Ecocide and animal suffering a criminal offence? Support for Party for the Animals plans in the European Parli­ament

16 November 2022

Causing damage to the environment and causing animal suffering should be considered a punishable criminal offence in the EU. This is the opinion not only of the Dutch Party for the Animals, which made a series of proposals to this effect, but also of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, which voted on this in late October. Nationally, the Party for the Animals and its Australian sister party Animal Justice Party also achieved important successes in the field of animal protection, climate, and the environment.

European legislation on the protection of the environment and animals is currently being revised. If it were up to the Environment Committee, it would soon be a criminal offence in the whole of the EU to illegally discharge substances that cause damage to people or the environment, and to release genetically modified organisms into the environment. The committee also voted in favour of the proposal to criminalise ecocide – the deliberate infliction of serious, widespread or long-term damage to the environment – something that Stop Ecocide and the Party for the Animals have long been advocating for.

Earlier, the Dutch Party for the Animals submitted a proposal in the House of Representatives on the criminalization of ecocide, with examples from all over the world and a step-by-step plan of ten concrete measures. The plan has been made available in English, French and Arabic, in order to call on governments worldwide to join the global movement to stop ecocide.

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Masterclass Ecocide & Food by Jojo Mehta (director Stop Ecocide International) and Lammert van Raan (Member of Parliament for the Dutch Party for the Animals) during the world conference Saving the World with Fork & Knife, organised by the Animal Politics Foundation (Amsterdam, 2021).

The party also successfully opposes trade agreements that destroy climate and environment. Last week, a proposal by the Party for the Animals was adopted opposing the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) – a treaty that protects investments in fossil fuels. A growing number of countries in the EU want to get rid of the ECT. `The chances of the EU as a whole leaving the climate disrupting ECT have increased!’ said Christine Teunissen, Member of Parliament for the Party for the Animals and co-sponsor of the proposal. Two years ago, the party forced the Dutch government to withdraw from the Mercosur treaty between the EU and South American countries.

Stricter penalties for animal executioners

In October, the European Environment Committee also adopted the proposal of the Party for the Animals to criminalize the neglect of animal welfare. This involves starving and causing discomfort, pain, injuries and diseases. 'Unlawful acts' that make it impossible for animals to exercise their natural behaviour should also be punishable. This would apply to pets, animals in livestock farming, wildlife and animals in laboratories.

According to the Environment Committee, people who are guilty of said things should be banned for life from keeping and working with animals. Whether this happens is up to EU countries and their national legal systems. They have the final say on what penalties can be imposed, but the punishment must be in line with the gravity of the offence. Since its inception, the Party for the Animals has been advocating for heavier sentences and a long-term ban (and in serious cases a life sentence) for people who have been guilty of animal abuse in the Netherlands.

In Australia, the Animal Justice Party recently won a major victory in this area. Last week, its proposal banning convicted animal executioners from keeping and working with animals was passed in the Upper House. `Recently, a puppy farmer was convicted of animal cruelty, but he still runs a farm with over 100 dogs,’ says Emma Hurst, an MP for the Animal Justice Party New South Wales – and that's just one of the many horrific examples she knows of. `We had to change the law to ensure that people convicted of animal cruelty do not have access to animals.’