Finnish animal advocacy history

I recently finished reading the book “Jonkun on uskallettava katsoa: Animalian puoli vuosisataa” (“Someone has to dare to look: the half century of Animalia”) by Tiia Aarnipuu (2011), which depicts the history of Finland’s biggest animal protection organization, Animalia. At the same time it also gives a picture of Finnish animal protection and animal rights history in general.

For me, who is still relatively new in the animal advocacy movement, reading the history behind it is both interesting and gives me a better understanding of the situation we are in now. I appreciate more the work that has been done for the animals long before I was even born; the struggles that the organizations and individual animal advocates have gone through during the years, and the victories that have been celebrated. As in every other movement, knowing the history is very important if you want to be able to move forward.

Some important happenings in the Finnish animal advocacy history, based on the book, include:

  • 1901 – the foundation of Uudenmaan Eläinsuojeluyhdistys, today SEY (Suomen Eläinsuojeluyhdistys)
  • 1961 – the foundation of what later became Animalia
  • 1971 – the foundation of the Juliana von Went Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments
  • 1991 – Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” was first published in Finnish
  • 1995 – the foundation of Oikeutta Eläimille

Another interesting book, which depicts the rise of the new animal rights movement in Finland in the 1990’s, and the creation of the animal rights organization Oikeutta Eläimille, is “Ulos häkeistä! Kaksi näkökulmaa uuden eläinliikkeen sisältä” (“Out of the cages! Two perspectives from inside the new animal movement”) by Salla Tuomivaara and Joni Purmonen (1998).

Are there any other good books on the history of animal advocacy – especially in other countries – that you would recommend?

The problem with factory farming is not the individual cases of abuse

When I stood in the city one afternoon several years ago informing people about the conditions of pigs raised for food as a part of an ongoing campaign, one person came up to me and said something like “That’s nothing weird. That’s how it looks like” (pictures in the campaign included pigs living in dirt and sometimes even together with dead friends, wounded pigs etc.). The attitude of the person commenting was that this is normal and that there is nothing we can do about it, so we shouldn’t talk about it or even care.

Is it not exactly this that is the problem? It’s so usual that the animals are suffering that no one reacts anymore, it’s just “normal” and “okay”.

The issue is bigger than just farmers treating their animals badly, there is a problem in the whole system. Raising animals is not simply raising animals, so to speak. It’s an industry where living creatures are held and slaughtered on assembly lines like they were products. There’s no time, no space, no resources for well-being among the animals in an industry like the animal industry today (I don’t believe animals can be happy in any kind of situation where they are used for our purposes, but that’s another story). Animal “products” are cheap, even though the cost of production may not be, and people consume more and more of certain products, which leads to a faster and faster spinning industry. It’s not good for anyone’s well-being – not ours, not the animals’, not the nature’s. Something has to change.

This is one reason why I’m an activist. “Activist” may sound very ugly in some people’s ears, but that does not make me want to stop being one. I’m not ashamed. Prejudices are not a reason to stop fighting for things you believe in. I don’t want to live my life just watching the world get darker, if there’s something I can do to change this world to the better, I will fight to do it. I hope you will too, whatever it is that you believe in.

I don’t want to pay for continued cruelty

Recently the animal rights group Oikeutta Eläimille released new footage from Finnish farms, this time including pig farms, a goat farm, a dairy farm and a farm for egg-laying hens. The group have released this kind of footage pretty much regularly since 2007, and the conditions at the farms never get any better, even though there have been discussions around the footage and animal welfare every time.

The industry gets subsidies from both the Finnish government and the European Union (i.e. from our tax money) to better their image. Not to advance the welfare of the animals, but to better the bad image that the industry has got thanks to the footage that has been released and because people have gotten more conscious about what they eat. I don’t understand the logic behind this, why give money to an industry so that they make a bigger gap between what is shown in their commercials and what is the truth? If we would like to give funds, then why don’t focus on advancing the welfare of the animals instead? Wouldn’t that be a better use for the money? Giving money to better the image so that people will continue to buy meat is not a solution to the problem, it’s a cover-up.

Oikeutta Eläimille has started a petition to make this kind of subsidies history. You can find the petition here. Please sign it if you care about animal welfare and think it’s wrong to give funding for covering up cruelty and bettering the image of an industry with so much problems. This is what the petition-site says, loosely translated into English:

“Petition: No subsidies for cruelty!

I the beginning of the year new shocking pictures from pig farms were released. At the same time the meat industry got 1,5 million euros in subsidies for advertisement of pork.

Factory farming causes suffering to animals and big environmental problems. No more subsidies from the society for advertisement of animal products!”

Vetoomus: Ei tukea kärsimykselle!

Alkuvuodesta julkisuuteen tuli uusia shokkikuvia sikaloista. Samaan aikaan lihateollisuus sai puolitoista miljoonaa euroa verorahoja sianlihan markkinointiin.

Eläintuotanto aiheuttaa kärsimystä eläimille ja suuria ympäristöongelmia. Ei enää yhteiskunnan tukea eläintuotteiden markkinointiin!

– See more at: http://oikeuttaelaimille.net/vetoomus-ei-tukea-karsimykselle#sthash.ZXvX6MID.dpuf

Vetoomus: Ei tukea kärsimykselle!

Alkuvuodesta julkisuuteen tuli uusia shokkikuvia sikaloista. Samaan aikaan lihateollisuus sai puolitoista miljoonaa euroa verorahoja sianlihan markkinointiin.

Eläintuotanto aiheuttaa kärsimystä eläimille ja suuria ympäristöongelmia. Ei enää yhteiskunnan tukea eläintuotteiden markkinointiin!

– See more at: http://oikeuttaelaimille.net/vetoomus-ei-tukea-karsimykselle#sthash.ZXvX6MID.dpuf

If you would like to see the new footage, it can be found at elaintehtaat.fi (the site is in Finnish, but you don’t really need any Finnish language skills to be able to find the footage). Viewer discretion is advised.

Personal library

I’m a person who is very hungry for information, it seems I can’t have enough. I read books and articles and watch documentaries. Most of all I read books, anything from easy-going novels to philosophical works. There’s no stopping me.

This has led to that I have started building a small library of my own, of books on animal activism, ethics and vegetarian/vegan cooking, as well as some of my favorite novels. I borrow a lot of books from the library as well – most novels that I have read have been borrowed ones, I only buy the ones I really like – but some books are not available in the library, or then I just prefer buying them so that I can make my own notes and go back to read the book later on.

books

I have a long list of books I haven’t read yet but that I want to read, just a few days ago I got a package with a few of those books – a birthday gift for myself. I own books in all the three languages that I speak; Swedish, Finnish and English.

R sometimes says I read too much. I think he’s just jealous.

The Ghosts in Our Machine

The documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine is about Jo-Anne McArthur and the work she has done for animals during the years, through her amazing photographs of animals in different life situations – those being exploited as well as those living in sanctuaries. The documentary seeks to open our eyes to the way we treat animals in this world – to point out the ghosts in our machinery – that in almost every part of our life, there is an animal being exploited, whether it’s for food, clothing, research or entertainment. It also is a depiction of animal rights activism today, where it is and where it might be going.

The documentary started screening in different parts of the world already in the end of last year, and now the time has come for it to be screened also here in Helsinki. It can be seen on three different days this week, during Helsinki Documentary Film Festival:

  • Tuesday 28.1 at 9 pm in Kinopalatsi 8, Kaisaniemenkatu 2
  • Wednesday 29.1 at 2.30 pm in Kinopalatsi 8, Kaisaniemenkatu 2
  • Friday 31.1 at 5 pm in Bio Rex, Mannerheimintie 22-24

Tickets can be booked online through the film festival’s home page, where you can also check out the other documentaries that will be screened during the week.

I’m hoping to go one of these days – if I don’t get a worse cold that the one I’m having right now – because I’ve really been looking forward to this film. I love Jo-Anne McArthur’s photographs, out of which many can be viewed on the We Animals – webpage, and I am excited to hear her story.

If you want to know more about the film, please visit the Ghosts in Our Machine’s webpage. There you can find out when it will be screened in your area (or request a screening if there is none), pre-order the DVD, watch the interactive story about the documentary and find out how you can get involved – among other things!

Finnish factory farming exposed, again

Last week new pictures and videos from Finnish factory farms were released by the animal rights organization Oikeutta Eläimille. This time the footage is taken at several different types of farms, including pigs, cows and chickens raised for different purposes. The footage was originally released during the 45 minuuttia (45 minutes) show in Finnish TV, where also animal activist spoke about why it is important to show what goes on behind the closed doors of the factory farms.

The footage can be found on the website eläintehtaat.fi (translates to “animal factories”). Videos are added to the site as soon after they have been filmed as possible.

On the site you can also watch the story of two piglet brothers (Pig Vision – The Journey of two Brothers), both born into the farm industry, but ending up living totally different lives. One of them is kept at the factory farm and end his life by being slaughtered at 7 months old. The other is rescued and brought to an animal sanctuary where he still lives today. Some of the footage in the video is horrifying – however, common practice within the industry – but the video also paints a picture of how the life of a pig could be if he or she would be allowed to be a pig instead of just a product. The video is originally made by the United Creations organization in Austria:

Animal rights in a nutshell

The term “animal rights” doesn’t imply that we give monkeys, cows, reptiles and other animals all the legal rights of humans. No animal activist advocates for animals to have the right to vote, or the right to freedom of religion (or any other such legal right).

Instead, giving animals rights implies that we give them something very basic; the right to their own life, on their own terms. I have read a lot of philosophical works, heard a lot of debates, and so far I have not seen any good argument (only a lot of excuses) not to give them these basic rights.

Animal rights is all about giving the animals what they deserve, what we have stolen from them. Because that is exactly what we have done. Animals don’t “give” their flesh, their secretions or their skin to us. We take it by force, and it’s not okay.