Worldlog Esther Ouwehand 25 December 2018
For many of us, this last week of December is about solidarity, doing good for others and the hope for a peaceful and happy new year to all. Which makes it so very cruel that, while I am writing this, each minute over 134,000 animals worldwide are killed and billions more are suffering in the livestock industry. Too often, these victims are overlooked in December. That is why this month, we have paid special attention to them.
Last week, we distributed Christmas letters among the members of Dutch Parliament. The back of each letter showed a photograph of the living conditions of the animals in our country. Not really a Christmas image and definitely not a pleasant one. Our intention was to confront our MPs with the misery animals in the Netherlands have to endure every day, just before they are voting individually on a number of the Party for the Animals’ motions to help these animals. With these letters, we wanted to ask our colleagues to show some courage and think about their responsibility for the fate of the animals in our country, instead of blindly following the words of their party’s agriculture spokesman. When Parliament reassembles after recess, we will see if our colleagues have understood the true Christmas spirit of compassion and peace.
As it is of vital importance to the animals and to our planet that politicians and policymakers in other countries also make sustainable and animal friendly choices, we organised a conference in Beirut (Lebanon) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) this month on the subject of ‘Animal Rights and a Sustainable Future’. In both countries it became clear once again that compassion is universal. At both conferences, dozens of magnificent people of different backgrounds gathered to take part in workshops and share their knowledge. All for the purposes of keeping the planet habitable and protecting the animals on it.
In Beirut, we even had a visit from the primary responsibility for animal welfare from the Lebanese Ministry for Agriculture. Lebanon is not famous for its animal welfare, but he took home an important message from one of our speakers, Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore: “Even the most climate-friendly meat options still produce more greenhouse gases than vegan protein sources, like beans or nuts. Avoiding meat and dairy products is the biggest way to contribute to a solution for climate change and biodiversity loss. By adopting a vegan diet, we will save enormous amounts of water, reduce pollution and combat deforestation. Moreover, we will reduce the area of agricultural land needed for the production of our food by 75%.”
Poore presented the results of his recent pioneering research on the impact of our food patterns. His research showed that each of us can make an enormous positive difference by adopting a vegan diet. Based on Poore’s research, the BBC has published an online calculator designed to calculate your food’s climate footprint. Might come in handy at your Christmas dinner!
The conference in Sarajevo, which we had organised in cooperation with local animal rights organisation EVA, was equally inspiring. One of its speakers was Luka Oman, founder of the biggest animal rights organisation in Croatia and the region, Animal Friends Croatia. Luka is an outspoken vegan and an animal welfare advisor to the Croatian Minister of Agriculture. Such an inspiring tale he told! When Luka was a teenager, he decided to stop eating animals. In those days there was no Google or internet and he was told by the doctors that without meat, he wouldn’t survive two weeks. Although he believed the doctors, Luka decided to choose compassion. “Rather do the good thing and die, than live the rest of my life knowing that I am responsible for all that suffering done to animals.” A few years ago, Luka decided to establish Croatia’s very first animal rights organisation – all by himself and while being ridiculed by the people around him. Today, he manages the most important animal rights organisation in the region and as an advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, he ensures that animals as well as nature conservationists are taken seriously by politicians. That is the kind of advisor our Minister of Agriculture needs!
Our MP Christine Teunissen also gave the country's very first lecture ever on animal rights in Sarajevo. In the historic town hall of the Bosnian capital, immediately beside the Mayor's room. Her call to stand up together for our planet and -all- its inhabitants was greeted with much enthusiasm. All the guests could enjoy the delicious vegetable snacks of the Bosnian caterer “Biona”, who exclusively uses vegetable, organic and regional products as much as possible. It was great to see such positive initiatives everywhere!
No film confronts us with what we do to animals as much as the documentary Dominion. That’s why we wanted to show this documentary to as many people as possible, particularly in the month of December. When I visited New York, I showed the film near the headquarters of the United Nations. We also showed the film in Beirut and Sarajevo this month and we did so very successfully: both cinema rooms were full. In Beirut there were so many people interested in watching the film that we quickly had to plan a second performance to give everybody the chance to watch the film. The film brought up many emotions, but in both cities the public made the same conclusion: we need to change our agricultural system drastically as soon as possible and Dominion must be performed everywhere, even at schools. It was encouraging to see that everyone - irrespective of their nationality, religion or background - was prepared to make a different choice for food after having watched Dominion.
While the documentary was performed in Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina without any problem and distribution was even encouraged by the public, it was difficult to show the film in our own country. We wanted to show the film here in The Hague, the centre of political power, on a big screen at the building of the Lower House. To our great surprise, the Mayor of The Hague decided to prohibit the open air performance. The daily reality of the livestock industry as shown in the film, is “far to shocking for people shopping in the area”, according to the Mayor. Absurd reasoning! If practices are too shocking to show, you should prohibit those practices and not their performance. We still showed the film, but we did so in a university building, close to the Lower House. The Mayor did visit us just before the start of the film, but hopefully she will actually watch the film at a later stage and in future use her authorities to protect animals instead of the livestock industry.
All in all, a hopeful end of 2018. We feel confirmed by all those wonderful people who fight for a better future for everyone all over the world: both people and animals. We are happy that increasingly more people oppose to the current destructive policies of our governments. Earlier we received 15-year-old Greta Thunberg at the Lower House because we felt that she had something very important to say. During the climate top of the United Nations in the Polish city of Katowice, she held a lecture that blew everyone away. A lecture that should be heard by -all- persons politically responsible for the state of the world. For that reason, the full group of the Party for the Animals presented the lecture to the Dutch government by means of 16(!) sets of Parliamentary questions. This will make all ministers listen to her lecture and respond to it officially. We hope that other parliaments will follow our example, so that governments all over the world will be forced to listen to this great 15-year-old climate activist. Let's make this happen together!
On behalf of our Party for the Animals team, I would like to wish you all a loving, peaceful and animal-friendly turn of the year.
Chair of the parliamentary group of the Party for the Animals in the Dutch Lower House