Worldlog Week 44 – 2010

5 November 2010

One of our greatest supporters from the world of literature passed away last week. The Dutch writer Harry Mulisch died on 31 October 2010 at the age of 83. Not only was he famous in the Netherlands as one of this country’s greatest writers, he also acquired international renown with books like The Assault and The Discovery of Heaven. Something that not everyone knows is that while Mulisch made a significant impact on people’s lives, he also took a real stance in defence of animals. Our former prime minister, Balkenende wrote in a letter to Mulisch that he believed intellectuals did not participate nearly enough in the social debate. Mulisch replied brilliantly by pointing out to the prime minister that the government has failed (and continues to fail) to take action to stop the abuse of animals in the bio-industry, while intellectuals, on the other hand, do what they can, by for example, supporting animal protection organizations.

Mulisch was also furious that the fundamental decision of colleague writer Maarten ’t Hart not to hold a passport meant he was refused to stand as a candidate for the Party for the Animals. Harry Mulisch accompanied ’t Hart to the Council of State, to which the lists of candidates are submitted. At the Council of State, he offered to stand in ’t Hart’s place, which was not possible as the deadline for nominations had already passed. We owe much to Harry Mulisch and I wish everyone who knew and loved him much strength in dealing with this loss.

Last week we asked Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health to explain the rise in the number of animal experiments in the Netherlands. It was announced yesterday that 592,665 animal experiments were conducted in 2009, a rise of 2.5 percent relative to the previous year! This is the first rise in the number of animal experiments that we have seen in six years. My colleague Esther Ouwehand has already repeatedly warned about the consequences of new developments for animal experiments, such as the European REACH programme which involves the retesting of many chemical substances. Genetic manipulation experiments are also costing increasing numbers of animals their lives.

Since entering the Lower House of the Dutch parliament, the Party for the Animals has called for additional efforts to reduce and continue reducing the number of animal experiments. Although some of the proposals put forward by the Party for the Animals have been accepted, including a knowledge centre for alternatives to animal experiments and a doubling of the budget for developing animal experiment-free techniques, the efforts on the part of the government remain inadequate.

We end with some disturbing news about climate change in the Netherlands. The weather stations MeteoVista / have indicated that the Netherlands has become warmer by 0.42 degrees Celsius in the past ten years, which is twice as fast as the global average. This is because we are relatively close to the North Pole, where global warming is the strongest. The snowed-covered sea ice of the Arctic Ocean is shrinking and there is less snow in Canada and Siberia. As a result, in the Northern Hemisphere less sunlight is being reflected back into space and more radiation is being absorbed (and converted into heat).

The Party for the Animals wants the Netherlands, along with the rest of the European Union, to take the lead in limiting global warming to 1 to 2 degrees Celsius. This will require the large-scale adoption of clean sources of energy, such as wind, waterpower and solar energy. Furthermore, it will also require a serious reduction in the consumption of animal proteins. Unfortunately, the new Dutch government does not intend to take any firm measures against global warming. While there is still so much to do. We’ll keep you posted.

Until next week!