Esther’s Blog: A safer world for animals is a safer world for people

31 March 2020

The corona pandemic is causing mixed feelings: fear, but also solidarity. Many people are helping each other and are brave enough to do the most important jobs: in hospitals, supermarkets, homeless shelters, cleaning, and animal shelters. I sympathise with all those who have lost a loved one, those who are worried about the health or their next of kin, and those who are finding it hard to keep their head above the water in these critical times.


Animals on transport, on their way to be slaughtered.

We cannot do without compassion and solidarity in such times. Worldwide. For people as well as for animals. We see, unfortunately, that vulnerable groups like animals are victims first at times of a crisis. For example, in Moldavia, where stray animals are caught and locked up until they die because of lack of water and food. Help for injured and sick animals cannot wait anywhere. That is why we call for the Dutch government to make sure that people who look after animals can continue to do their work. Our sister parties in Belgium, Italy and Cyprus have called on their governments not to forget about vulnerable animals during this crisis.

The corona crisis is also hitting animals in the livestock industry. Last week, I asked the Dutch government to do their utmost to prevent unnecessary animal suffering. The following can in any case be done:

  1. International animal transports inside and outside of Europe should be banned. This call was also made by 36 large European animal protection organisations. Border restrictions as a result of the coronavirus cause for trucks with live animals to be stuck in extremely long traffic jams for hours to days on end, leading to many animals dying and animal welfare being seriously compromised. Our MEP Anja Hazekamp has called the European Commission to urgently stop animal transports.
  2. To implement breeding restrictions within the livestock industry to prevent stables from getting jammed. Slaughterhouses cannot deal with the number of animals to be slaughtered as it is. Several parties in the meat industry are pointing out that the coronavirus is causing supervisors and slaughter staff to drop out, putting even more pressure on the congested slaughter process. That leads to even more animal suffering.

Supervisors dropping out is increasing the chance of food safety risks due to contaminated or polluted meat, i.e. salmonella bacteria and the hepatitis E virus. There are even bigger risks for people's health, now that the coronavirus is around. We need to take action now that we still can.

Listen to the signs from science, stake everything on structural change

We do not only need to combat the symptoms but also the cause of them. Zoonoses, communicable animal diseases, such as the coronavirus, are today's biggest threat. The way we treat animals is literally making us sick and the structure of our current economy cannot last in time. This is the time to think again: we must reduce the negative impact that we have on our planet, keep fewer animals and invest in nature.

Last week, I proposed to invest an additional 40 million in nature in and around cities and villages. Particularly in this time of crisis, people need more space for fresh air and moving around in green areas. But we also saw that there is not enough green in the Netherlands for the many people living here. That needs to change.

The Party for the Animals believes that we should base ourselves on the latest scientific recommendations. And those scientists have warned us for years of the many zoonoses: over the last ten years, approx. 75% of the new diseases are the result of how we handle animals.

The Dutch pathologist Thijs Kuiken expressed it aptly: if we do not change how we handle animals, our livestock and farmed fish, we will be forced to do so because of the diseases that arise. Kuiken confirms that we, as the Party for the Animals, have been saying the following for years: “We should change our anthropocentric thinking into more eco-centric thinking. In other words: humans should know their place in the ecosystem. We, as researchers, can create a vaccine against a virus. But if we refuse to change our attitude and consumption pattern fundamentally, we are going to have to face a new problem each time again.

In short: A safer world for animals is a safer world for people We need to adopt a system that does not exceed the limits of what the planet can handle. Scientist Kate Raworth wrote a good book about it. Reading tip for during the quarantine.

And because we need more politicians that dare to make the right choices: help our Danish sister party “Veganerpartiet” to obtain enough declarations of support to be able to participate in the elections. They are almost there! Ask your Danish friends to sign.

Look after yourself and others!

Esther Ouwehand

(Party for the Animals)