Have you met AAP?

Have you met AAP?

14 April 2022
Every month, we interview one of our member organisations about their work, main battles and achievements for animals. This month, on the occasion of AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection's 50th anniversary, we are pleased to interview Marieke Vreeken, Policy & Advocacy Officer at AAP.

Tell us about your organisation?

AAP (Animal Advocacy and Protection) is a European animal welfare organisation that rescues and rehabilitates exotic mammals in need and advocates for improved legislation to prevent  their suffering across Europe. We started our work in 1972, which means that this month we celebrate our 50th anniversary. One of AAP's main battles is to end the suffering of exotic pets in the EU through the enactment of (national and EU-wide) Positive Lists of safe and suitable pet species. We are also working to end the use of wild animals in circuses in Europe and on tackling illegal wildlife trade.

In which countries do you work?

AAP is based in the Netherlands and Spain. In the Netherlands, we operate a rescue centre for chimpanzees, primates and other exotic (small) mammals. Our rescue centre in Spain takes in chimpanzees and primates, as well as many big cats. However, our work extends far beyond these two countries, as we lobby for our proposed solutions and support our partners throughout the EU.

Tell us more about you and your role?

I joined the organisation in 2019 as a policy officer within AAP’s public policy team. My role is to advocate for our proposed policy solutions in the Netherlands, to share our Positive List expertise with partners in other EU Member States, and to provide substantive support to joint EU campaigns. I am an international human rights lawyer by training and have worked in the field of migration, refugee law and UN humanitarian aid operations. I have always been drawn to advocating for those who are in need of international protection, and over time, I have become increasingly aware of the vulnerability and protection needs of (wild) animals. This – together with an innate love and respect for animals - is what led me to become involved in this field.

I joined AAP in particular, because I really like its combination of rescue operations and lobbying for preventive and legislative solutions.  

When and why did you join Eurogroup for Animals?

AAP became a member organisation of Eurogroup for Animals in 2008. Prior to that, we were already working together on a project basis to get more specific support for wildlife issues. We joined Eurogroup for Animals to form a united front for animal welfare and make our lobbying work more effective and efficient. Eurogroup for Animals' expertise in EU-level policy-making and advocacy has also proved to be a real asset to our work. 

What are your organisations main achievements?

Below are some examples of achievements in 2021 that we are particularly proud of: 

  • In June 2021, AAP and Eurogroup for Animals co-organised a high-level event on the need to regulate the exotic pet trade in Europe with an EU Positive List, where we presented our latest AAP publication 'Infected and Undetected'.
  • We submitted a successful grant proposal to the National Postcode Lottery, which allows us to now facilitate the development by independent experts of a model-methodology for the Positive List. This online tool will make it much easier for EU Member States to develop their national Positive Lists. 
  • Throughout 2021, we witnessed the culmination of many policy-making processes that AAP provided support to, including the adoption of the Positive List for mammal and non-mammal species in Cyprus, the adoption of Positive List legislation in Lithuania and Slovenia, and the adoption of the animal welfare law in France. In Spain, a national animal welfare bill was developed that includes both a ban on wild animals in circuses and a Positive List provision. We also saw an increase of interest in the Positive List in several Member States. 
  • In October 2021, we delivered to the European Parliament over one million petition signatures for a European ban on wild animals in circuses, as part of the 'EU Stop Circus Suffering' campaign.
  • Together with several Dutch animal welfare and nature protection organisations, we have launched a joint action plan on preventing pandemics by reducing wildlife trade. This joint action plan proposes 15 measures for more preventive policies, more effective regulations of legal wildlife trade, and better law enforcement against the illegal wildlife trade.

How can people support you?

The public can support our work by:

Words to live by?

A year from now you will wish you had started today." - Karen Lamb