“The animals have been sacrificed to the human need for expansion that knows only one single law: the law of the jungle. The way in which we humans blatantly force animals to do our will can be seen, for example, in the bio-industry and in the many laboratories where vivisection takes place. In the bio-industry animals are forced to produce meat or eggs in circumstances so unnatural that they are constantly frustrated in their most basic biological and social needs.”

The philosopher Peter Singer wrote these words in 1975, and unfortunately, I think his remarks are still of current interest. The Dutch welfare policy for animals in the bio-industry has hardly shown a long and encouraging history, and now the government parties seem to vote practically consistently against improvements of animal welfare in intensive animal husbandry. For example: in 1999 the Dutch government declared itself in favour of a ban on mink breeding. However, in 2002 minister Veerman decided to withdraw the bill “Ban on the breeding of furbearing animals”. And that is only one example….

 
When I was about six years old I started to think about the piece of meat I found on my plate every day. Or rather, I thought about the animal it once was. The main reason for this was the stories told by my teacher of that year, who was a vegetarian. Strangely enough I stopped eating meat a long time before I stopped eating fish. Apparently I had fewer problems with that, maybe because the fish’s suffering was less visible to me? Apart from that I presumed that fish had always known a free life. Meanwhile, I found out that that was a rather naïve approach, since fish are also being bred.

Within my circle of friends it is not (yet) very common to be a vegetarian, so the reactions I get may vary. What strikes me here is that many people consider animals as articles of use, exclusively benefiting humans. But what gives us the right to feel superior to animals, to take advantage of them, to exploit them and to use them? Almost everyone agrees that it is objectionable and not necessary to wear a fur coat, because there are enough alternatives. But aren’t there enough alternatives with regards to nutrition as well? Vegetarian food is also healthy, tasty, varied and above all: made without animals having to suffer for it. Personally I cannot imagine how people can still enjoy foie gras for example, when they know what a horrible “production process” precedes the preparation of this so-called delicacy.

The more I went into the suffering of animals, the more I discovered things I did not know, or I simply had not thought of. Now I try to be as aware as possible when buying cleaning products and cosmetics. Various brands have managed to put good products on the market that have not been tested on animals. If I have the choice between a detergent that has been tested on a rabbit’s eye and a product that has not been tested on animals, I would of course prefer the latter.

Now, in the year, 2002 we are astonished at the atrocities humans committed in times past, about things that went on in the Middle Ages. Now, if I look, for example at the bio-industry, laboratories and public amusement at the cost of animals, it seems, in that respect, that for animals the time has been standing still. In short, I think it is about time that people no longer see animals as things, but that we bear the interests of all living creatures in mind. I hope that many people share this view, that in the year to come animal rights and welfare will receive the attention they deserve, and that the next government will bring many changes in that field.

by Ingrid Hofstede