With our party leader Marianne Thieme on sick leave, I now act as deputy Chairperson of our Lower House faction and will therefore also take over the Worldlog. Like Marianne, I have been a Lower House Member for the Dutch Party for the Animals for nearly 12 years now, and I am looking forward to using this Worldlog to interact with people around the world who share our passion for this beautiful planet and the animals living on it. After all, it is essential to deal with the major problems of our time across borders.
And it is happening. Around the world, young people take it upon themselves to stimulate their governments to act against climate change. In countries such as the United States, Colombia and Pakistan, children are suing their governments, which are still conserving the status quo despite the consequences for the planet and for younger generations.
My heart made a little jump when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden single-handedly changed the course of the Swedish election campaign, by going on a ‘school strike’ outside the Swedish Parliament. Rather than going to school, she took her protest sign to the parliament building every day, showing politicians that they should take the necessary climate action. Her campaign was picked up by the national and international press, unleashing a global action of young students going on strike outside their own parliaments in favour of the climate. Our own youth wing PINK! soon began its climate strike outside the Dutch Parliament, attracting much attention for the climate and the necessity to listen to young people, rather than the fossil industry and industrial agriculture.
Greta Thunberg with Esther Ouwehand and PINK! members outside the Dutch Parliament
On Friday, 5 October, Greta joined the student strike in the Netherlands, and I was very honoured to take her inside and have her take her place on the rostrum of our parliament. After all, the voice of the next generation, begging for a sustainable future and a healthy planet, must be heard. “We cannot save the world if we keep playing by the rules, because it is precisely those rules that need to be changed,” she said – and she is absolutely right!
Always remember that you alone can start a great movement by standing up for your ideals. Because of the actions of one 15-year-old girl from Sweden, there have been school strikes for the climate in the Netherlands, Germany, Great-Britain and Belgium. At the moment young people are on a strike in Australia and on 30 November, they are organising a mass strike across the country, in protest against their government’s mismanagement. Go Team Planet!
Last October, a judge in the Netherlands agreed with all these young people for the second time by ruling that the Dutch State is taking insufficient action against climate change and is thereby acting unlawfully. A historic victory for our planet and all its inhabitants. The tilting moment that the climate really, really needed. Hopefully, many similar verdicts will follow in other countries.
In the meantime, the call from scientists is also growing louder and louder: stop breeding and killing animals, or it is goodbye to the climate. It is vital that this message is taken seriously by people around the world. That is why I recently visited a packed university room in Moldova at the invitation of animal rights lawyer Ion Dron, to give a lecture on the necessity of compassion and sustainability as a starting point for all policies, but especially the agricultural policy. This was the first time a lecture on animal rights was held in Moldova, and the interest was overwhelming. Amazing!
Moldova has all the essentials to deliver the food of the future: fertile lands and a great variety of crops, making it possible to cultivate a natural resistance against insects and plagues. Agriculture without overfertilization and the use of agricultural chemicals, producing plenty of plant proteins for human consumption: that is what Europe needs. But at the same time, the lobby of foreign companies aiming to expand industrial livestock farming in Moldova is growing. Now that the western livestock industry is in crisis and western people no longer tolerate the industry destroying their living environment, the industry sees opportunities to relocate its polluting practices to Eastern Europe. This would be a disaster for Moldovan nature, animals, people and environment.
Esther Ouwehand in Moldova
Luckily, even in the poorest country of Europe there are still people who are brave enough to oppose the lobby. I had the honour to speak to some of them: from emerging animal-friendly politicians to local animal campaigners, from a farmer to an organic crop farming expert. The world is in dire need of people like them.
If there is anyone who needs to face the fact that intensive livestock farming is violating the rights of animals and endangering the planet, peace and safety at the same time, it is the United Nations policy makers. If we don’t drastically reduce the consumption of animal products, many of the UN’s good efforts – combating hunger, tackling climate change, maintaining peace and security – will have been for nothing. At the end of October, when I joined the Dutch socio-political delegation on a visit to the UN headquarters in New York, I seized the opportunity to put the absolute necessity of eating more plant-based foods on the agenda. I confronted the UN policy makers with the inconsistency of their policies: although reports of UN bodies clearly state that we have to drastically reduce our meat consumption, there is nothing in their policies that takes this fact into account. Worse still, it is mainly meat and diary that is served in the UN headquarters. Absurd.
As a side event to my official visit to the UN, I screened the ground-breaking Australian documentary Dominion. I wanted to start the debate, not only on the violence done to animals in livestock farming, but also on the threat livestock farming poses to peace and security in the world.
Esther Ouwehand in New York
In addition, I gave a lecture at New York University on animal rights and the need for political action. Visiting Central Park with American activists, I called for an end to the horse carriages in New York, which forces horses to work under appalling conditions. Thanks to the Party for the Animals, horse carriages will soon be illegal in Amsterdam.
In New York I received a warm welcome from our American sister party The Humane Party, who in 2015 participated in the Presidential elections as the world’s very first completely vegan candidates. On 6 November the senatorial elections will take place, and two members of The Humane Party will participate. Both candidates are concerned with increasing the role of science, compassion and social justice in politics. They therefore focus on the abolition of livestock farming – or, as one member put it: “You cannot discuss climate change without discussing the livestock sector.”
In the meantime, our own rich country continues to engage in animal suffering and pollution. Time after time structural injustices in the livestock sector come to light: the animals are slaughtered at, quite literally, a murderous pace, they are mistreated and abandoned to their fate in the farm fires which happen nearly every month. Environmental limits are exceeded, supervision fails and whoever speaks up is silenced. And still, the established political parties remain in a state of denial and bury their heads in the sand. This injustice has to stop.
We can turn the tide if we choose a fundamental system change: a system that is more plant-based and more sustainable, without the use of agricultural chemicals or chemical fertilisers and without the large-scale exploitation of defenceless animals. As November happens to be Vegan Month, I just want to say: take up the challenge!