This text is a part of the contact magazine "Relatie
Mens en Dier" (Relationship Man and Animal), reproduced
with permission from the foundation Rechten
Voor Al Wat Leeft (Rights for all that lives). By
E. de Boer.
On 24th September this year we had to say goodbye forever
to the founder and president of "Rechten voor al
wat leeft", Mrs. C.M. van Oosten-Poortman. After
an intensive and industrious life, in which she has
done much groundbreaking work, she passed away at the
age of 86.
She lived her life earnestly, with vision and persuasiveness.
We are saddened for what we miss in her now that she's
gone, but we are also grateful for all she has meant,
for everything she has left us in words and deeds. Her
life was filled with caring for others: for people,
animals and plants. Nature, creation - including everything
that lives - always had her great interest and compassion.
In this extra edition we want to explain what Mrs. Van
Oosten has meant for Rechten voor al wat leeft and especially
for the animals, for the welfare for which she stepped
into the breach during her life (for as long as she
could). She was an enormously inspiring force for those
around her, we can say that without exaggerating.
Although she led a retreated life the last few years
(she became practically blind), until recently she was
always interested in everything that went on in society.
And although she didn't want to talk about animal suffering
much anymore, because she could no longer handle it,
she suffered with the animals until the end. During
the last few years we had to "get by on our own
strength", but now that Mrs. Van Oosten is gone
we realize to the fullest what a great loss she is to
us, and what a source of inspiration she has always
First we want to give the floor over to former employee
Mrs. L. Vreugdenhil in Duiven (87!); from the day Rechten
voor al wat leeft started, she supported Mrs. Van Oosten,
went with her to meetings and when she held lectures.
An employee of the first hour:
"A fragile plant, a new beginning,
but it holds wondrous growth potential...
This old school song keeps ringing in my mind when I
see the contact magazine Relatie Mens en Dier by Rechten
voor al wat leeft. I'm writing this to realize that
everything that Mrs. Van Oosten strived for is still
very much alive.
We met when we were both members of the main management
of the NBBV (the Dutch federation for fighting Vivisection,
as it was then called; Vereniging Proefdiervrij is the
new name) in the Hague. We were about the same age (I'm
only one year older) and we immediately connected. I
didn't know anything then, was awakened by a NBBV-brochure
and was immediately on fire: imagine that happening
to my animals! Could it be possible? And I found myself
fighting and agitating in the main management very soon.
Where I found out early that vivisection is not the
only wrongdoing to animals. And I met Mrs. Van Oosten
- I shall call her Mies, which sounds friendlier. I
can still see it: Mies with raised finger, outraged:
"Do you know how they get these animals? They are
stolen, collected and supplied to buyers for money;
in this case the greatest perpetrator was a German,
Heinz Vieten who regularly crossed the border, took
Dutch animals to Germany and vice versa. Mies didn't
need a federation or other inhibiting body to intervene
and... the law started to get involved in this shady
trade and unnecessary vivisection.
Mies also had the gift to go after those persons and
bodies she needed. In her most active period she lived
in Raalte. With the cooperation of her husband, who
worked for the city council, very soon thousands of
handouts were spread to warn people not to give pets
they wanted 'to get rid of' to just any strangers. After
all, it happened only too often that ads, in which pet
owners offered their animal(s) or a newly born nest
of pups or kittens for free, attracted people who took
the animals and promised to give them a good home. They
then brought these animals to collectors who would in
turn sell them off to big traders and the animals would
invariably end up in vivisection laboratories. Partly
thanks to Mies' work many people woke up and it was
uncovered how the malafide dogs and cats trade operated.
But it didn't stop at that, because living among agrarians,
she was early in spotting the abuse of factory farm
animals: the chickens, the calves in crates, the pigs.
It was raining handouts! Through newspaper interviews,
radio and television broadcasts, many stands and lectures
all over the country, Mies succeeded in attracting the
public's interest'. Printed brochures later replaced
the simple (and cheap!) handouts and of these, thousands
were spread throughout the country as well. This was
news to people! Nobody really knew what suffering was
hidden behind their eggs and meat! But...the authorities
woke up as well!
Just agitating against the misery was not sufficient,
there had to be an alternative. One project was meant
to be first, and that was the project of free-range
eggs. We needed the help of the government for that.
They had a kind of bio-animal testing facility: Het
Spelderholt in Beekbergen. There they researched under
which conditions animals would feel well, and still
fit the financial requirements of poultry farmers and
And so, in 1975, after some years of talks, meetings
and deliberations, the free-range hens came to be: free
to move about, "free-ranging" on the floor,
with nests to the sides (and the later variation on
this theme: the aviary eggs; what's in the name? As
long as they got space!) Legal stamps and marks were
eventually placed on eggs and cartons: her brainchild
was shooting up. But a lot had to be done before that!
Many meetings and talks were held. The question was
raised on what these eggs should be called! It should
be a catchy name, and that was difficult! Then Mies
and I went to Drs Brantas in Zutphen and he said: "A
chicken is a free-range animal." So the eggs produced
by these chickens became "free-range eggs".
We agreed wholeheartedly with this. Drs Brantas held
an important position at Het Spelderholt. The government
would take care of protecting this name.
In 1975 the first cartons with the emblem were printed:
the orange yield-sign with the name Rechten voor al
wat leeft. Four years later, in 1979, the government
mark appeared. The Free-range eggs control was founded
in the name of Mrs. Van Oosten. Later this name changed
to NEB (Dutch Egg Control Bureau) and now it's called
the CPE (Control bureau for Poultry and Eggs and egg
products). Rechten voor al wat leeft is still represented
in this government control service.
In the above I made special mention of this visit to
Drs Brantas, because it proves that everything was the
work of Mies. "The" animal protection agencies,
which of course fully supported this case, pretended
that they had created the free-range egg, but this misunderstanding
was probably a consequence of the ignorance of youthful
And of course everything free-ranged later: chickens,
other poultry, but pigs too. Even this latter is something
that Mies started: putting alternative pork on the market,
We have come a long way. There's not a single person
who doesn't know what free-range products are, there's
not a paper that hasn't reported about them and that
doesn't still mention the name free-range regularly!
Even the latest dictionaries, and the Dutch "Woordenlijst
Nederlandse taal" has the words "free-range
egg", "free-range hen" and "free-range
pig". There's not a producer, consumer or trader
who doesn't encounter it. The Albert Heijn supermarket
chain has always reacted very positively. The public
no longer wants the factory stuff, because many animals
(and even many people) in too small spaces, live in
a hotbed of viruses and bacteria, and cannot stay healthy.
If you think that now that Mies is gone, she will be
forgotten, you are mistaken! Because free-ranging is
here to stay! You have fought hard Mies, and devoted
your life to it. I hope there is a heaven, where you
will be surrounded by all the animals you fought for,
but it should be a large heaven! And:
Rechten voor al wat leeft was really: Vechten voor al
wat leeft! (Fighting for all that lives)
But I'd like to end this text on a happy note: In 1981
Mies received a royal decoration. But..., that had to
remain a surprise. I received a phone call from her
husband, to ask if I wanted to come to the city hall
in Raalte on 29th April 1981. With an explanation. Mies
was told it was for the birthday of a city official,
and she brought a bottle of wine as a gift. After she
was seated at the front, she looked around, and I could
see her thinking: what's she doing here!? (me, among
others) and him? and him?! She didn't understand and
she didn't suspect a thing. Until the mayor started
speaking, that it had pleased Her Majesty..... etc..
And she received this royal decoration: Companion of
the Order of Orange-Nassau. And the city official....,
he got his bottle of wine!"
the above remembrances of Mrs. Vreugdenhil we want to
bring forward some points about which we want to tell
a bit more:
On 21st March 1962 Mrs. Van Oosten, together with Mrs.
T. Roes-Stibbe, followed the German dog trader Heinz
Vieten from Nijverdal to the border crossing at Glanerbrug,
to see if he would pick up inoculation papers somewhere
to subsequently cross the border with 180 to 200 animals.
Mrs. Polak-Moor was waiting for them there, with customs
officials. Radio, TV and newspapers had been warned
that 'something' would happen that night at the border.
All the media failed to appear and there was just one
newspaper reporter. When the truck was opened the stacked
crates with dogs were revealed. Then Mrs. Polak boxed
Heinz Vieten loudly on the ears. She did this in the
hopes that finally charges would be made, and the filthy
practices of these traders would stop.
In 1964 the Dogs & Cats Decree was put into operation,
but unfortunately it still hasn't been able to put a
stop to the trade of dogs (and cats) to other countries
for the purpose of vivisection. The trade in dogs and
cats is a horrible business, because animals that are
stolen from traders or picked up from private persons
are often locked in miserable housing to eventually
be abused in animal testing for the pharmaceutical and
cosmetics industries and for war purposes.
Unnecessary animal testing
In the years that followed, from 1970 onward, petitions
were made to all the members of the Dutch Senate, urging
them to ban all UNNECESSARY animal testing. Many times
during hearings Mrs. Van Oosten put forward and defended
the goals of Rechten voor al wat leeft in the area of
animal testing, unfortunately with very little result
(at that time). What she deemed unnecessary animal testing
can be read in our information brochure, but in short
- Testing on live animals that is done by medical,
veterinary and biology students, often reluctantly,
during the first years of their studies and that are
- Repetition of tests for war purposes, i.e. the
production of weapons, for which results are already
- Testing for household articles and cosmetics
- Testing done by the pharmaceutical and agrarian
industries (medicine, cattle rearing, agrarian poisons).
To prevent animal testing as much as possible, and also
to give patients a choice, Mrs. Van Oosten worked towards
health resorts where patient care would take place according
to the principles of natural living and natural cures.
The recovery of natural resistance after going through
a serious illness, and obtaining mental balance is a
hard task for many in their own environments. In their
own home it's difficult for many people to follow dietary
regulations and to find the necessary rest for recovery.
These health resorts were meant not only to treat patients
according to natural living and natural cures for some
weeks, but also to guide them, so that when the patients
went home they could put this living style into practice
there. From the assumption of respect for all of creation,
harmful substances would not be applied at these health
resorts. In the countries surrounding us, there are
numerous resorts like that, and the National Health
Service compensates the cost of accommodation and treatment.
Mrs. Van Oosten strived for years to make the 'Bronnenbad'
in Nieuweschans into a health resort as she thought
it must be: a simple lay-out, quiet, inexpensive, and
not meant just for people with money (and compensated
by the NHS). But unfortunately she did not succeed.
It was never her intention that the Bronnenbad Nieuweschans
would later turn into a luxurious health spa. But there
are an increasing number of insurance companies that
compensate certain types of medical treatment.
When you buy free-range eggs or aviary eggs at a Dutch
supermarket, you will see that the carton still shows,
besides the mark by the Control bureau for Poultry and
Eggs (CPE), the emblem of Rechten voor al wat leeft.
This is a recognition of Mrs. Van Oosten's work that
has lasted many years. But her hard work has not only
realized the free-range egg and chicken. The free-range
pig was ultimately also her idea and her work. Those
who haven't been supporters of Rechten voor al wat leeft
for many years may not know this, but Mrs. Van Oosten
(in 1978), after countless meetings with numerous bodies,
and in cooperation with 'Diepvries Home Service' te
Varsseveld, finally started with alternative pork (free-range
pork) that was bought through mail-order by customers
and delivered to their homes. Checking the conditions
of housing and transport to the (nearest) slaughterhouse,
and slaughter practices themselves, was a task of Rechten
voor al wat leeft in those years. I accompanied Mrs.
Van Oosten to the many meetings and preliminary talks
that had to be held before free-range pork came on the
market, and we often paid control visits to pig farms
together. Now this meat is being sold through supermarkets
(a.o. Albert Heijn) and controls are carried out by
the Product branch for Cattle and Meat.
Mrs. Van Oosten also fought for calves in crates! In
countless newspaper and radio and TV interviews she
exposed the horrible living conditions of these calves!
And for these animals she also tried to realize an alternative:
"Diepvries Home Service" tried to freeze the
meat of calves that could have led more dignified lives,
but unfortunately this did not work out, because the
technical results were not satisfactory. Still Mrs.
Van Oosten lived to see that there was a long-term ban
on keeping calves in these horrible individual crates:
At the end of 1996 this ban was imposed: in ten years
(2007) calves may no longer be kept in crates in Holland.
The animals must at least be housed in groups. And isn't
that the least we may ask for these (herd) animals!
Slaughter methods and cattle transports
Activities by Mrs. Van Oosten have also contributed
strongly to the implementation of rules for slaughter
methods, mainly for pigs, and calves as well, being
much improved. In the seventies the practice was still
that pigs were stunned for such short periods, that
many of them came to during butchering and bleeding.
Many animals were fully conscious as they landed in
the hot water, where they drowned. In 1975 an inspector
complained about this to Mrs. Van Oosten, who of course
had invited the press. The Dutch newspaper Trouw devoted
a long article to this issue, which caused quite a stir.
In 1976 Mrs. Van Oosten exposed these outrages and also
the terrible consequences for animals in gruesome cattle
transports, on television (in the show "Sprekers-hoek")
together with veterinary inspector Dr R. Hoenderken.
Two weeks after this broadcast the official state newspaper
published that starting from lst January 1980 all slaughterhouses
were compelled to have equipment to give pigs the required
For many years she spoke out against the transports
of live cattle, mainly to and from other countries.
Animals should be butchered in their native countries,
she said. But now, in 2000, there are still millions
of animals that are dragged alive all over the world,
from one continent to another!
(Ritual) slaughter without anesthesia
Since 1976 Mrs. Van Oosten fought for anesthesia before
the throat cutting of ritually slaughtered animals.
Countless letters and meetings were devoted to this,
and a signature action that brought 30,000 signatures
and that was presented in 1983 to the then Secretary
of State Van der Reijden (Welfare, Health and Cultural
Affairs), and who promised to talk with Muslim groups.
Eventually this happened, but until now it has had only
very little result. And a discussion of slaughter according
to Israeli rites never took place at all. Still there
was an electrical stunning method at that time that
was reversible, and that met the requirements of the
rites: the animal had to bleed out entirely and wasn't
allowed to die from this stunning. Despite the fact
that this stunning method met the requirements, it still
hasn't been accepted generally in Holland.
It's hard to find anything Mrs. Van Oosten hasn't fought
for when it came to animal suffering! Against fur farms!
When she held lectures in which she would also talk
about the suffering of animals, she very often showed
up in her synthetic fur coat. When she had held her
lecture and answered questions, she told those present:
"I'm surprised that none of you ask why I dare
show up in a fur coat while I'm speaking about animal
suffering. But before you think it's real fur, I will
show you!" She would lift the hem of her coat and
showed where she had loosened a bit of the lining. "Look
behind this lining, and you'll see the back of the fabric.
It's plain cotton, you see?" Oh, how she always
spoke out against wearing fur, even through newspapers
and radio broadcasts!
And then equestrian sports! Not the sport in itself
was a thorn in her flesh, but its excesses, such as
giving doping to horses, and abusing them with whips!
Doping often made that horses that really couldn't walk
because of injury or inflammation in their legs, were
able to run, but then of course after the race their
pain would return double because their exertions had
been too much for them. Not rarely did those animals
have to be put down after the race. But what did it
matter? As long as the profits had been raked in first!
Mr. J. Stam, who was very active in the seventies and
who knew of all the outrages in equestrian sports, had
asked for her help. Once (in 1979) he wrote: "After
approaching many bodies I was finally given the address
for Mrs. Van Oosten. And I will not forget this name,
Van Oosten, for as long as I live. She's been steady
as a rock, and what goes for other, subsidized, animal
organizations - long roads between doing and saying
- surely doesn't go for her. She was always there, even
though she had to come a long way. We started submitting
a petition against doping and abuse to all the members
of the Dutch Senate and Upper Chamber. We went to the
Ministry of Agriculture in The Hague for talks with
a/o. Mr. Dobbelaar and later with Mr. Binsbergen. The
latter is (was - red.) president of the Dutch Foundation
for Trotting and Racing sports. Other talks in The Hague
followed, this time with Mrs. Verkerk-Terpstra, member
of the Senate. Trials were held, and we journeyed many
times to the studios in Hilversum. All this work in
the interest of animals was made possible by the interest
group Rechten voor al wat leeft. I think that people
who inflict this kind of suffering to animals cannot
remain unpunished. It's my conviction that one day we
will win, because we are no longer alone. There are
doctors who know the facts and for that reason have
taken our side. But they were banned from speaking and
were even threatened to be fired. In number 37 of the
magazine 'In ren en draf' (Racing and Trotting) one
of the members of the board requested a suspension of
at least six months for those who whip their horses
too forcefully. This is a step in the right direction,
thanks to our work in the interest group Rechten voor
al wat leeft (unsubsidized!)." Thusfar Mr. Stam
In recent years we approached the Senate and the Minister
of Agriculture many times about the current doping tests.
Repeatedly we have asked for national dope testing of
the first three winning horses, but every time we were
sent off none the wiser. Mr. Stam is no longer with
us and we never hear anything about this issue anymore.
For almost twenty-five years I knew and experienced
her and had the opportunity to learn from her. Our initial
meeting took place after the first report I read in
the newspaper about free-range eggs: that these eggs
were already available in a number of shops, and that
we as consumers should ask for them in our own shops.
For more information the telephone number of Mrs. Van
Oosten was printed.
After this first introduction we stayed in contact.
For twenty-five years I worked with her closely, and
I was very impressed with the way she worked to achieve
her goal: more animal welfare. She used all of her energy,
patience, tactics and perseverance in this struggle.
And especially her powers of persuasion!
The free-range egg is her best-known brainchild. But
after that came free-range pork and better slaughter
But even before I met her she had done a lot to help
animals in distress! She started off the chain-dogs
decree. That was in Raalte, but from there it spread
to other communities. On all fronts she battled against
animal suffering in Holland.
You should know that during her youth, which until her
seventeenth birthday she spent in the Dutch East Indies
(as they were called then), she dreamt of a future in
nursing! And then preferably in Africa, with Albert
Schweitzer in Lambarene! But these plans were foiled
because she met her husband and married him just before
But even though she didn't go to Lambarene, she had
a very versatile life here in Holland. As a teacher
she trained young girls in child care, as a maternity
nurse she delivered around 500 babies, and as a hospital
nurse she alleviated and eased the suffering of many
When after the war she witnessed the immense suffering
of animals in factory farming, she devoted her life
to this. In this field she did some really groundbreaking
work, and she was unstoppable! Three coronaries couldn't
stop her from giving her all. The royal decoration she
received in 1981 on the recommendation of the Ministry
of Agriculture was well deserved!
The sudden passing of her husband in 1991 gave her a
severe blow. But in the end she overcame this, even
though it remained a great sorrow!
People that are great, and lead great lives, aren't
always easy. Mrs. Van Oosten wasn't always easy either.
But she was one of a kind! She stood for the things
she said! And she was very consistent in that! I think
the following story is very typical of her:
Whenever she visited a restaurant (which happened quite
often because she didn't have much time for grocery-shopping
or cooking!) and there was a small plant nearby that
was limp from lack of water, she would always ask the
waiter for a glass of water, allegedly because she wanted
to take some aspirin. As soon as the waiter had given
her the water and turned his back, she would empty the
glass into the flower pot.
She once told this story to the then president of the
Product branch for Poultry and Eggs, and he was taken
with her instantly!
Mrs. Van Oosten has passed away, but she has left her
marks! When nobody, not even animal organizations, was
thinking of animals in factory farming, she woke people
up! She was the first who, during a meeting of several
hundreds of pig farmers, calves and poultry farmers,
where she was the only woman, grabbed the microphone
and asked the agrarians if they had ever thought about
what consumers wanted! In those early days she caused
quite a stir in agrarian circles!
She had the courage to stand up for animals, because
her principle was:
ANIMALS CANNOT, WHEN THEY HAVE FALLEN INTO HUMAN HANDS,
PROTEST, DEMONSTRATE, GO ON STRIKE OR ESCAPE. THAT'S
WHY PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO SPEAK OUT FOR ANIMALS!
Well, Mrs. Van Oosten has more than done her task. We
remember her in respect and gratitude!
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