Photo © Eurogroup for Animals
Five newly elected MEPs shared their top priorities for animals at Eurogroup for Animals’ Annual Event in Brussels on Wednesday. They all agreed that new and improved legislative measures are needed to mend the animal welfare crisis in the EU.
Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI ), President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, said that her priority will be the request for an EU animal welfare framework law – “because it covers all the species” – but as far as helping the most number of animals possible is concerned, it would be achieving higher welfare standards for broiler chickens. She added that the opportunity of the new Common Agricultural Policy should be used to transition towards genuine higher welfare farming practices.
Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL), Vice-President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, said that the European elections – in which our VoteforAnimals2019 campaign achieved 1000 candidate MEPs signing the animal welfare pledge, of whom 117 got elected – demonstrated the determination of EU citizens to obtain real change for animals. When asked for her absolute priority for this new political term she said: “The lowest thing we can do to animals is live animal transport. By 2024 I hope we will have stopped this.”
Martin Buschmann, a new German MEP and member of the Animal Protection Party who has joined the GUE/NGL Group, said live transport and fighting vivisection were his top priorities. “Hamburg has one of the biggest facilities for laboratory animals, and wanting to do something about that was what got me into politics,” he said.
Martin Hojsik (RE-Renew Europe), a new Slovakian MEP from Progressive Slovakia, said that he will carry on the battle fought by MEP Pavel Poc in the illegal trade in puppies. He also said he hoped Slovakia could be the next country to ban fur farming after its elections.
The German MEP Klaus Buchner (Greens/EFA) said that the direct influence of MEPs is small, but that “indirectly we can do much more”, which he has demonstrated by his activity in the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative in collecting 2,500 signatures.
All the MEPs agreed that it will be very important for the new President of the Commission to make a strong commitment to animal welfare.
Eurogroup for Animals’ Annual Event – held at the Art and History Museum in the city’s Cinquantenaire Park – also saw a line-up of some of the best animal welfare campaigns in Europe by Eurogroup for Animals’ member organisations, including AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, Anda, FAADA, Bont Voor Dieren, Djurens Rätt, SEY, the Wolf Action Group, World Animal Protection, and Voiceless. Essere Animali’s campaign ‘Anche i Pesci’ (Fish Too), the first European investigation and campaign on welfare on fish farms, was voted the winner of Eurogroup for Animals’ Campaign4Animals Award by the audience.
CIWF representatives presented their End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, which recently hit a million signatures, and has until September 11th to achieve at least another 300,000. “1.5 m signatures will send a deafening message to the Commission that they will have to respond to,” concluded Sean Gifford, Head of Campaigns at Compassion in World Farming.
An array of experts gave the audience food for thought with presentations on cell-based meat, citizens as lobbyists, and the ethical issues of the animal cause. “Has there ever been such an opportunity to solve animal suffering on such a large scale?” asked Hermes Sanctorum, former bioengineer, Member of the Flemish Parliament and Belgian Senator, who is now working as a consultant on cell-based meat for GAIA. He addressed some common questions about the potential of this new source of protein and revealed that cell-based meat production would require 99% less land use than conventional meat.
Corine Pelluchon, Full Professor in Philosophy and Applied Ethics at the University of Paris-Est-Marne-La-Vallé, asked if it is possible to build a global theory that takes both animal and human needs into account. “We share the Earth with other species. But we act as if we are alone, and that animals are just a means to an end,” she said, adding that speciesism is just as unjust as racism or sexism. Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at HEC Paris and Global Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law, also in Paris, suggested that everyone can be a lobbyist, especially with the help of the European ‘lobbying toolbox’ comprising asktheEU.org, ECIs and the European Ombudsman, and said that a society that allows citizens to assert themselves and have their voices heard is a happier society.
The meeting was also attended by one of Eurogroup for Animals’ founders, Richard Ryder, who was chairman of the RSPCA in 1980, when Eurogroup for Animals was founded: “It makes me feel paternally proud to see how much progress you’ve made,” he said.
“We come together at a very important moment in European history. Four political groups in the EP have made some kind of commitment to improving animal welfare, and two Spitzenkandidaten have firmly pledged to act for animals,” said Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming and Eurogroup for Animals’ Vice President, who chaired the meeting alongside Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals. “The die has been cast; we need to make sure the numbers stack up favourably for all animals.”
“We have a very good basis to build on in this new term. However, we also know there are many challenges. Despite the urgency for change and broad civil society support, animals are not on the priority list of many decision makers, and there has been very little legislative progress over the past eight years,” said Reineke Hameleers. “Indeed, we are facing massive issues varying from increased industrial farming, increased numbers of animals used in science, competitive pressure on our markets due to low welfare imports, and increasing legal and illegal trade in animals. So we really need to find ways to make sure this promising political support for animals will materialise in meaningful actions.”
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