Esther’s Blog: Full steam ahead, for the animals and our planet!

2 February 2022

During the first month of the new year, our Party for the Animals team did not waste any time getting right back into action.

A ban on fireworks

We have presented our definitive initiative bill for a ban on consumer fireworks, which we have drawn up together with GroenLinks. Fireworks are the cause of a range of suffering: hundreds of people are injured while police and ambulance staff have fireworks thrown at them. Additionally, loads of toxic substances are released into the environment and the air quality suffers. Each and every year, millions of animals are stressed and frightened. Eye doctors, environmental specialists, animal welfare organisations, and fire, police and justice departments, have all been calling for a ban on fireworks for a long time. Research shows that a majority of the Dutch public wants a permanent ban as well.

It’s high time to reshape New Year’s Eve into a truly festive start of the new year, for everybody!

Give Nature Legal Rights

Wadden Sea.

Humans are not above nature as some kind of dictator, but are a part of nature. Humankind is entirely dependent on how we treat our ecosystems, and we have severely neglected those ecosystems. In the end, that will come to hit us in the face like a boomerang. The COVID-19 crisis is just one example of that. A better protection of nature is essential to ensure a healthy future for all of us.

In my last blog, I wrote about the terrible plans to drill for gas in one of the most vulnerable nature reserves of the Netherlands: the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea. The area is an oasis for many animals and, as such, is home to an incredible biodiversity. Unfortunately, economic activities, such as gas drilling, threaten the area. Such activities that harm nature have been given free reign for years on end. Companies have legal rights that protect their interests. But if polluters have these established rights, the nature of the Wadden Sea should receive those rights as well. Only then will the vulnerable ecology have the protection it deserves. We have submitted a proposal towards this end to the minister, who has agreed to look into the possibilities.

In more and more countries, such as Bolivia, New Zealand and Pakistan, the rights of nature are recognised. Being one of the richest countries on the face of the planet, the Netherlands cannot lag behind.

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

Together with virologists, the Party for the Animals has been ringing the alarm bells about the danger of zoonotic diseases, infections that make the jump from animals to humans, for a long time. When such a jump occurs and viruses become transmissible between humans, which is what happened with COVID-19, it will cause misery as we are seeing now across the globe. Nobody wants to live through another pandemic. That is why governments, both nationally as well as internationally, should highly prioritise preventing new zoonotic outbreaks. A crucial part of such prevention is a better protection of nature and the end of industrial livestock farming. Because, as virologists have been saying: industrial farming is a breeding ground for new pandemics.

Europe is currently seeing the worst outbreak of bird flu in recorded history. Millions of animals in poultry farms have been gassed. The current dangerous variant of avian influenza originated in the poultry industry, so we need to drastically reduce that number. Currently bird flu is not yet transmissible between humans, but virologists have shown that there’s only five mutations needed for avian influenza to become transmissible from human to human. When that happens, the consequences will be unprecedented. In comparison: it took thirty mutations to generate COVID-19’s omicron variant.

But what does the Dutch government do? After every chicken has been culled at farms where bird flu has been detected, those same companies are stuffed with live animals once again. The Netherlands also exports hatching eggs to countries such as Russia to stock poultry farms there. Even though Russia in particular is a country where gigantic outbreaks of bird flu happen on a regular basis. Chickens are culled, the Netherlands helps to cram those farms full with new chicks again, a new outbreak of bird flu emerges, the chickens are killed once again, and so on and so forth. It is not just a drama for the animals, but irresponsible towards public health as well. Apparently we are even exporting hamsters to Hong Kong! Some thousands were recently gassed as they were found to be infected with COVID-19. Why?

I wrote a book about the risks to public health posed by the way we treat animals and nature, and how the parties in power keep taking irresponsible and unnecessary risks with our health: A Plague On Both Our Houses: How Animal Exploitation Is Driving Pandemics And What To Do Next. Read the book for free and share it with politicians in your country!

International action

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Trailer of the documentary My Octopus Teacher.

Internationally, the political movement for animals and our planet is going well too. Our Spanish sister party PACMA took the initiative in organising an international action against the planned opening of a company where octopuses would be held for sale. The company’s plan, most likely, is to catch young squids and put them in captivity. PACMA is organising a big demonstration this month.

Octopuses are highly intelligent animals that are able to migrate across huge distances in nature. Keeping them in captivity is completely unnecessary and unethical, experts have said.

I not only recommend the Spanish government but everybody to watch the beautiful documentary My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. It shares some insight in the emotions and intelligence of octopuses, but also shows us that when we grant animals freedom and respect, we get a lot of it in return as well.

Lastly, together with our sister parties from around the world and our MEP Anja Hazekamp, we wrote an urgent appeal to the University of Barcelona to prevent dozens of Beagle pups from being killed after they were used for horrible experiments. Those animals deserve a loving home, not death. And we called upon the university: invest in alternatives to animal testing!

Until next time!

Esther Ouwehand
Party leader Dutch Party for the Animals