Eurogroup for Animals has been the leading voice for animal welfare in the European Union for many years. Based in Brussels, Eurogroup has 48 member organisations, including Compassion, which has a long history of membership and active participation. It’s an honour to serve on Eurogroup’s Board. Reineke Hameleers’s appointment as Director in 2013 signalled a new era for the organisation.
Philip: What led you to Eurogroup and how do you see the future for Europe’s animals?
Reineke: I have always been intrigued by the way humans coexist and interact with other animals. This was the focus of my master’s thesis at Maastricht University. It’s the reason why I want to work in animal welfare. The human/animal relationship has far reaching consequences economically, ethically and socially. It became clear to me during my work, first as a volunteer and then as a regional director of the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals, that one cannot protect animals without protecting people as well. The massive problems we face and the instrumental way animals are treated are disheartening. But it’s my passion and faith in the European project that keeps me going. The EU is not only of significance to Europeans but also to our relationship with billions of animals. We need Europe to improve animal welfare and Eurogroup for Animals has a pivotal role to play in this important development.
Philip: Which specific challenges does Europe face to achieving positive and meaningful change for animals?
Reineke: The EU has to show that it’s relevant to the lives of ordinary Europeans. It’s not only about markets and money but also about values and ideals. The Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties demonstrated the EU cared about animal welfare. They recognised animals as sentient beings. Eurogroup for Animals helps the EU to see that it can really contribute to the proliferation and protection of these values. Seven out of ten Europeans polled believed animal welfare should be improved, no matter how much it cost. Animal welfare is intrinsically connected to other values like our own wellbeing, our health, protection of the environment and a sustainable economy. An appalling example is how Europe treats its pigs, the majority are still being castrated, tails are being docked routinely and outdoor access or enrichment of housing are rare. This situation stands far from the sentience principle in the Treaty and is representative for a lot of other farmed animals.
In the new political term Eurogroup for Animals will campaign actively for better pig welfare among other species. Another key challenge is the transportation of livestock. We count on the new Commission to respond to the call of many citizens to revise the current regulation on transportation and introduce a maximum transport duration of 8 hours for mammals and 4 hours for poultry. It’s vital to invest in local sustainable food chains. Moreover, there are a lot of ‘forgotten’ species for which no specific regulation exists at all, like rabbits, dairy cows and equines. And then we haven’t spoken about the challenges for cats and dogs, wild animals and animals used in testing and research. I’m afraid my contribution to this blog is too short to cover all the challenges to implement that very important recognition of animal sentience in EU law and reality.