Esther’s Blog: A positive change is in the air


29 September 2020

Historian Philip Blom recently stated: “We are on a tipping point, and things could go either way. We are stuck in an economic system that can’t go on for much longer. It either ends in a catastrophe with new pandemics, wars about access to resources, you name it, or we’ll go in the other direction. But the fact that it will tip one way or another, that’s a given.”

Signs of approaching tipping points are all around us. Citizens are revolting against governments that lack the guts to properly tackle the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and social justice crises. Last Friday, people took part in climate protests in at least 3100 (!) different places all across the world. Young people are demanding action. Action to safeguard not just their future, but to create a livable present as well. In countries such as Vanuatu, the Philippines, India and Colombia, the consequences of the climate and biodiversity crises are already being felt.

Young people from across the world demand action against the demolition of our climate, nature and the environment. Pictured here are young people from Vanuatu, the Philippines, India and Colombia. They are confronted with “natural” disasters day in, day out. Photos obtained through the platform Mondiaal Nieuws.

Dare to let the old system go
Change is in the air. But Keynes, the economist, already noted that the difficulty is not necessarily developing new ideas, but escaping the old. Escaping the old habits of governments and politicians that keep on prioritizing money and the interests of polluting industries above a livable planet and the true interests of citizens.

The time is now for governments to let go of all these old habits and to firmly stand behind their citizens. To do what we pay our governments to do: to protect that which is most important to us. Our health and our living environment. There are plenty of solutions available. We just need more politicians with the guts to choose them. It’s time to make decisions. As a government, you can’t state that you want a healthy and a sustainable society, but still give free reign to sickening food giants, and still pump billions of dollars in the fossil fuel industry, aviation and industrial animal farming.

This month, the Dutch government presented the plans and the budget for the coming year. However, that budget is steering us towards the tipping point of catastrophe instead of towards a healthy society. Another old habit. During this debate, we used the political stage to shake things up. Not just with words, but with our outfits as well.

That’s why I wore a suit made of sustainable bamboo fabric this year. On the back of my suit, it said ‘Keerpunt, maar niet terug’, meaning ‘A turning point, but not backwards’. Because the crisis that we’re facing is a turning point, but definitely not a turning point back to business as usual. Our message was: let’s not go back to our old habits, but let’s organise our economy in a way that strengthens the well-being of animals, people, and our planet.

Esther’s suit, tailor-made by Mediha Kaplan of “Kaplan bespoke tailors for women”. Photo by Thomas Slijper.

Perseverance pays off
The Party for the Animals and our sister parties are the driving force behind positive change in the political arena. We consistently challenge the government and other politicians to break free from their old habits and from fossil fuel-based systems. And successfully so.

On the radio, a political pundit recently put into words what the Party for the Animals is doing: “The Party for the Animals was founded to shift the debate. They were the ones who brought ‘animal affairs’ into a political arena that only spoke about human affairs. In the beginning, they were met with ridicule, but now we can see that the party has achieved a paradigm shift: they made an unacceptable viewpoint acceptable.”

And that’s the way it is. Our message has always been: the well-being of people, animals and the planet is more important than money. Thanks to our efforts, more and more politicians are recognizing that the animal industry is a problem that should disappear as quickly as possible. The connection between diseases such as COVID-19 and the reprehensible way in which we treat animals is also recognized. We have always pointed out the destruction of nature and the human and animal rights violations that go hand in hand with many free trade agreements. And for a long time we were the only ones doing that, but at the moment there’s no longer a majority in The Netherlands for free trade agreements such as these. The next one coming up, Mercosur, between the EU and countries such as Brazil, is now off the table thanks to our perseverance.

The idea that endless economic growth is not the solution to our problems, but is actually the problem itself, is also catching on. More and more politicians are coming to the conclusion that we should stop focusing on economic growth. And that we should focus on a healthy economy, that stays within ecological limits and strengthens the health of humans, animals and nature instead.

The tide is turning and those who persevere will win.

Our movement is growing!

Esther and the founders of the new Moldavian political party for the animals (PONA).

That the resistance against old habits is growing has become clear in certain political developments as well these past few weeks. In my previous blog, I spoke about the breakthroughs of our Danish and Greek sister parties. This time it’s our Italian sister party Partito Animalista Italiano that has achieved a breakthrough by obtaining a seat in the parliament of the region of Campania! A first in Italian history! Our MEP Anja Hazekamp had recorded a video message for the elections in which she voiced her support for our Italian sister party.

There’s more good news: another political party for the animals was founded, this time in Moldova! The new party is called PONA, which stands for People, Nature and Animals, and was finally recognized as an official party after years of struggle over unfair electoral rules. The highest judge in Moldova made the ruling to recognize them earlier this week. Fantastic news for all the people in Moldova that want a healthy future for both humans and animals! I was able to meet the amazing people behind PONA back in 2018. I greatly admire their perseverance.

Together we will take on anyone who gets in the way of animals, nature and the environment. Together we will ensure that the tipping point will go in the right direction.

Take good care of each other, and don’t stop taking action!

Until next time,

Esther Ouwehand
(Party Chair of the Dutch Party for the Animals)