Esther's Blog: Letting go of old habits for a healthy society

10 februari 2021

In 2020 it became clear that it is more necessary than ever for governments to do what they have been appointed for by the citizens: protect our well-being and our living environment.

The now internationally infamous scandal surrounding childcare benefits is an example of how the Dutch government is failing in this regard: tens of thousands of families have become victims of racism within the government and have been unjustly labeled as fraudsters. Vulnerable people have been actively chased down and traumatised by the government. Rather than helping these people as soon as possible, the government has tried to hide the scandal.

2021 began here with the justified fall of the Dutch government over this great injustice, but our rule of law has been structurally affected. In the meantime, citizens are facing the disastrous consequences of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Gaining the trust of citizens requires that politicians let go of old habits, show courage, and put the welfare of people and animals first.

Old habits

Esther Ouwehand and the rest of the party for the animals show their support for Urgenda's climate case against the government.

A few years ago, the climate organisation Urgenda caused a worldwide breakthrough by successfully taking the Dutch government to court. Even the highest court ruled: the government is violating human rights by doing too little about the climate crisis and not protecting the wellbeing of citizens. Last week, a judge also condemned the French state for lack of action against the climate crisis.

That is a structural problem in the attitude of governments. Instead of working on a sufficient basic income for everyone and making major polluters pay, the government facilitates polluting companies that divert profits without having to pay tax. Politicians revert to old habits: succumb to the lobby of polluting, animal and human-unfriendly companies.

One of the most important examples is the policy on the livestock industry where gigantic swaths of forest disappear every minute for meat and animal feed (soy). Virologists point to the danger of the livestock industry to our health and the spread of viruses such as corona. The boss of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently said: all efforts to protect our health will fail if we do not invest in animal welfare and tackling climate change. Yet politicians continue to subsidize the livestock industry.

We also see these old habits in the approach to the COVID-19 crisis. While citizens, the cultural sector, and small businesses do their best and adhere to COVID-19 measures, COVID-19 hot spots such as the aviation sector and slaughterhouses are given a free pass. Last week, a curfew went into effect in the Netherlands: almost everyone has to stay at home, but hunters are given permission to continue killing animals and disturbing nature.

The COVID-19 crisis is a symptom of these old habits and political disregard for animals and nature. It exposes us to great dangers in the future. But it can be different!

Positive change

Esther Ouwehand on a tractor as a protest against the trade agreement with Canada (CETA) that is harmful to nature, animals, and human rights.

Fortunately, we also see that positive change is possible, as long as politicians show courage. That can be seen in the recent successes of the Party for the Animals.

More and more people are supporting the call of the Party for the Animals to shrink the aviation sector in order to protect our health and the environment. Our party is also successfully leading the opposition to free trade deals such as CETA and the Mercosur deal that are harmful to humans and animals.

More attention is being paid to the importance of nature-friendly, local, and plant-based agriculture. More and more parties support our call to phase out intensive livestock farming. Citizens are also increasingly opting for plant-based food. Moreover, thanks to a proposal from the Party for the Animals, the Dutch government has to not only oppose European subsidies for meat advertisements but also European subsidies for advertisements in which the eating of fish is encouraged. This type of advertising is diametrically opposed to all green ambitions and the call of scientists to combat overfishing.

Our party has also achieved a ban on all mink farms in the Netherlands from this year. Our proposal to ban the import of fur (products) has also been accepted. Our MEP Anja Hazekamp has called on the European Commission to regulate this at EU level as well.

Our sister parties in other countries have also been successful. For example, our sister party PAN in Portugal provided plant-based options in public canteens and a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. In Australia, our sister party Animal Justice Party set up an emergency plan for animals in the event of natural disasters such as forest fires and there, too, resistance against the fur industry is growing.

Keep going, together

Esther Ouwehand at the climate march in 2019.

In 2021, we will continue to push to make the health of people, animals, and our planet a top government priority. The United Nations speaks of the need for "unprecedented and urgent action" to counter dangerous ecosystem collapse and climate change. Politicians urgently need to focus their attention on tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis.

The good news is that we also reduce the risk of diseases such as COVID-19 spreading. That is why the Party for the Animals has proposed that the government also organise a press conference at least once a month about the approach to the climate crisis, as is now the case for the approach to the COVID-19 crisis.

We recently launched the “Climate Law 1.5” to replace the current climate law, which is insufficient to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Our Climate Act 1.5 ensures that we follow scientific advice and do what is necessary to combat dangerous global warming.

In addition, we have submitted a proposal to make ecocide - large-scale destruction of nature - a criminal offense. We have published the English translation of this proposal so that people all over the world can use it to demand change in their own country as well. Strong together!

Until next time!

Esther Ouwehand
Parliamentary leader Party for the Animals