Worldlog Week 17 – 2008

25 אפריל 2008

This week we filmed an interview with Pamela Anderson at her home in Los Angeles. She is very enthusiastic about the Party for the Animals and was only too happy to endorse the film Meat the Truth. Brigitte Bardot also had positive words for the Party for the Animals during an interview that appeared this week in a Dutch glossy magazine. It’s great to see that our work in the Dutch parliament is attracting more and more attention from abroad.

This weekend we will be adding the final touches to the international version of Meat the Truth. The Dutch version of the movie, which premiered in Dutch cinemas last week, was very warmly received by audiences. After seeing the film, many leaving the theatres said they were prepared to give up meat at least for a few days, some altogether.

Last week, NRC Handelsblad, the Netherlands’ most authoritative newspaper, published a wonderful article on a “scientific analysis” of Meat the Truth conducted by Wageningen University.

Aalt Dijkhuizen, Chairman of the board of
governors of Wageningen University

Wageningen University used to have an international reputation for its expertise in agriculture and the environment, although in the last few years it has become better known in many countries as a centre of knowledge for chick-sorting machines, battery-hen systems and other instruments of torture used by the livestock-breeding industry.

As the interests of Wageningen and the meat sector are very closely intertwined, the university decided to take a critical look at Meat the Truth at the request of a committee chairman from the Dutch parliament, Annie Schreijer-Pierik, the wife of a pig farmer. Mrs Schreijer-Pierik believed that the film consisted mainly of “distorted facts”.

Chairman Dijkhuizen is no stranger to controversy in academic circles since, not only is he the highest-paid university boss in the country, but he previously worked for cattle-feed giant Nutreco and still holds many advisory posts in the cattle and meat sector. He was also the man who arranged for seven meat and dairy professorships at Wageningen, professorships that are also funded by the …. meat and dairy industry. No less than 36% of professors at Wageningen are sponsored – not only by the meat and dairy industry, but also, for example, by the Royal Netherlands Hunters Association.

We heard that scientists at Wageningen University wanted to meet with us to discuss Meat the Truth. We knew that Wageningen was drawing its own conclusions without even talking to us when we heard last week Friday that Wageningen was publishing a "report” which they promised to present as a “scoop” to the radio 1 programme De Ochtenden on last Monday's show. Aalt Dijkhuizen himself was reportedly going to come in person to present the report. Our senator, Niko Koffeman, would only be allowed to make a statement in reply.

Niko Koffeman, Senator for
the Party of the Animals

Although the radio show's editorial staff could only give us the findings of the report shortly before going on air – and thus denying us time to prepare a response – the report had already been sent a week earlier to the Netherlands Minister of Agriculture Verburg and committee chair Schreijer-Pierik (both of the Christian Democratic Party).

As it happened, we ourselves were able to get hold of a copy of the report before the weekend. We then discovered that the rather thin document basically concurred with the most important conclusions of Meat the Truth. Padded around this core, the report is packed with opinions and assumptions that are clearly unscientific and strongly biased and obviously representative of the interests of the cattle and meat sector. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Leading Dutch newspaper NRC then published an excellent story by scientific editor Karel Knip. He had phoned one of the researchers working on the Wageningen University report and asked if they hadn’t forgotten a very important detail when calculating the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by the Dutch cattle-breeding sector – namely the import of Soya from the former tropical rainforest of Brazil!!!

“Um,” replied researcher Dr Peter Kuikman, “You certainly could call that an omission. But, so if it's 13 or 15% instead of 9%, what difference does it make?"

Thus is the current state of scientific research at Wageningen University. Of course, what difference does it make if your results are only around 50% off?

Wageningen is run like a commercial company: professorships are for sale and so are the results of scientific studies.

It’ll be interesting to see how effective Wageningen is at damage control after this almighty fiasco 😉

Until next week!