Esther's Blog: The year of break­throughs

8 יולי 2020

Last week, we closed the Dutch parliamentary year. It was an eventful year in which we were able to achieve a lot. Among other things, the Party for the Animals has put forward legislation to tax the slaughter of animals, we have again achieved success in the fight against agricultural poison, we have put reforming the livestock industry on the EU's agenda as an important solution to the climate crisis, we have made animal welfare a binding part of the Brexit talks, and our commitment will ensure that there is no trade agreement between the EU and the South American Mercosur countries that would harm planet, people, or animals.

Esther Ouwehand at the Climate and Animal-Friendly (vegan) barbecue for the Dutch parliament, to close the parliamentary year.

Just before the summer recess we also had three successes:

1. In my previous blog, I wrote about our proposal to close mink farms: in the interest of public health and animal welfare. We did it! The Dutch House of Representatives agreed to a ban on breeding animals that are susceptible to the coronavirus. This means, among other things, that all mink farms in the Netherlands must close as soon as possible. This puts an end to the Dutch mink fur industry: the fourth largest in the world after China, Denmark, and Poland. A huge breakthrough!

2. We have been asking for it since the beginning of the COVID-19, but now we have finally awakened the House of Representatives: a plan of action is being drawn up to significantly reduce the risk of zoonoses. Virologists have warned for years that (worldwide) deforestation, wildlife trade, and large-scale livestock farming pose increasing risks of the emergence of new zoonoses and pandemics. The World Health Organization and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirm this. If we want to prevent the risk of new virus outbreaks, we must therefore tackle deforestation, wildlife trade, and the livestock industry. Thanks to our motion, the government will come up with a plan this year.

3. Our motion to immediately reduce the slaughter speed in slaughterhouses was also adopted by the House of Representatives. This means that the number of animals slaughtered will also have to be reduced. Slaughterhouse workers are now working very closely together to slaughter huge amounts of animals from livestock farming. Corona guidelines, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters, are not (properly) followed. Up to 700 pigs, 200 calves, and 13,000 chickens are slaughtered per hour in large slaughterhouses. Due to the high slaughter rate, a lot goes wrong. Horrible images have been circulated of pigs being hoisted and drowning in scalding hot water while conscious, of a calf being skinned alive, and of living animals in a box filled with carcasses.

In these situations, food safety and animal welfare cannot be sufficiently guaranteed. Slaughterhouses have proven to be hot spots for the coronavirus worldwide. The government did not intervene because economic interests always outweighed public health. Thanks to our proposal, an important step has been taken to change this. Human and animal health must come first!

Time for a food revolution
Now that a new flu virus has emerged in Chinese pig farming that has the potential to cause a pandemic, we need to restrict the livestock industry as soon as possible. Our food system needs to change. That is why we have launched a petition together with our sister parties, in which we call for a food revolution that ultimately benefits animals, farmers, and citizens. Sign the petition here.

Another reason to sign the petition and start eating more plant-based: while people can take action to cool down during the warmer summers, millions of animals will again be put through hellish transports. There they often suffer from heat stress and dehydration and die from overheating. This has to stop. That is why we in the House of Representatives again argued for stricter measures: structurally fewer animals in stands, possibilities for all animals to go outside and cool down, and a ban on animal transport on warm summer days.

In any case, a huge majority of the European Parliament has supported our request to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry on animal transport. This committee can end the horrific suffering of the millions of animals being transported alive every day. A historic victory!

Until all cages are empty

Team of the French animal rights party Parti Animaliste.

Last month we received terrible news from our sister party Animal Protection Party from Canada. After a law passed in Ontario that makes it a criminal offense to reveal suffering of animals for meat, dairy, and eggs, Regan Russel, a peaceful activist, was killed by a cattle transporter at a slaughterhouse. For more than 40 years, she participated in peaceful actions every week to draw attention to the animals.

People like Regan are heroes who should be better protected. With the new Ontario law, Canada is not only keeping the animal suffering in the livestock industry hidden, but also putting peaceful animal protectors at risk. That is one of the many reasons the Party for the Animals is leading an opposition to CETA, a trade agreement with Canada. I will ask our Minister of Foreign Trade questions about this.

The international movement for animal rights and our planet is getting stronger every year. Last week it was announced that our French sister party Parti Animaliste has won twelve (!) City council seats. Congratulations! The party argues for a ban on hunting and for a minister of animal welfare. Vegan politicians like Jabari Brisport - who wants to better protect animal and human rights - are also doing well in the United States.

Together we will continue the battle. Until all cages are empty.

Until after the summer recess, in August!

Esther Ouwehand