safety at Work Act which took protection of people in the workplace to ‘a whole new level’, mainly by placing specific responsibilities on identifiable persons.

These pieces of legislation rightly feel like history now. Though workplace practices and technologies have moved on and sometimes have died out completely, certain principles enshrined in these pieces of legislation have continued in recognisable form. Could we name them? Yes I believe we could. Some of the ideas behind the principles relate to stewardship and responsibility, others to ingrained human rights, but ultimately they relate to fairness, and what it is to be a human being. I think we all have a moral compass and what could be a better time to get it out and polish it?

And there is nothing sentimental about doing the right thing, even the most hardened among us can understand that there are many practical reasons for doing the right thing. Maybe we should have a go at naming these.

David Fagg.


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