Bijdrage EU gesprek Margot Wallström

18 april 2007

Being the first political party in the Dutch parliament that focuses on defending the rights of animals and improving animal welfare, we wish to welcome Mrs Wallström. We know from your past work as EU Environmental Commissioner, that you are dedicated to environmental issues, the use of GMO’s and climate change.

Animal welfare is not a priority on the agenda of the European Commission, but our Party hopes that current public concern for animal welfare in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe will have its effect on future decisions taken by the European Commission

We therefore wish to share our concerns regarding animal welfare and the effects of the consumption of meat on climate change, in the hope that the European Commission will consider our perspective in their future actions.

The Netherlands said no to the European Constitutional Treaty. The Party for the Animals is also against this European effort, because of two major concerns:

The first concern is that cultural traditions such as bull fighting, forced feeding of geese for pate, collecting eggs of red listed birds, etcetera are placed above the negative, some times devastating, effects these traditions have on the wellbeing of animals. It is our opinion that in an advanced European Community the learning process on how we care for and take care of animals won’t be hindered by laws that protect traditions against all reason. We therefore emphasize the need to proceed at the European level with a constitutional treaty that includes protection of the rights of animals rather than ignoring them.

The second concern (with respect to the European Constitutional Treaty) is the sole focus on agricultural production increase in the agricultural paragraph. This is clearly ignoring increasingly accepted societal values such as animal welfare, and environmental stewardship. Especially in a Europe where billions of animals are transported over billions of miles under deplorable circumstances. With high risks for the outbreak of both animal pandemics and, in case of the bird flu, also human disasters. A prime focus on production increase is, in our view, short sighted both in terms of European risk management and in terms of protecting the rights of animals.

Besides these concerns I would also like to focus on some European opportunities with respect to the issue of climate change. The reports of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) point out that human activity is the major cause of global warming. A report of the FAO (Livestock’s long shadow) concludes that 18% of the total global emission of greenhouse gasses is due to animal husbandry. This exceeds emissions from traffic and transport.

It is obvious that a strong focus on the role of animal production ánd consumption in our societies cannot be ignored in tackling the problems arising from climate change. As our former deputy minister of Environment already pointed out: ‘meat is the most environmentally damaging part of our daily food’. Besides, the production of meat in Europe involves vast areas in other non European countries, where often marginalised people are suffering from lack of water, land and other subsistence necessities due to the colonisation of land for animal feed production. Not to mention the devastating effects of soy production on tropical rainforests.

We would like to stress that to be able to deal with the consequences of climate change we need to promote a transition towards the production and consumption of more vegetable proteins, also at European level. We therefore request you, as vice president of the European Commission, to make an effort to include the negative consequences of meat production in the European strategy to tackle climate change.

One final remark, mrs Wallström. When we talk about Europe, we talk about ‘level playing field’. Most countries adopt that concept to avoid doing better than others, because it might harm their competitiveness. Why is there such a limited effort in the European Union to adopt another strategy, namely ‘Race to the Top’?

We would like to see countries competing for a leading position on issues like animal welfare, environmental protection and climate change. The European Commission can promote such a race.

We thank you for your attention.

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