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?

In loving memory

Today is World Animal Day, a day to remember all the animals in our world; those we call our friends as well as those who have fallen victim for our use in any form.

In several different cities around Finland, Animalia’s local groups organize events where people can light candles in memory of the four million animals that are killed for their fur here every year. Here in Helsinki the event will be held in Kaisaniemi park between 6 and 8 pm. If you have the possibility, feel free to join.

candle

I will not be able to go to the event, but I have lit a candle here in my home in memory of all the animals that have suffered and died for our sake. They deserve at least that.

I hope that this could be a day when we reconsider our relationship towards animals, not just towards the animals we keep as pets, but towards the animals that spend their lives in captivity – for example on factory farms, fur farms, zoos and in laboratories – as well.

Focusing on the wrong things

“The animal welfare act doesn’t question the use of animals, or give any criteria for the use of them. We have more laws concerning animals than ever before, and at the same we use more animals than ever before. As Gary Francione has summarized, we use a huge amount of time and money to come up with the right solutions to wrong deeds. From the animals point of view legislation is going to be inefficient as long as it is focused on the wrong things already from the start.”

Birgitta Wahlberg, Animalia-magazine 3/2014
(freely translated from Finnish)

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.

The history of animal testing

The evening seminar about animal testing held yesterday (I wrote about it here) was really interesting, both the topics of the speakers and the questions from the audience.

Tuula Heinonen from FICAM, The Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods, talked about the problems with animal tests, why we need alternatives and some test methods that they are now developing in FICAM. Marianna Norring from the Juliana von Wendt Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments also talked about alternatives to animal testing and the purpose and goal of the fund. Marianna Lammi from Animalia talked about the history of animal testing, which I found very interesting and therefore want to share with you.

Advertisement from Animalia’s campaign against animal testing

The most interesting part of the history of animal testing is that all the way from the start there has been movements both for and against animal testing. In the antique, Hippocrates was for research based on patient observation and human autopsies, while Galenos, the founder of vivisection, created a strong movement of using animals in research. In the 17th to 18th century Descartes came with his theory that animals are just machines without souls and therefore can’t feel pain, while Voltaire was strongly opposing the use of animals in research.

In the 19th century, during the period of industrialization, the area of medicine was developing and animal experiments became everyday life at the universities. However, there was also winds blowing in the other direction. In England, Frances Cobbe founded the first anti-vivisection movement, the organization that now is BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).

 

The Leaping Bunny Logo, the only assurance that a product is not tested on animals

During the first half of the 20th century came the first wave of animal experiments, because of infectious diseases, the world wars and laws such as the Therapeutic Substances Act, which made it compulsory to do test all medicines on animals. During this time the first laboratory for research on animals was founded in Great Britain. The second wave of animal experiments came later in the 20th century, when it became more common to test chemical and nuclear weapons, and the science of genetic manipulation got started.

Big things happened in the anti-vivisection movement during the 20th century as well. The first congress on prohibiting animal tests was held in 1909. The movement also got divided into two parts; a more radical stand and a more moderate one.

Today there is still a great reliance on animal testing as a research method since it is seen as something that “we have always done”, but also a rising interest in alternative methods because of different reasons. The movement against animal testing still have a lot of challenges to overcome before we can see a world where animals don’t have to suffer in the name of science or beauty.

World Day for Animals in Laboratories 24.4

Most people claim to be against animal testing of cosmetics, while they find similar tests done for medical research acceptable, or even necessary. Most people also don’t know to what extent animal tests are done, and how they are done.

The fact is that almost everything has at some point been tested on animals, things you would never even think would need such testing (such as tea or chocolate bars). In the European Union 11,5 million animals are used for different tests every year, and the number is not decreasing even though there are tons of alternatives to animal tests out there.

This coming Thursday (24.4) is World Day for Animals in Laboratories, a day to raise awareness of animal testing and its alternatives, as well as to pay tribute to those animals who have suffered and lost their lives in the name of science. 

Here in Helsinki, the local volunteer group for the animal protection organization Animalia is hosting an evening seminar about animal testing, its ethics and alternatives on Tuesday the 22nd, between 6 pm and 8 pm in Cafe Vanha (Mannerheimintie 3). Speakers come both from Animalia as well as from FICAM, the Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods. The event is free so if you are in the Helsinki-area and understand Finnish, please come!

The Facebook-page for the event can be found here.

On the actual World Day for Animals in Laboratories (24.4) you can find people from the Animalia volunteer group in the Helsinki centre, outside Stockmann, between 4pm and 7pm. There you can get information about the ongoing campaign against animal testing, and you can sign a petition.

Other animal rights and animal protection organizations around the world are also organizing events for the laboratory animals this coming week, so be sure to check out what might be happening close to you!

Fighting for a world free from animal testing

Even though the EU accepted a new law prohibiting animal testing of cosmetics within the union last year, the law is far from perfect, and there is a lot more to be done on behalf of the animals used in animal testing for both cosmetic and other reasons.

In fact, the number of animals used in tests in Finland have increased during the last few years, even though you would think that the reality would be the opposite considering how much alternatives have been developed. The animal protection organisation Animalia launched a new campaign last week, with the intend of turning the trend and make sure fewer animals are used for animal testing year by year.

In Finland, most animal tests (70%) are done for basic research, in other words to get information about different biologic processes, without really giving any answers to specific (medical) problems. Genetic manipulation has increased the use of animals for these kind of tests. Animal tests used for medical research amount for less than one-fourth of all animal tests conducted in Finland. The most used animals are mice, rats and fishes, but also rabbits, dogs, pigs and sheep are used a lot. Apart from the use of animals in direct experiments, a lot of animals are also raised so that their tissues can be used.

The well-being of animals used in animal tests is questionable, even apart from the tests themselves, which might be very painful and in some cases cause chronic problems. The living conditions of the animals are poor, they live in confined spaces – rats that are fond of climbing, for example, can live their whole life in cages so low that they can’t even stand up on their back legs – and get no stimulation whatsoever.

There are a lot of alternatives for animal tests, and it has also been proven over and over again that results of tests conducted on animals cannot be directly transferred to humans, but require further research. When it comes to animals raised for their tissues, the problem could easily be resolved by using donated human tissues, which can be done the same way as donating organs – something you might want to consider doing!

On the campaign website www.koe-elain.fi you can find more information about the campaign, about animal testing and it’s alternatives (unfortunately only in Finnish).