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"...we must free ourselves from all 'sacred cows', all outdated ideas and learn to think and act boldly, imaginatively and compassionately." Kathleen Jannaway

Kathleen Jannaway - A Compassionate Life

Sincere thanks to Mary Jannaway and Mark Gold for much of the information contained in this summary of Kathleen's life. Extracts from Mark’s book 'Animal Century' are in bold type and reproduced with his permission.

Kathleen Jannawy as a young girlKathleen Jannaway was born on 6th February 1915, in Tooting, London. Kathleen was the daughter of William Jannaway and Eileen Mew, who had married in 1913. Eileen, a Roman Catholic from Cork in Ireland, died of pleurisy shortly after Kathleen’s birth. William was a confectioner and tobacconist and later a projectionist in an early cinema. He had been disabled by TB in his hip as a boy and only outlived his wife by a few years. Kathleen, an only child, was brought up by her paternal grandparents. Describing her childhood as impoverished, Kathleen remembered the financial circumstances in fascinating detail:

"When my grandfather died we had a total income of 17s and 6d, plus the 15s Granny’s sons gave her. Out of this we had to pay 14s weekly rent. But my grandmother was a good manager and I never went hungry - though I can remember that sometimes on Thursday nights we had to go to bed early in the evening because we hadn’t a penny left for the gas meter."

The family had no electricity at that time.

Kathleen was an intelligent child and won a scholarship to the County Secondary School, Streatham, a new and radical grammar school with pupil participation in the government of the school. Kathleen left in 1933, after successfully passing her school certificate, and then trained as a junior schoolteacher at Fursedown Training College. She taught in several London schools as a biology teacher. Lecturers, teachers, employers and colleagues described her as idealistic, dedicated and understanding.

From such a background is it possible to discern the seeds of radicalism which later created an indefatigable and visionary campaigner? Kathleen herself believed it was. Her father was a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (before it became the Labour Party) and regularly preached a message of peace and the dignity of working people from a soapbox in the local park. Her grandmother was sufficiently unconventional to be deeply disturbed when young Kathleen wanted to join the local Girl Guides, considering the organisation unhealthily representative of the status quo! Kathleen also cited her good fortune in attending progressive schools where she was always encouraged to question and think for herself.

Kathleen Jannaway as a young womanIn 1938 Kathleen married her cousin Jack - this was truly to be a lifetime partnership. Together they were early members of the Peace Pledge Union and helped to distribute Peace News. When the war began, Jack, with Kathleen’s full support, was accepted as a conscientious objector. Unlike many others in a similar position they encountered little hostility.

"We were lucky: people were always able to respect Jack’s honesty and integrity and they realised that it was simply impossible for him to kill or be part of the killing of another human being".

They spent the first part of the war living in a community in Sussex, where they became vegetarians. Kathleen recalled that, at precisely the same time as she was slicing up their meagre ration of roast lamb:

"There was a bit of a commotion in the corner of the field outside our window and all the lambs hastily raced for their mothers. I realised that it would be no good crying for mum when the slaughterhouse lorry arrived."

Both she and Jack decided never to eat meat again.

The war years also saw Kathleen undertake her first public speaking engagement, though it was not for the animal cause. She helped to organise a meeting in Tunbridge Wells of the newly formed Oxford Movement for Famine Relief (later to become Oxfam). Kathleen said:

"people often think that my main motivation is animals but actually my principal concerns have always been peace and world hunger. My involvement in the animal movement developed out of these, particularly when I began to make connections between the different issues."

Kathleen taught in the local school. She and Jack moved into a cottage on the farm where Jack worked and Kathleen cycled along the railway line to work. Their eldest son Richard was born in 1945. A freak bomb destroyed their cottage and this had a profound and upsetting effect on Kathleen. With Richard, she made a nightmare journey to stay with Jack’s parents.

After the war, and now living in Pittsea in Essex, Kathleen was advised to have another baby 'to make everything alright again'. Mary was born in 1948 and Patrick in 1950. Kathleen devoted the next 15 or so years to her family. They moved to Stoneleigh in Ewell, Surrey, and Jack travelled to London daily. After unhappy experiences at the local primary school, Richard was sent to New Sherwood, a progressive school in Epsom. He was later joined there by Mary and Patrick. The school fees meant that Kathleen had to return to teaching, first at a small private school and then at the junior school in Leatherhead. This involved moving again - to the house where Jack and Kathleen lived for the next 30 years.

Kathleen taught children with learning difficulties and transferred to a special centre doing pioneering work with children with dyslexia and developing new teaching materials. At the same time the whole family attended and became members of Dorking Quaker meeting, where Kathleen was soon very involved with the childrens' committee and the work of the meeting. Actively campaigning for peace, she and Jack were founder members of Quaker Green Concern, now Quaker Green Action. Kathleen was an active member of a group in Leatherhead during the Freedom from Hunger Campaign.

Kathleen always valued the work and writing of others. Gandhi was a great inspiration, as was Richard St Barbe Baker, with whom she was friends. Tierhard De Chardin and many others also influenced her. Kathleen said:

"taking a broad view, Gandhi’s beliefs are closer to my own than those of any other person."

Kathleen was an early member of the Gandhi Foundation and served on its executive committee for many years.

It was not until 1964 that she took the step which led to the most important of her working achievements. The catalyst was a two page review of Ruth Harrison's book 'Animal Machines' in 'The Observer'. It revealed how veal calves were separated from their mothers, solitarily confined in two foot wide crates where they were unable to lie down comfortably, and denied solid food.

"At this point I realised that these calves were the surplus of the dairy industry and that the milk which nature intended for them was being fed to us. I decided to give up milk and live without any animal products there and then."

Kathleen and Jack had been so affected by what they discovered that they became strictly vegan and worked tirelessly for the cause for the rest of their lives. Kathleen travelled all over the country to speak and campaign. They joined the Vegan Society - Kathleen was later, in 1972, to become General Secretary. During this time virtually all the Society's literature - leaflets and booklets - were written and typed by Kathleen and illustrated and copied by Jack. Working together they made an indefatigable team.

Kathleen JannawayTheir Leatherhead house and garden became a venue, attended by many over the years, for meetings and garden parties to raise funds for the many concerns they were involved in. Many will remember Kathleen and Jack’s garden as the place where they came together each year with vegans from up and down the country. These meetings provided a wonderful opportunity for fellowship with kindred spirits - especially important for people who were isolated and knew no other vegans living near to them - and for vegan children to be together.

The Vegan Society's BBC Open Door programme showed Kathleen in her garden with her compost heaps. She and Jack worked hard to make their garden into a plot that provided living proof that more people could be sustained on less land in a more self-sufficient way on a vegan diet. Mark Gold recounts that in 1996, when Kathleen was eighty-one, she was still harvesting bumper crops of which any gardener would be proud, all grown from her own vegan compost. She was particularly proud of her perfectly formed carrots, averaging 6 oz each and carrot-fly free. Stores of vegetables, fruit and protein crops such as haricot beans lay neatly packed away in sufficient quantities to provide most of the food needed to see the Jannaways through the winter. Kathleen said:

"I think it is important to show people how much of our food is home produced". I don’t grow the wheat for bread, though I do have enough land and could do so. And of course, the soya we use is imported. Haricot beans are an alternative I use in many dishes, but I would like to see a lot more work put into developing different plant protein crops which would grow successfully in this country.

"If I’ve done anything in my life I am really proud about, it is the number of people who’ve gone over to veganic growing following our example. They write to me to say that they’ve only got a small garden or patio, but now they are producing at least some of their own food".

Kathleen’s particular strength was in linking the compassionate desire to avoid animal products with rational use of the world’s resources. This led to Kathleen and Jack forming The Movement For Compassionate Living when Kathleen left the Vegan Society in 1984. The promotion of local methods of food production, as an alternative to the use of cash crops from developing countries which result in environmental damage and famine, was a central focus for the ecological vegan message Kathleen spread through the literature she wrote for the Movement for Compassionate Living. A particularly important element of her philosophy was raising awareness about the potential of food crops from trees as an alternative to animal based farming, which would reduce soil erosion and the impact of global warming. Most revolutionary of all, she envisaged a world-wide network of self-reliant, tree-based, autonomous vegan village communities (STAVVs), based loosely on the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, to replace the huge conurbations of the industrial era.

Kathleen JannawayJack’s death in 1999 was an enormous blow. Kathleen insisted, however, on moving to a new home in Devon. This was shared with her daughter and son, Mary and Patrick, and she briefly enjoyed the beauty and the challenge of the new garden. Kathleen remained active, researching and writing for MCL in her last years. Her amazing thirst for knowledge was unquenchable: she was an avid reader of journals such as New Scientist until her eyesight began to fail significantly in the last year of her life. Kathleen continued to campaign for tree planting to combat global warming, and to spread the other MCL messages until illness and exhaustion overcame her. Even in the few weeks before she died, Kathleen asked for progress reports about the work of MCL.

Despite living in a world that was so far away from her own ideal, Kathleen always managed to maintain a tremendous sense of optimism about the future. She believed in the "capability of compassion in every human being... If life is going to go on we must develop that capacity. Otherwise we’re finished. Eventually I think we will come through".

Kathleen had often said the only way to be happy was to forget herself in something bigger, and that she would rather "wear out than rust out". She never spared herself and was never satisfied with herself or her efforts. In the last thirty years, Kathleen saw thousands of people adopt a vegan diet and believed the trend would continue. In her interview with Mark Gold for his book 'Animal Century', Kathleen commented that her only regret would be that she would not be around to find out how her vision would be fulfilled.

"My saddest comment on my age is the Browning one, 'O what the world will do, And I not here to see it.' "

Kathleen died on 27th January 2003 in her local cottage hospital, a few days before her 88th birthday.

The following extracts from Kathleen's writing attempt to capture her main messages of compassionate living and demonstrate how long ago these ideas crystallised into the principles that led to the foundation of MCL. We are now seeing respected mainstream contemporary thinkers starting to catch up and follow where Kathleen led.

There is widespread concern over the human 'population explosion' which threatens to lead to grave shortages of food and other essentials and to add seriously to the pollution of the environment. Few people realise that the earth is having to support another population explosion - that of the animals deliberately bred by man for food. This population puts an even greater strain on the environment and one that is quite unnecessary, for man can get all the food he needs much more economically direct from plants.

Land released from livestock feeding and luxury crops and made available for the growth of essential plant foods for direct human consumption could provide plenty for all the world’s people. Accompanied by a system of just and secure land tenure by local producers, such a policy could eliminate one of the major causes of disease, unrest and war.

The chief obstacles to man's survival on this overburdened planet lie in the minds of men. Most people find difficulty in adjusting to ideas that do not fit in with the habits and thought patterns of generations - especially when, as with feeding habits in the West, both producers and consumers are subject to the high pressure salesmanship of the meat, dairy and chemical industries.

If we are to meet the challenge of the human population explosion, we must free ourselves from all 'sacred cows', all outdated ideas and learn to think and act boldly, imaginatively and compassionately.

Two Population Explosions (Vegan Society leaflet) - 1972

As the environment crisis heats up, it becomes obvious that the Age of Man the Exploiter is over. He is wasting his resources and fouling his nest. The Age of the New Man is dawning. He bases his life on reverence for all life. The vegan is the prototype of the New Man of the New Age.

The Vegan - 1972

Addiction to meat and dairy products and to factory processed food has got such a hold on the minds of people of the dominant Western culture that they find it difficult to question it in their own lives, but, often with the best intention, they are spreading it throughout the world. This wasteful trend must be arrested if the famines of today are not to be repeated on an even more horrifying scale as the population of the world increases.

First Hand, First Rate - 1974

The Movement for Compassionate Living the vegan way has a special contribution to make - to dispel the illusion that animal exploitation is necessary for human health and well-being. We know the opposite is true - that peace and the right use of the world’s resources will never be achieved until humans extend their compassion to animals and stop breeding and exploiting them. Freedom from dependence on the slaughterhouse nurtures faith in the possibility of creating a compassionate age.

New Leaves No.5 - 1986

Most humans are locked in false inhibiting concepts: they believe that animal products are necessary for health. The opposite is true: animals yield nothing, not even fertiliser for the soil, that cannot be got more efficiently from plants. On the contrary, the second population explosion of deliberately bred animals competes with the human for plant foods and vital diminishing resources of land, water, energy, research, skills… Their increasingly cruel exploitation threatens just retribution.

The Vegan - 1990

The way of life generally accepted and followed in the industrially developed countries of the world, both East and West, and being encouraged in the developing world, is not sustainable. It is wasting resources, polluting the air, the water, the soil and the whole environment, and it is assaulting the life supporting systems of the planet. It cannot go on.

Moreover, the present system does not meet the genuine needs of people: quite the opposite. It is damaging the health of the comparatively affluent, and increasing poverty, hunger and disease among the rapidly increasing millions of the poor in many areas of the world. 'Aid', however well motivated, does not get to the root of their problems. The present over-industrialised system degrades people to machine slaves and to programmed consumers of machine products, depriving them of their creativity and other essentials of spiritual growth.

Ecological veganism requires living as far as possible in harmony with all one's fellow creatures in a sustainable manner. It has an important part to play in speeding the birth of a new age of peace and creativity.

Recipes for a Sustainable Future - 1990

We are faced with the challenge of providing for the needs of a rapidly increasing world population from the diminishing resources of a finite and endangered planet.

Fundamental changes in the values and practices of the dominant world system, which has created a situation in which millions of people and animals already suffer extreme deprivation and die prematurely, is essential.

What is needed is a trend towards compassionate living the vegan way, with the emphasis on the use of trees and their products.

As people face the challenge of environmental crises, as the supreme importance of using awesome intellectual powers with compassion for all sentient beings is realised, an evolutionary leap will be achieved. An era of truly abundant living will dawn in which humans, at peace with themselves, with each other and with all living creatures, will reach heights of creativity as yet unimagined.

Abundant Living in the Coming Age of the Tree - 1991

With thanks to the Jannaway family for the photographs.

Elaine and Alan Garrett
from : The Movement for Compassionate Living's quarterly journal, "New Leaves" - No.70, April-June 2003

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