Esther's Blog: Carry on with funda­mental changes now

28 Απριλίου 2020

In my previous blog I already wrote: a safer world for animals is a safer world for people. The ruthless exploitation of animals and nature by humans has significantly increased the risk of pandemics over the past decades. The United National Environmental Programme (UNEP) warns that the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans is increased by large-scale and intensive livestock farming, by deforestation, trade in wildlife animals, the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, and climate change.

The Party for the Animals thus pleads for a comprehensive attack plan to prevent zoonoses such as corona. Our government must be shaken awake urgently for the ticking time bomb they have left the Netherlands and the rest of the world on.

Our plan:

1. Livestock farming must be restricted.
Intensive livestock farming is a ticking time bomb. Breeding animals for specific traits (such as accelerated growth) deteriorates the immune system against diseases. Poultry farms, for example, frequently have to deal with outbreaks of avian influenza. If such avian influenza is mutated a few times, it can be easily transmitted from human to human. It is not the question if, but when it will happen.

This is a threat to public health. That is why we plead for breeding restrictions and a plan to cut livestock in the Netherlands by at least 70%. Helping agriculturists at the same time to change to plant-based farming will also help to effect a healthier and more efficient food system: vegetable proteins will enable us to feed more mouths with less land.

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University of Oxford scientists Joseph Poore about the need to reform our food system.

2. The trade in wild animals must stop
Also, trading wild animals is a threat to public health. The Netherlands can play an important role in the prevention of a virus outbreak by fighting the trade in wild animals. The Rotterdam ports and Schiphol are key transit ports for trading wild animals. The Netherlands is thus a link in the spreading of zoonoses. It is still permitted to trade wild and exotic animals at fairs and markets in the Netherlands. That is why the Dutch minister needs to urgently restrict the trade in animals, both at European and international level.

This month, the Party for the Animals also submitted proposals to the European Parliament to tackle the consumption and trade in wild animals. Additionally, we - together with a group of MEPs - organised a webinar: six experts provided revealing insights into the relationship between diseases such as corona and the way we deal with animals. The webinar can be watched here. You should watch it!

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Party for the Animals' MEP Anja Hazekamp, who is in quarantine, explains what proposals she has submitted to the European Parliament to prevent future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

3. Stop deforestation.
Deforestation increases our vulnerability to the outbreak of infectious diseases. At present, huge parts of forest are cut every day to maintain the oversized livestock farming industry. Forests are cut for soybean cultivation, which is then used to feed billions of animals in the livestock farming industry. It is a pure waste. Additionally, millions of euros of taxes are currently spent on burning trees for biomass. This also causes deforestation and damage to nature. This needs to stop!

4. Grab the chance to make fundamental reformations
The Dutch government is talking about an “intelligent” way back to the normal situation before the corona crisis. Everything possible is done to help big companies. Unconditionally. I have called on the Dutch prime minister to reflect on the question: how “intelligent” was the situation before the corona crisis. How intelligent is it to return to an economy that exceeds the carrying capacity of the earth? Apart from the corona crisis, we also have to deal with the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis.

Our governments should not blindly invest in the same old mistakes in that economy. The financial means from emergency packages for companies must be used smarter so that all crises can be dealt with at the same time. Anyway, many companies were already challenged to make a change to enable them to play a role in a future-proof economy. These companies will benefit if we use our financial means to accelerate this transition. As a matter of fact, they will not benefit if the old status quo of pollution, exploitation and scaling-up is recovered.

The economic model of before the corona crisis was part of the problem, not the solution. We were sawing the branch we sat on. The stupidest thing you can do is to go back to that old normal. We should not let the fossil lobby - which is now pleading for easing environmental legislation - win.

Or, like 170 Dutch scientists state in a manifest: "It is a blunder if we do not use the corona crisis as an opportunity for a greener way of life."

Party for the Animals protests against animal tests.

Finally: Last week, it was World Day for Laboratory Animals. Millions of animals are subjected to painful and deadly experiments every day. Caged, mutilated, made sick and poisoned. In the Netherlands, tests are carried out on intelligent creatures such as monkeys. All this suffering while 85% of the animal tests are not useful for humans at all: the animals often appear to differ too much from humans.

That is why we plead for investing significantly in research without experimenting with animals and for looking into how we can remove barriers for the use of innovative, technological alternatives. The budget for experiments without animals has meanwhile been doubled in the Netherlands, partly thanks to us. We will continue fighting until they stop spending money on medieval animal testing practices and until 21st century technology is used to safeguard the health of humans and that of animals.

Until the next time!

Esther Ouwehand
Party chair of the Party for the Animals