Winter is coming

You could almost say that winter has arrived in Helsinki today. When I looked outside our bedroom window this morning, some parts of the ground were covered in a thin layer of snow.

winter

Somehow winter comes as a shock to me every year, it always seems like it gets too cold and too dark, way too early. Needless to say, I’m not a winter person and if I could I would escape the country in November every year and come back in May. I admit it looks beautiful a cold, mid-winter day when all nature is covered with snow, but I just can’t stand the cold.

Anyways, with many layers of clothes, some extra blankets and a lot of hot chocolate I guess I will survive winter this year as well.

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.

Kippo, Helsinki

One of the shopping centers in the center of Helsinki has this cute vegetarian café called Kippo. I’ve read some things about it, I’ve passed it tons of times, but it’s not before recently that I’ve been there actually trying out what they have to offer.

They serve sandwiches, juices, smoothies, coffee, tea and frozen yoghurt. All can be gotten either vegan or lacto-vegetarian, sandwiches for example can be gotten with either tofu or mozzarella, and smoothies/coffees with soy, almond or cow’s milk. They also sell some organic fruits.

kippo

Together with R we have been there for lunch twice, and tried four of their sandwiches and four of their juices (they have a meal offer including a sandwich and juice of your choice for 9,80 euros). It might be that it takes some time getting used to their kind of food, the first sandwich I tried had apple in it which was a bit weird for me, and some of the juices have interesting new blends. But it’s refreshing! Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to try out their soy-based frozen yoghurt yet, but I for sure will one of these days.

Where? 3rd floor of Forum in the center of Helsinki
When? Open Mon-Fri 10:30am- 8pm, Sat 11am- 6pm, Sun 12noon- 6pm

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!

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