Hoping for change: new Finnish parliament

There’s an election going on here in Finland; by the end of the week we will have chosen who will sit in our parliament for the next four years.

I’m hoping to see people in the parliament who will work for at least these things;

  • Animal welfare
    • Focus on the animal welfare instead of economic winnings in creating the new Animal Welfare Act
    • A decision to end fur farming within the next ten years, and an actual plan on how to do so
    • A decision to move away from factory farming
  • Environment
    • Moving more and more towards renewable energy sources, away from oil, coal, nuclear energy etc.
    • Promotion of plant-based, organic and locally grown food both in schools and in society in general
  • Equality:
    • Keeping to the decision of marriage equality
    • Working against racism and sexism in working life and society in general

Use your privilege and vote, dear Finnish citizens! We don’t have any right to complain or demand change if we don’t do anything for that change to happen.

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.

European elections

If you live within the European Union, don’t forget to vote in the European Elections this May 22-25! Eurogroup for Animals, the federation of animal protection organizations in the European Union, started a campaign for the elections already last year. They have created a list of points about animal welfare that they would like political groups to include in their manifestos for the elections;

1. Improve farm animal welfare
2. Reduce the number of animals used in research and testing
3. Protect cats and dogs
4. Improve the welfare of wild animals
5. Use EU trade agreements to boost animal welfare in partner third countries
6. Ensure that animals are recognized as sentient beings in all legislation

More about what these points include and about the campaign in general can be found at www.voteforanimals.eu. For the Finnish campaign go to elainpolitiikka.net under “Europaparlamenttivaalit 2014” (in Finnish).

On Thursday last week, the local Animalia activist-group hosted a political discussion around these points and animal welfare in general within the European Union. Running politicians from different political parties had been invited, and in the end seven of them agreed to come; Sanna Lehtinen from the Centre Party, Jere Riikonen from the Christian Democrats, Johanna Sumuvuori from the Green party, Eila Aarnos from the Left Alliance of Finland, Juhani Tanski from the Workers party of Finland, Petrus Pennanen from the Pirate party, and then Helena Eronen from Change 2011, who did not show up to the actual discussion.

The politicians were asked questions about for example how the animals’ position in the EU can be improved, what they have done for the animals during their political career, what they would do to turn the trend of rising meat consumption, as well as questions about animal testing and slaughter transports. I was positively surprised by most of the politicians and their knowledge and interest in the subject, and the discussion turned out to be really interesting.

The only sad thing about the event was the small amount of people who turned up. Apart from the politicians and people who work for Animalia in different ways, only few came. Maybe the advertisement hadn’t been so good, or maybe people are not so interested in listening to political discussions, I don’t know. But I hope that next time a similar discussion is held there will be more people there to listen, because I found it very interesting and helpful. It’s different to actually have the politicians there and being able to ask them questions, than to just read their pamphlets and campaign-websites and try to decide who to vote for based on those.

Seminar on animal tests and their alternatives

This morning I went to a seminar about animal tests and their alternatives, hosted by Fincopa, the Finnish National Consensus Platform for Alternatives. Four different speakers were talking during the one and a half hour seminar, about philosophical views for and against animal testing, how to recognize pain and well-being in animals, work that organizations do to limit tests done to animals as well as the new Finnish law regarding animal testing.

I found the part about recognizing pain and well-being in animals to be the most interesting one, because I knew much about what was said about the philosophical views from before, and the two last speakers and their topics I found it to be hard to follow because of their type of information and my a bit limited Finnish. I’m also generally very interested in animal welfare and research done on this topic. However, I got something out of all the different topics, new knowledge and some resources that I should definitely check out.

As a conclusion to the animal well-being and pain-part, the speaker Laura Hänninen listed a few common myths regarding this topic. I would like to share these with you, since I have heard most of them before and it’s sad that people still believe them to be true, even if research says otherwise:

  • Pain causes a stress reaction in the body, which releases cortisol. In other words, if the cortisol level in the animal’s body is not high, the animal is not in pain
  • The animal is not in pain, because she eats and drinks normally
  • The animal is well, because she is healthy
  • The animal is well because she produces well

European Elections 2014

The elections for the European parliament is coming up this spring, and the Eurogroup For Animals have started a campaign together with many of the local animal groups in the different countries, here in Finland Animalia and SEY (Suomen Eläinsuojeluyhdistysten liitto), to promote animal welfare during the election period. They call the campaign “Putting animal welfare at the heart of the European Elections 2014”.

Their pledge include that candidates promise to:

  • Work to ensure an animal welfare framework law is adopted that provides the highest level of welfare possible
  • Endeavour to minimise live animal transport, review the existing legislation to maximise the protection of animals and ensure it is enforced across the EU
  • Promote a comprehensive EU strategy to decrease animal testing while driving the acceptance and uptake of alternative methods
  • Ensure animal welfare is clearly included in the EU-US Trade agreement
  • Introduce legislation that will ban the cloning of animals for food
  • Develop EU wide standards for breeding and trade of companion animals to protect animal welfare and ensure traceability
  • Work to reduce the number of species and animals being kept as exotic pets and to maximise their welfare
  • In addition I will strive to ensure that animals are recognised as sentient beings in all legislation that comes before the Parliament and strive to ensure all existing animal welfare related legislation is properly enforced
    (Pledge copied straight from the campaign’s website)

So if you live in Europe and are allowed to vote in the election next year, be sure to check which candidates support this campaign and promise to work for better welfare of animals. Discussion about the campaign can be found under the hashtag #vote4animals on Twitter, and for more information around the campaign you can check the website: www.voteforanimals.eu