Wetenschap - 8 maart 2012

‘Policy document with a save-a-puppy feel to it'

State Secretary Bleker published his Animal Welfare and Animal Health paper at the end of February. Hans Hopster, VHL lecturer in Animal Welfare, thinks the document shows little vision or ambition and has a serious 144 feel.

‘Bleker is lowering his sights where animal welfare is concerned. His predecessor, Gerda Verburg, still wanted to play an active role in improving animal welfare, for instance by concluding covenants with the livestock farming sector, but Bleker is leaving everything to the EU and the markets. He talks about a ‘basic level' but this is really another term for a minimum level of welfare.
The state secretary focuses in the policy document on animal transport and slaughtering methods. It is true that these are key welfare issues but he does not say where he wants to go with livestock holding. The emphasis now is on enforcement, there is no mention of the five animal freedoms anymore and natural behaviour no longer seems to be a target. There is also nothing at all in this paper about consumers' involvement with animal welfare. Pets are given a relatively large amount of attention and the document has a real 144 feel to it (the Save an Animal phone number), a reflection of the PVV's influence on the coalition agreement. Of course pet welfare is important but there are only 4.4 million cats and dogs in the Netherlands compared with more than 120 million farm animals, and Bleker has little to say about them.
I know commercial players are offering Better Life meat that is above the statutory minimum welfare standards but initiatives like that are still fragile. In 2010 the market share of animal-friendly eggs and fresh and processed meat was only 1.7 percent, even if it had grown by 97 percent that year.
Bleker does not even explain what the government means by animal welfare. The paper seems slapdash. It has no introduction or ending, it stops suddenly without a final chapter that draws conclusions. He does not give the reader the impression that he takes animal welfare seriously. People have really started to take action over the past five years but if the central government no longer has any ambitions, everyone will soon revert to doing nothing.'

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