Esther’s Blog: Cherish the trees, stop cutting!

30 September 2021

I concluded my last blog before the summer with lots of good news, but with big challenges as well like the climate crisis, the degradation of our nature and the role of the livestock industry in that matter. So after summer recess, we’re back full force to tackle these challenges.

"Stop Cutting"
Last week, the most important Dutch political moment of the year took place: the ceremony at which the government presents its plans for the coming year, the King gives a speech and parliamentarians customarily dress extra nicely. Many journalists and television cameras are present, and like every year, we seized this opportunity to make a statement with our clothing.

Esther in her sustainable outfit as a statement against cutting trees. Her hat says `Stop cutting’.

I wore a durable dress and a hat that referenced trees to draw attention to the fact that trees are being cut down on a mass scale, even though we desperately need more of them to prevent major climate disasters and to protect our health. In the Amazon, for example, four football pitches of rainforest disappear every minute to make way for animal feed production. Deforestation in the Netherlands happens, relatively speaking, at an even higher pace. Worse still, the Netherlands is one of the European countries with the least nature and can almost be called world champion in the loss of species. All this when the corona crisis has clearly shown that global deforestation increases the risk of virus outbreaks.

In other words, cutting down trees is contrary to our nature. Which is why we have asked the government to invest cleverly in the future: to spend more on nature and on an agricultural policy that is good for animals and humans, and to stop the billions that, directly or indirectly, still flow to the fossil fuel industry, aviation, and the destructive livestock industry.

Wins for the planet
This summer was filled with wildfires and worrying climate reports. Fortunately, the Party for the Animals managed to convince the European Parliament to act on this more, and in various ways.

For example, the climate- and agriculture committees in the European Parliament finally recognise the negative impact of the livestock industry on climate, health and nature and is committed to robust agricultural reforms. The number of animals kept in the European livestock sector must be reduced. The committees also want EU subsidies to be used to stimulate the consumption of fruit and vegetables, rather than boost the overconsumption of meat and dairy. Agricultural toxins are dealt with more strictly as well. The European Parliament won’t vote on these proposals until October, but this is an important step towards a green, healthy, and more animal-friendly production of our food!

Another success for our planet is that the climate- and agriculture committees also rejected the Mercosur agreement (the trade agreement between the EU and a number of South American countries). Earlier, the Party for the Animals made the Dutch Parliament denounce the treaty as it seriously damages the climate, the Amazon rainforest, human rights, and animal welfare.

Fight against animal suffering
Thanks to the Party for the Animals, the summer also saw some good news for around 22 million lab animals in the EU! The European Parliament is demanding an action plan to put an end to animal testing in Europe as soon as possible. The European Union is going to invest in animal-free, innovative alternatives. Experimenting with millions of animals is not only incredibly cruel, but also completely outdated. With technological innovation, we can quickly switch to much more effective methods.

Unfortunately, there was tragic news for animals on the Faroe Islands this month. During the annual hunt there, a sad record number of 1,400 dolphins were slaughtered. An unimaginable, senseless bloodbath that defies all moral standards. We have called on the Dutch government to address the Faroese and Danish leaders about this cruel practice in no uncertain terms. Our European counterpart has also, with other parties, put questions to the European Commission. Before the summer, our proposal to put pressure on the Faroe Islands to put an end to dolphin hunting was adopted by a large majority of the European Parliament. Dolphins are very intelligent creatures with strong social ties. It is time to give them the freedom and security they deserve.

Global struggle

Esther at the world conference "Saving the world with fork and knife".

The political movement for animal rights and our planet continues to achieve success elsewhere in the world. Our sister party in Canada, the Animal Protection Party, participated in the federal elections this month. Whilst the Canadian electoral system (which severely disadvantages small parties) prevented them from winning seats, research found that their campaign significantly influenced the voting behavior of other party voters. They managed to put the climate crisis and the protection of animals and the environment higher on the agenda. And our French sister party Parti Animaliste is making history by putting forward their candidate for the French presidential elections next spring. So proud!

And finally, representatives of our beautiful international movement came together again at our world conference this summer. Online, this time. It was so great to speak alongside experts like Helen Harwatt of Harvard University and JoJo Mehta of Stop Ecocide International. And truly wonderful to hear from participants across the globe: from Zimbabwe and Lebanon to the United States and Australia. It really does give hope for the future. So why not look back at the world conference in your own time!

Until the next blog in October!

Esther Ouwehand
Party leader, Dutch Party for the Animals