Esther’s Blog: Building a food system together that will benefit everybody!

26 May 2020

Not only China, but also the Netherlands with the densest livestock population in the world has become like a ticking time bomb: a hotbed for infectious diseases such as corona, which can be transmitted from animals to humans (zoonosis). First, we had to deal with bird flu occurring in the poultry sector and then we were confronted with “Q fever”, which spread from goat farms in particular and made thousands of people sick. We have warned for this for years in debates and in documentaries. And presently, everywhere people are becoming aware: the way we deal with animals is making us sick and has to change.

We are putting pressure on our government to take action. We did so quite successfully: our motion to restrict the import of calves to an absolute minimum (none if it was up to us) to prevent overcrowded stables and animal suffering was adopted this month. And our motion in which we called for the Dutch Minister of Agriculture to enforce corona measures in slaughterhouses and meat-processing companies was also adopted.

An important victory. Because despite the fact that corona is hitting areas with intensive livestock farming much harder, and despite the fact that workers in slaughterhouses are in more danger of infection by viruses such as corona, the Dutch government did not take any action to curb the livestock industry. The meat sector was allowed to continue its ‘business as usual’ and corona measures (such as employees keeping 1.5m distance) were not observed. This will change thanks to the Party for the Animals!

We will continue increasing the pressure
Thanks to our efforts, people are becoming more and more aware of the link between infectious diseases like corona and the way we keep, breed, kill and trade animals. But we are not there yet and will continue increasing the pressure.

It recently turned out that the Netherlands had another world first: we are the first country in the world where corona broke out among animals held in captivity, namely in a mink farm. Thousands of animals in the mink farming industry are kept under horrific circumstances just to be killed for their fur. Mink farming was banned in 2013 already, but the industry was given time to gradually scale down its activities until 2024. It recently turned out that the coronavirus broke out in several Dutch mink farms.

Minks in a mink farm.

Our efforts in the Lower House have helped to raise objection against mink farms among politicians and society. Most Dutch people did not even know that mink farms still existed and talked about it on social media with disgust. We are putting maximum pressure on the government to shut down the mink farms as soon as possible. This cruel sector does not only affect animals, but also our public health.

Our point of view that public health should be given priority over money when it comes to preventing and combating infectious diseases such as corona, is gaining more and more support. Public health should be more important than the livestock industry's economic interests. We will fight for this in the next few weeks. Then we will find out if the governing parties are in fact prepared to prioritise public health or give in to the lobby for the livestock industry.

Fight against the destructive lobby for the livestock industry

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The Party for the Animals’ MEP previously called on European Commissioner Frans Timmermans to end the nonsensical subsidies for the promotion of meat.

In the European Parliament we are putting more and more pressure on the European Commission to take measures that will truly protect our planet and health. Slowly but surely we are achieving success, but we still have to combat the destructive lobby for the livestock industry.

Last week, for example, the European strategy for sustainable food (“Farm 2 Fork”) leaked out. Initially, it stated that the European Union would end the subsidies of millions of euros for the misleading meat advertisements. In the past four years, Brussels subsidised the promotion of meat by about 94 millions of euros. This subsidy for the promotion of meat is paid on top of an estimated amount of 28 billions of euros of agricultural subsidies per year for European livestock farming. All of this is paid from taxes from European citizens. But, time after time, research has shown that: animal products do not only cause animal suffering but also harm the climate, nature and people's health.

The Party for the Animals – as the only party in the European Parliament - has been advocating for years to cancel the subsidies for the promotion of meat, which is an excellent step towards a truly sustainable and fair food system!

However, it looks like the European Commission gave in to the lobby for the livestock industry at the final moment: in the last version of the “Farm 2 Fork” - Strategy, the subsidies for the promotion of meat are maintained after all. Incomprehensible! Our MEP Anja Hazekamp is going to do everything possible in the next few months to reverse this. Increasingly more citizens want to end the subsidies for meat and dairy products and are asking for a healthier and more plant-based food system. The European Commission should listen to the people, not to the lobby for the livestock industry.

Take action now!

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Worldwide call for food revolution.

The only correct strategy to obtain a truly sustainable and healthy food system is to end the subsidies for the livestock industry and to help farmers switch to a plant-based agriculture without the use of pesticides. The powerful lobby for the livestock industry is making this essential change impossible.

But as the American presenter Bill Maher said in a powerful video: “The livestock industry has many lobbyists, but ecological time bombs are continuing to tick.”

For that reason, the Party for the Animals and its sister parties together made a call on governments worldwide: the time for a sustainable food revolution has started! The petition has already been signed by more than 73,000 (!) people. Support us by signing and sharing the petition!

Building a food system together that will benefit everybody!

Until the next time,

Esther Ouwehand
(Party chair of the Party for the Animals)