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A sow suckling a litter of piglets while confined in a farrowing crate on a pig farm in Finland.
A sow suckling a litter of piglets while confined in a farrowing crate on a pig farm in Finland.

 

The Finnish government has come under heavy criticism after it unveiled its draft bill to reform the animal welfare act on Thursday, 21 December, 2017.

Ville Niinistö, an ex-chairperson of the Green League, estimates that the draft bill would introduce virtually no significant improvements to animal welfare in spite of the public’s hopes and growing understanding of the suffering of livestock.

“When it comes to animal rights, Finland is a developing country,” he summarises on Facebook.

Up to 90 per cent of Finns are of the opinion that animal welfare could be improved in Finland, according to a Eurobarometer conducted in 2015.

Niinistö shifts the blame for what he calls a diluted draft bill to both the Centre and National Coalition Party, namely to ex-Ministers of Agriculture Jari Koskinen (NCP), Petteri Orpo (NCP) and Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), and the current Minister of Agriculture, Jari Leppä (Centre).

“The ministers repeatedly refused to meet representatives of animal welfare organisations and the animal welfare group of the Finnish Parliament. The bill was ultimately presented in a diluted form. It is not consistent with the development elsewhere in the world,” he states.

He views that the only genuinely welcome proposal in the bill is that to prohibit the use of farrowing crates, which are used to house sows and newborn piglets for weeks in order to ensure the safety of the piglets. The prohibition, however, will only enter into effect after a transition period of 15 years.

“The proposal is relatively vague when it comes to pain management, and it does not prohibit the use of tie-stall barns, guarantee access to running water and prohibit fur farming or even improve the [farming] conditions notably,” adds Niinistö.

Animalia, a Finnish non-governmental organisation promoting animal rights, has similarly demanded that the draft bill be sent back to the drawing board.

“It is no wonder that this was unveiled on the darkest day of the year, because the draft bill does not stand the light of day,” Heidi Kivekäs, the acting executive director of Animalia, stated in a press release on 22 December.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, she reminded, claims in its press release that the species-typical behaviour and intrinsic value of livestock were to serve as the premise of the bill.

“This premise was forgotten during the drafting process, and the outcome is bland,” she said. “Countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark are light years ahead of Finland in terms of tie-stall barns and farrowing crates, for example.”

Veikka Lahtinen, a campaign coordinator at Animalia, added that the draft bill would continue to allow the tethering of dairy cattle to stalls for most of their lives and the use of farrowing crates for sows despite the fact that movement is one of the foremost behavioural needs of all species.

Animalia also admits that the draft bill would introduce some minor improvements, such as the prohibition to raise animals for exhibition purposes.

The expectations, however, should be higher when reforming a decades-old piece of legislation, highlighted Lahtinen. “Whenever you reform a 20-year-old law, you have reason to expect major improvements.  This is a wretched proposal that cannot be approved under any circumstances,” he said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Pekka Sakki – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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