Annus Horribilis? Looking on the brighter side of 2020

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2020 has certainly been an Annus Horribilis, with plagues, floods, fires, terrorist attacks and wars, but it wasn’t all bad… In the sciences for instance, vaccines to fight the coronavirus were created in record time. In business, SpaceX ferried astronauts to the International Space Station in the first commercial flight of its kind. Here are some of the success stories from 2020 with regards to human rights and animal welfare.

Human Rights

True, there is not much to write home about here, but there have been some really positive and ground-breaking moments, nonetheless. In the US, President Trump was voted out and despite his frantic attempts to undermine democratic processes, he failed. President-Elect Biden, has already made his commitment to human rights and the environment abundantly clear and his appointments to strategic posts testifies to his resolve. These include Deb Haaland, the first Native American to lead a Cabinet-level agency (the Interior Department) and Pete Buttigieg, the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary to be approved by the Senate (Transportation Department). Moreover, Biden’s running mate, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, will be the first woman, the first African American and the first Asian American to hold the post.

LGBTQ rights reached other milestones in several parts of the world. Same-sex civil partnerships or marriage were legalised in a number of countries and states, including Costa Rica, Montenegro and Switzerland, while some banned forced conversion therapy, including Germany and Albania. Also, the film industry continued its trend of openness with regards to LGBTQ characters and plots. Marvel and Disney, for instance, recently announced that two of their protagonists (Guardian of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord, Peter Quill, and Loki in the Disney+ seies) are going to be cast as bisexual. On a more sombre note, homosexuality was decriminalised in Gabon and Bhutan, while Sudan lifted the death penalty for homosexual acts. Finally, Pope Frances surprised the world by stating that he too supported same-sex civil partnerships!

Animal Rights

2020 has actually been a good year for animal rights. The coronavirus brought a mixed bag of good and bad results. On the one hand, lockdowns around the world gave animals and their habitats a welcome break from detrimental human activity, but on the other the pandemic meant that animal welfare and environmental protection were pushed at the back of the queue when it came to funding and national priorities. Still, many of the amazing images shared by news agencies and social media of animals spilling into urban areas and waterways will stay with us for a long time and may jog us (one can but hope) to do more with regards to habitat and environmental protection. However, 2020 did a lot more for animals than just that, with a wave of animal friendly achievements. These included:

  • A rise in cruelty-free diets. A UK survey conducted by Applewood, for instance, found that 20% of respondents were committed to a vegan Christmas dinner
  • The opening of the first vegan butcher in London, which was so popular that it struggled to keep up with demand
  • The first commercially available lab-produced cruelty-free meat which hit the market in Singapore
  • The multiplying of vegan alternatives to meat and dairy and their availability in leading supermarkets
  • The commitment of more and more fashion brands, including Prada, to stop using animal fur
  • The rediscovery of the elephant shrew that had been considered extinct as it had not been spotted for 50 years.

Of course, there was a lot more to cry about! Still, 2021 is here and with it the hope of better times to come…

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