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There are a number of circumstances that slow down improvements in animal welfare.

The free market.The possibility to export in principle turns the whole world into a market. The western countries have a much stronger market position compared to the Third World countries.
This position is consolidated by the WTO-related trade negotiations. There, trade restrictions are continuously reduced on ethical grounds. In the recent past, the Netherlands have had a negative influence on animal welfare in its own as well as other countries because of the scale of factory farming and the export of these products (70%) and this way of farm management. Living animals are transported to far away countries, sometimes suffering from extreme neglect.

The low price of animal products in combination with too large a number of producers.
All desired changes will result in a higher price for animal products. In principle, livestock farmers do not object to higher prices, but hardly any one of them is prepared to stop producing him/herself or to make animal-friendly investments as long as marketing possibilities are still uncertain. A lot of money can still be made in an arguable manner, while government control lags behind.

Many years of consumer indoctrination.
In Holland, people have grown up with the idea that animal products are healthy and necessary. They are also proud of their country's high production level, but without realizing that this goes at the expense of animal welfare. Giving these wrongs some serious thought would lead to some unpleasant conclusions in the short term: one has let oneself be misled for years in a row; one should change one's eating and purchasing behavior, and it will also cost more money. The consumer is still, wrongly, insufficiently convinced whether this will bring enough benefits.

Protest against factory farming depends on volunteers.
The number of paid campaigners is low (about ten against tens of thousands working on the promotion of animal products). Furthermore, the animal rights movement is not always fully operative or operates illegally.

Inconsistent government policies.
The government does not tax the stock farmer with the disadvantages of his/her farm management but instead has the taxpayer pay for smoothing over the harmful consequences for, for instance, the environment, the price of clean water, damage to the countryside, etc.

Persistent faith in technological solutions and economic growth.
After the Second World War, technology and the economy have brought our society so many benefits that one has somehow come to think that its disadvantages such as damage to the environment and reduced animal welfare have to be solved by even more technological and economic development and growth.

Lack of ethical awareness within science.
Because of financing from trade and industry, it chooses short-term goals instead of solving problems in the long term. Medication is tested on animals, and alternative methods are insufficiently looked for; animals are used for organ transplants; dairy products are "functionally enriched" by adding nutrients, whereas enriching vegetable food and making it more attractive and tasty would solve a lot more problems.

The stock farmer's mentality.
Many stock farmers do not think their animals have that bad a life, after all, they take good care of them. The animals are fed on time in order to have them ready for slaughter as soon as possible. These farmers do not realize anymore that they are not treating their animals properly. A change in mentality is not very likely. Motivating these farmers on economic grounds, thus slightly yet clearly pressing them towards more responsible farm management, will be more effective.
Practically everyone is responsible for the present situation in some way and to some extent: producers, government and consumers all have an interest in not addressing each other about the consequences for animal welfare in factory farming. The animals' interests are not financially profitable. The animals are as it were born to lose.

These factors can be partly found at macro level and it will take a lot of effort to attain the ideal situation. The individual consumer has reasons of his/her own for indifference towards the position of farm animals. See also non-valid arguments pro factory farming and pro and contra animal rights.

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What rights to freedom do cattle officially have?

In 1979 the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent advisory organ of the European Committee, determined that animals in cattle farming have a right to the following 5 "freedoms":

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  • Freedom from discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to express normal behavior - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.


With pigs these rights are not met when:

  • they have to live in the dark almost 24 hours a day (and only get an hour of light around nine a.m. for instance);
  • they are castrated without anesthetics;
  • they are jammed between two bars so they cannot turn over or groom themselves;
  • they cannot root among the ground;
  • they have no resting areas covered with straw, but a grated floor
  • they have to live in the ammonia stench of their own manure;
  • they are transported to the slaughterhouse under stressful and violent conditions in trucks.

The site of the Dutch Ministry says:
In total 80% of the pig farms and 58% of the meat pig farms violate one or more aspects of the pig decree.
There has been a lot of evidence on violations of the ban on:

  • sow standing space shorter than 2 meters (non-conformance is 61%)
  • too little floor space for piglets
  • less than two thirds of a boar stable closed off
  • lacking an adequate sick bay (non-conformation 10%)
  • keeping pigs in the dark or under insufficient lighting (non-conformance 13%)
  • lacking an alarm installation for mechanical ventilation (non-conformance 32%)
  • lacking diversion material (non-conformance 25%)

With cows these rights are not met when:

  • calves are taken away from their mothers directly after birth to be fattened elsewhere. Calves have served their purpose by being born. The cow's milk is used for human consumption.
  • they have no opportunity to go outside (into a pasture);
  • they are tied down for entire winters.

Laying hens

With battery-hens the 5 (basic) animals rights are not met, when:

  • their beaks are docked;
  • chickens cannot roost during their sleep and are forced to live in a disrupted day/night rhythm so they will lay more eggs
  • are forced to permanently live near members of their species they want to avoid (pecking order);
  • cannot free-range (outside), dig around or take dust baths;
  • are pushed violently into crates for transport, risking fracture, and transported to the slaughterhouse in trucks under stressful conditions.

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1. Ethics and animal welfare

Freedom is a basic right for humans and animals. If severely restricting the freedom of animals to behave naturally diminishes this basic right, then the welfare of the animal will be damaged.

2. Public Health

Because of excessive use of antibiotics in the fodder used in industrial farming, we risk the creation of resistant strains of bacteria in factory farm animals. When meat from these animals is consumed by humans the information about antibiotic resistance is passed on to similar bacteria in the human body which then also become resistant to the same antibiotics that were used in the animal fodder. This poses problems when treating human bacteriological illnesses such as pneumonia.
Other dangers are salmonella and BSE (video). See also: The European Commission on BSE;
and: Concentrated Swine Feeding Operations and Public Health: A Review of Occupational and Community Health Effects

3. World food production

Agricultural areas in the Third World are being used to produce fodder for animals in our industrial farming system instead of producing food for local populations. This distorts the local economy.

4. Enjoying your neighborhood

The stench and noise of industrial farming (sometimes with open waste basins) makes living in the vicinity unpleasant and blights the properties in the area.

5. Landscape and bio-diversity

Large industrial farmers crowd out small farmers. Because of the creation of monocultures (grass and maize for fodder), the release (depositing) of heavy metals contained within the fertilizers into the soil and nutrient overkill generally, wildlife and landscape will deteriorate.

The following passage expands in detail on the shortcomings of industrial farming and industrial fishing.

Principal animal health and welfare arguments against the use of industrial animal husbandry systems presented to the world bank by the organization Compassion In World Farming.

What is wrong in factory farming?

One of the most important objections to industrial farming is of an ethical nature. Even if all the environmental problems could be solved, and even if all the energy and mineral accounts of the farmers were balanced, then still the manner in which the industrial farming industry treats animals is unacceptable.
Because the meat has to arrive on the shelves of the supermarkets as cheap as possible, the animals are allowed just enough room to stand and stay alive. Male pigs are castrated without anesthetics as soon as possible after birth. If someone does that to his or her cat, he will get a substantial fine for animal abuse. But animals that are bred for slaughter fall under a different set of regulations. Chickens to be fattened before they are slaughtered live in 23-hour daylight conditions. That makes a chicken believe that he has to keep eating. The light only goes out for one hour each day, in which the chicken is allowed to rest.
With pigs the light is off as much as possible. Two times a day for a half an hour the light is turned on (so the farmer can check on his animals) and the rest of the time it is dark.

Keeping as many animals as possible in a small space, without freedom of movement or the ability to express natural behavior can not be done other than in an animal unfriendly way. Not withstanding the changes to the law and regulation in the area of animal welfare and, even when taking into account the intrinsic value of the animal, it is not possible to guarantee the basic right to freedom for animals while industrial farming methods continue to be used.
Animals have no right in a legal sense, but they are legal objects: comparable to cars that can change owners and can be rented out. Contrary to humans, animals are not legal subjects: in our system of law, it cannot be a carrier of rights and obligations. When the animal in the industrial farming industry is denied the right to express natural or even chosen behavior, then this means animal abuse, despite the good care it receives.

What is wrong in the fishing industry?

On the face of it, there would seem to be no objection to the consumption of fish. Unless one is ethically against the killing of living creatures. Nevertheless, the objections mentioned above concerning the consumption of meat are also valid where the consumption of fish is concerned.
Without starting a discussion on whether fish have a sense of pain or not, it can be said that the current fishing industry uses animal unfriendly catching techniques. For those that are not impressed with the short suffering of fish during the act of being caught, we point to the side catch of mammals such as dolphins in nets meant for tuna. Dolphins are trapped and ensnared in the kilometer-long nets and can do nothing more than wait for death by drowning.
Another objection is that when trawl nets are used, not only the targeted species of the correct size are caught but also 70% of the catch is thrown back overboard. This is because either the fish are too small, the landing of which is prohibited by law, or because the permitted quota had already been reached, or because the species of fish caught happens to be commercially uninteresting. The 70% of the catch that is dumped back into the sea is by then crushed to death, suffocated or otherwise dead (see videofragment).
Also for the environment this method of fishing is detrimental, if not to say disastrous. The trawl nets ruin the bottom of the sea, which cause the total disruption and destruction of the ecological system for a long time.
The seas and oceans are fished empty and left barren.
Fish are not only caught, but also farmed. Some salmon, for example, are kept in enormous floating tanks, comparable to industrial farming units. Finally, there are some health objections attached to the consumption of fish. In the seventies, the high level of mercury (quicksilver) present in fish was a hot item.
Because of oil pollution, and the dumping of all sorts of waste, including nuclear, in the ocean, the health of fish is poor, and the fish contains hazardous materials.

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What are the factors that have stimulated this development?

Several factors have contributed to the development of the factory farming industry .
First of all you have the cattle feed industry in whose interest it is to produce as much cattle feed as possible at the lowest cost. With the present size of the pig and chicken fattening units
the cattle feed trucks can drive relatively efficient. The cattle feed industry made it easy for the farmer to start an intensive livestock farm (financing the factory unit often organizing the building and the necessary licenses etc.). The only thing the farmer needed to do was to sign on the dotted line.
The banks are always more than willing to lend money for the farmers business. It concerns very large amounts of money, very often up to 750,000 dollars. The banks get fat on the interest.
For a farmer it's further important to raise as many animals as possible in a short period of time.The higher his profit the sooner he can pay off his loan. It seems that all parties involved have the same target, "big"business, low profile and clean and efficient production. Only the animals, who are being "produced" in large quantities suffer and also the environment, if the farmer dumps as much manure on his land as it can handle and often even more.

It may be clear that because of the large number of animals, which stay for a relatively short period, the farmer does not grow attached to them. He could not care less. The animals become products and their well being is minimized to the point where suffering is not quite visible to the outsider and without affecting the cost price.

The role of the Government is ambiguous. On the one hand the export of pork and poultry products raises the gross national product, on the other hand it's up to the Government to minimalize the damage to the environment.
The influence of the consumer is limited. Even if consumers were to support the ecological livestock farming in large numbers, by buying the more expensive free-range eggs or free-range meat, there's still the export trade, which will keep the factory farming industry profitable.Twice as many consumers of meat exported by the Dutch factory farming industry live abroad. They have no idea how much the animals suffer in the Dutch factory units.
A pig farmer is inspected for animal welfare on average once every 17 years while at the same time the majority of pig farmers contravene several aspects of the pig farming regulations.

Are fast food chains like McDonalds responsible for animal suffering?

Everyone who eats meat from the factory farming industry is responsible for animal abuse in the factory farms. The same applies for persons and supermarkets that sell meat which comes from the factory farming industry. The responsibility increases when they encourage people to eat more meat by keeping the price down, extending the sales points or targeting children in advertising.
In this respect McDonalds and other fast food chains are more responsible than other suppliers because they increase the consumption of meat from the factory farming industry. It would be a good idea to oblige fast food chains to buy home produced meat.

Can factory farming be stopped?

Lack of protest from the public allows the factory farming industry to flourish. Why are we afraid to draw the line? Perhaps one of the explanations is the romantic image of the farmer built up in our youth. Many of the older generation have played on a farm in their youth and retain an image of a farmer with very few animals which he all knew by name: the smell of drawn hay, helping the farmer to feed the animals. Who would dare to tie these hard working people down with more restrictions, who would deny them a good income.
The younger generation has hardly ever been to a real farm. Their idea of a farm is probably the model-farm visited on a school trip. In primary school we learnt that our little Holland could produce dairy products more efficiently than in any other country.

It would also be a good idea for the Netherlands to relinquish their leading position in the export market and to concentrate on a more desirable and responsible branch of industry. By putting a stop to the export the factory farming industry will be less viable.

The debts of the farmers can be repaid by introducing a system of pigs and poultry quotas: by not allowing new participants and by gradually decreasing the quota.
With the present numbers of livestock it is impossible to guarantee the well being of the animals. Ideally the number of livestock should be reduced to a level corresponding to the national demand. In the short term it is inevitable that foreign producers will benefit from the shortfall in supply in the market. The Dutch have given the world a bad example and cannot complain if others follow suit. Instead of our present role as promoter of animal unfriendly products we should assume a new role as promoter of animal friendly products. Animal (and animal products) should be excluded from the international free market.
Just as is the case in general with child pornografy, child labour, the slave trade and drugs trade, a country with the most immoral habits cannot be allowed to determine international standards, but should be forced to restrict or preferably abolish the import and export.
In order to protect vulnerable parts of a country, for example animals or nature reservations, a country should be protected against itself by the imposition of a trade restriction. This would mean a small economic "loss", but an enormous moral "profit".

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The benefit of vitamin B12 supplements

A possible vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamine, cobalamine, hydroxycobalamine) deficiency is without doubt an important issue in connection with the health of vegetarians and vegans. For vegans though, it’s recommended without hesitation, to use vitamin B12 supplements.

What does vitamin B12 do?

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which plays a key role in many different processes in our body. B12 is essential for a normal digestion and absorption of nutrients, for a good carbohydrates- and fat metabolism and for the synthesis of new protein. Also, vitamin B12 plays a role in other processes, like sleep- and eating disorders, mental functioning, immunity, emotional balance, the reproduction and for the development in children.

How do you get vitamin B12 ?

Micro-organisms, mainly bacteria, are the only organisms that we know of, that can produce B12 . Our alimentary canal is accommodated by an estimation of four- to five-hundred different kinds of bacteria. Among them are the vitamin B12 generating bacteria. It is assumed that bacteria in our intestines make a variable amount of biological active (usable) forms of vitamin B12 . However, these vitamin B12 generating bacteria are only found in the last part of the intestinal canal, not high enough to be absorbed.
B12 in green products?

Some others have suggested that active B12 could be found in certain seaweeds, yet, there hasn’t been a conclusive outcome of research on this claim. Studies that have been carried out with the most reliable test methods, showed that most seaweeds that were thought to contain B12 , in fact contained the inactive, analogue version of B12 . Also tempe, miso and other fermented nutrients are no sources of active B12 , unless this vitamin is added.
From the present day knowledge we have to conclude that (not enriched) vegetables cannot supply us with vitamin B12 .

Absorption of B12

Besides the intake of B12 via the food, the absorption is also of vital importance. For a sufficient absorption of this vitamin enough calcium, folium acid and the so called “intrinsic factor” (a protein secreted by stomach cells, necessary for the intake of B12 in the small intestine) is acquired. However, it doesn’t stop here. Other nutrients have to be present in the ideal proportion within the body. This is to ensure that the vitamin B12 that’s been absorbed then gets transported to the tissues and that the vitamin can be effective in the many enzymatic functions for which it is acquired. A variable food pattern is necessary to get all the sufficient nutrients.

What happens in case of a shortage of vitamin B12 ?

In case of a low intake of B12 there is less secreted and the absorption gets increased. Through this mechanism a shortage of this vitamin can sometimes be delayed for twenty or thirty years. That’s how it can happen that vegans who do not use supplements can live for some years without experiencing any of the symptoms.
People with psychological problems, with eating- or sleeping-disorders, alcoholics and elderly run a chance of suffering from a B12 -shortage. Because it plays a role in many enzymatic processes in our body, it is difficult to list all the symptoms of B12 shortage.
Vitamin B 12 deficiency may give rise to in general: extreme fatigue, digestive problems, low appetite and nausea. More specific symptoms are haematological (anaemia), neurological (paresthesias, neuropathy) and psychiatric manifestations (impaired memory, irritability and depression).
B12 has functions very similar with folium-acid and the shortage of one or both can cause the same symptoms. A massive amount of folium-acid in the food-intake can disguise a B12 shortage.
Testing the B12

The test which determines the amount of MMA (methylmalonic Acid or methylmalonate) in the blood or urine is considered reliable enough to determine whether one has a sufficient amount of active B12 . Most physicians though still use B12 tests for bloodserum (sB12), but this test is not accurate enough to determine which part of the B12 is active and which part inactive.

Supplements in practice

It’s advisable for vegans to eat foods which are enriched with vitamin B12 , or to regularly take supplements to keep the B12 at a descent level. Cyanocobalamine is the most represented form in vitamin-tablets, while hydroxycobalamine is used in B12 injections. Tablets and capsules are available at pharmacists and reform shops. They often contain gelatine. The following required daily intake should be sufficient for vegans.

* 1,5 – 2,5 µg, twice a day, from B12 enriched food
* 10 – 100 µg, once a day, from a supplement

Higher dosages then 1000 µg are of no beneficial use, as they won’t be absorbed. You can safely break a 1000 µg tablet into four pieces. Supplements which contain only B12 are believed to be the most efficient. Besides, you can use products which are enriched with B12 , for example soja-products and breakfast-cereals (check the package).

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The production of meat is a waste of food

Worldwide all cattle is fed 735 billion kilo grain every year. Conveyed in a goods train the transport would require 12,3 million wagons. That train could easily span the equator 6 times.
Most of the western countries use, besides their own farming ground, large grounds of developing countries for the production of their cattle feed. The use of foreign grounds can be up to six times higher than that of private grounds. Countries like Thailand (cassav), Malaysia, Brazil (soy) and Argentina largely contribute to the production of our cattle feed and almost a third is produced by third world countries. 75% of the raw materials for poultry-food and food for swine come from abroad. About a third of which comes from the third world countries.
For example, in order to feed the Dutch people there is, at home and abroad, 1,20 hectare of agricultural land in production, while there is in fact per citizen of the world only 0,2 hectare of agricultural land available (1 hectare equals to 10.000 m²).
Every individual in the world uses an amount of space of planet earth. How much, depends upon one's consumption.

[It would be better if the people in the west were to consume less meat in order that the people in third world countries could eat the vegetable food they grow themselves, instead of selling it to the west for their meat production.]

By means of the Global Footprint it is possible to render this space into an amount, expressed in hectares.

Meat production leads to environmental pollution

In the west, the biggest sources of acid precipitation, affecting forest and heather, are stock farming and traffic. Since fertilizer is one of the great contributors to this, the environment would profit largely from a diminished production.

Meat production costs lives

In the west, people consume much more meat these days than they used to do in the old days. Vegans, who totally abstain from meat consumption and use of animals, save the lives of approximately 6 bovines, 45 pigs en a few hundred chickens (these numbers apply to the Netherlands).

By means of the bio-industry all this meat consumption brings about a lot of animal distress. Thus, lessening the worldwide meat consumption obviously reduces the amount of animal distress.

Meat production is a waste of energy

During the transformation from plant into animal protein a lot of nutritious matter is wasted. 4 Kilo of vegetable protein (cattle feed) on average yields only 1 kilogram of animal protein.
On average, the production of meat costs up to 14,7 times more energy than that of vegetable food. One kilo veal compares to 100 kilo potatoes, as for the amount of energy. A normal pasture field produces approximately 330 kilo meat. The same field yields 40.000 kilo potatoes. Moreover a kilo meat requires 111.250 liter water.
It takes a lot less water to feed a strict vegetarian during a whole year than to feed a meat eater during a single month. A country like Holland uses so much water for the production of bovine meat in a year that the same amount of drinking water could supply almost a third of the world population.

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The Ecological Connection

Animals and plants in natural settings must have minimal living regions in order to have sufficient room within which to live and survive. Because of global warming, it becomes even more important that plants and animals can migrant, otherwise they will die out.

However, if a natural region is too small, than it can be made livable through a connection with another ecosystem or biotope, via a so-called green corridor. Together animals and plants are then offered a chance to survive, beyond which can also initiate a similarly interesting landscape for human recreation. With the “Ecological Connection (EC)” is simply implied - a connection together with other biotopes.
In direct opposition exist the regions wherein intensive factory farming is concentrated.

What comes into existence then, in an Ecological Connection, is a newly created natural area: or natural developing regions. Natural developing regions are regions that must still be developed. There is also a transition form, mainly a region wherein farmers determine how convenants are made for looking after and sparing nature. The water ways hold an important role: the big rivers, but also the small locks alongside arable land.

That nature is to be preserved is not to say that it has become realized or that this will happen in a short amount of time. Much can also happen in between, and as a consequence of economic pressure which is continually placed upon the plans and ultimately placed upon the available room for slowly consumed natural habitats.

It is also important to keep pollution outside of the EC. If the food in the EC becomes scarce or biodiversity decreases, the animals must seek food outside the EHS, whereby the chance becomes greater that they will become wrongly victimized or cause severe damage to crops.

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In the past year various reports have been published on massive fatality among honeybees in North America. In parts of The Netherlands, an increase in bee fatality has also been noticed. How much of these reports is true and is the bee fatality in the United States connected with that in The Netherlands? Perhaps we should we look for causes in climate changes, use of pesticides or even radiation from mobile phones?

Jan Piet Frens, a recently retired biology teacher, is one of the 7000 beekeepers in The Netherlands. He has been a passionate beekeeper for 28 years. He lives just outside Culemborg, The Netherlands, where the river Lek flows in front of his house and at the back the area known as the “Betuwe” stretches out with all her orchards. He currently keeps 17 bee colonies in hives behind his garden shed. In Spring he sets the bee colonies free in the neighbouring, well known cherry and apple orchards. In the Summer he moves his bees to an area where there are many lime trees and in the Autumn they are brought to the Veluwezoom , an area where heather blooms profusely in that season. He keeps an average of between 10 and 20 bee colonies. This varies per season. Jan Piet explains that in the Eighties, it was quite commonplace for about 10% of bees not to survive the Winter. He has noticed a definite increase in fatality during recent years; in 2003 and 2004 he even lost 75% of his bees. He blames the parasite the varroa destructor to a large extent for these fatalities. The media often raises the suggestion that there is a new disease among bees, but beekeepers have been aware of this phenomenon for quite some time. Jan Piet suspects that are more causes for the increase in fatality, but they will more than likely be connected with the region and the manner of beekeeping. Degeneration of the natural species diversity also plays a role when the bee is searching for food. Furthermore, he is one of the bee health-coordinators working closely with the Dutch University of Wageningen and he meticulously follows the results of all sorts of scientific studies there.

The Varroa Destructor
Researchers such as Tjeerd Blacquière from the University of Wageningen are concerned with fatality among bees. In recent years, he and his colleagues have conducted extensive research. He considers the Varrao Destructor to be an important cause of the often massive fatalities among bee colonies. The Varrao Destructor is a parasite which comes from the Indian honeybee, Apis cerana. The Indian honeybee is reasonably immune to this parasite, but the European honeybee is not. When the parasite appeared in Europe around 1970 and in the mid-Eighties also in The Netherlands, it caused immense damage. All bee colonies are now contaminated by it. Added to this, the Varrao Destructor carries various viruses.
Jan Piet explains that the Varroa Destructor lives in the beehive, from the honeybee larva. The bees build cells, where the queen bee lays her eggs. A fertilised egg becomes a normal bee, an unfertilized egg becomes a “worker” or a drone. Firstly, a larva comes out of the egg. This larva is closed off in a cell by the bees, so that it has the chance to develop into a drone. The Varroa Destructor crawls into the cell at the moment the cell is closed off. It lives from the developing larva and reproduces in the cell. Some 2 to 5 parasites emerge from a cell and they crawl onto the bee in order to find other cells. The bee itself comes into the world deformed and weakened, with wrinkled wings, for example.
In the early Spring, Jan Piet starts fighting the Varroa Destructor in the hive. As advised by the University of Wageningen, he uses oxalic acid and thymol . These substances can be dissolved in sugared water or can be introduced into the hive by means of evaporation or nebulising. He has the impression that these methods have resulted in a decrease in fatality among his bees in recent years. However, he hastens to add that a very experienced beekeeper in his neighbourhood lost 80% of his bees last Winter, despite his conscientious attacks on the Varroa Destructor. There are obviously more causes of bee fatality.

Massive fatalities in the United States
Tjeerd Blacquière, bee expert at the University of Wageningen says, in an interview with the Dutch Scientific journalist Marcel Hulspas, that the Press gives the impression that the Varroa Destructor is a new American phenomenon. However, 4 or 5 years ago there were massive bee fatalities in Europe, often in particular areas, such as Northern Italy and Bavaria. The following year the situation had recovered. In the United States it looks as if massive fatalities are spread out over much wider areas. According to Blacquière this also had to do with the way beekeepers worked there. Beekeepers work locally in The Netherlands, they have a small number of hives and they remain within a certain area. In the United States beekeepers have thousands of hives. They transport them in trailer trucks throughout the entire country from Florida to California, to all places where farmers or breeders need bees. In this way, contamination can spread rapidly throughout the country. Blacquière is very down to earth about speculations as to the cause of bee fatality, such as the greenhouse effect, or use of new pesticides by farmers or radiation from mobile phones.

Monitoring the health of the Dutch bee
In Blacquière’s opinion, the most important cause of bee fatality is a combination of the Varroa Destructor and various types of viruses. This is also evident from bee health monitoring at 150 Dutch beekeepers, done by himself and his colleagues at the University of Wageningen in collaboration with 35 bee health-coordinators. On 18 October last, the first results were announced during the bee health- day in Wageningen. This monitoring yielded information about potential pathogenic organisms in bee colonies, and not whether certain diseases played an active role.
The monitoring shows the Varroa Destructor to be the greatest pathogenic organism. The specimens taken were also tested for viruses and this part of the research was sent out to the Central Science Laboratory in York, England. Three viruses often linked to massive fatality, in the United States, amongst others, were not found. But three viruses were found which, according to documentation are connected with the Varroa Destructor. Infection by the Deformed Wing Virus was lower than the researchers had expected, the symptoms of which are wrinkled wings and these are familiar to beekeepers. The researchers were surprised that the origin of European foul brood was so often found (in 36% of the specimens). Not so long ago, this disease was considered not to be present in The Netherlands. There are also more and more reports of clinically sick colonies from beekeepers. Further analysis of the monitoring needs to be done. The researchers now want to look into what can be discovered about the spread of pathogens in The Netherlands. Is there a connection between the method of beekeeping, combating the Varroa Destructor and the type of bee?. But just as important for researchers is to see if there is a connection between the various pathogens and whether some pathogens are permanently linked.

Nosema ceranae
Monitoring also shows that in 87 of the bee specimens traces of nosema ceranae were found. This is an intestinal parasite, but the researchers at the University of Wageningen do not consider this to be cause for alarm, because in their opinion the beekeepers can do a lot to prevent this disease by concentrating on keeping the bees in good condition. Romee van der Zee from the Dutch Centre for Bee research has, however, another opinion. In 2006 she came to the conclusion that combating the Varroa Destructor did not provide sufficient explanation for the huge fatality (26%) in the Winter of 2005/2006 and that the real cause still had to be found. In the October edition (2008) of the magazine Beekeeping (Bijenhouden) she writes that the presence of the Nosema ceranae in honeybees was not known in 2006 and she comes to the conclusion that on the basis of the research that was conducted by her Centre in 2007 and 2008 among 409 beekeepers, no reason was found to appoint the Varroa Destructor the main cause of bee fatality in the Winter of 2007/2008. She says that this confirms the observations of the researchers who had published earlier in the journal “Science”. In the September issue of Beekeeping, Van der Zee points to the relationship between Nosema ceranae and massive bee fatality. She comes to the conclusion that this parasite could very well be an important candidate for the pathogen. Her research also shows large regional variances. In the provinces Gelderland and Overijssel, the average fatality in the Winter 2007/2008 was 19.9%, whilst in the are Hollands Midden fatality was as high as 51.4%.

Sjef van der Steen reports in an article on a symposium that was held in Bucharest at the beginning of October on the possible effects of pesticides on bees. There is not enough known about the indirect or long term effects of pesticides or of plant protectors (as these are called nowadays), on bees. During that symposium extensive discussions were held about guidelines for test programmes which newly developed pesticides needed to undergo in order to be approved.
Another possible problem is coating seeds. These seeds from plants visited by bees, such as coleseed and more indirectly, corn and sugar beet are coated nowadays with a layer of pesticide. This sort of pesticide is absorbed in the plant during growth and in this way protects the plant against gluttonous insects. The pesticide Clothianidin, extremely toxic to bees, is used for this purpose. In the Spring of 2008 fatalities occurred in Southern Germany, France and Italy because part of the coating landed on flowering plants when being sown. This practice is also allowed in The Netherlands, because in the normal way, bees and other pollinating insects do not come into contact with Clothianidin. There have been no problems reported here. Other negative effects for bees caused by pesticides are also known. In laboratory conditions it has been observed that some pesticides have a negative effect on bees’ respiratory system, whilst others disturb orientation or cause temporary problems in the central nervous system.
Experts deem it quite possible that pesticides contribute to the increased fatality among honeybee colonies. In Germany a monitoring programme has been under way since 2005 to gain more insight into this influence.

At this time of year beekeepers, such as Jan Piet Frens speak of Winter bees and if all is well, the 17 colonies in the yellow painted hives behind his house have been given a large amount of sugar to come through the Winter. On the advice of the experts from the University of Wageningen, he has started combating the Varroa Destructor at the right moment and in the right way, using the most effective remedies. He hopes that fatality among his bees will remain low during the coming Winter and that Spring will not come too early, because that would mean that there are too few flowering plants and too little pollen, which in turn would have consequences for his bees, because the bee larva would have insufficient food. Such weakening could lead to greater fatality, because the bee would have built up insufficient resistance to all sorts of parasites and viruses. Has it to do then with climate change?
It is clear that much research needs to be done into the causes of massive bee fatalities and into a solution. The bee is an essential link in the ecological system and for growth of a number of plants. The many invasions we as humans make into nature and the environment make it extremely difficult for these hard workers to carry out their most important task.

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In particular for wild species accommodation is a threat to their wellbeing, especially in the winter. Domestic animals are easier to accommodate. Training doesn’t necessarily has to create problems for their wellbeing, provided that they are taught by means of reward and provided that animals are used that don’t mind performing, like dogs. The display of tricks is a routine occupation for animals and this can only be seen as acceptable when an animal trainer respects the fact that animals sometimes don’t want to perform. Transport is an unclear issue, but although habituation may set in, most animals will experience transport in the initial stage as very stressful.

Welfare issues

The welfare issues for circus animals can roughly be divided into five aspects, namely: (1) accommodation, (2) transport, (3) training, (4) performance and (5) winter accommodation. To analyse these aspects on welfare-issues I will use the five liberties, as defined by the British animal welfare committee (Brambell 1965) as a framework. These liberties act as a guide-line for the European policy regarding intensively farmed animals to safeguard there welfare:

  1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
  2. Freedom from discomfort due to environment
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  4. Freedom to express the normal behavioural characteristics peculiar to the species
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

It’s of interest here to distinguish between welfare-violation that can be prevented, for example not giving enough water (not giving enough water is a case of neglect) and unavoidable welfare-violation, like transport (the transportation of animals is inherent to the character of a circus). Unavoidable welfare violation can be a just cause to ban circuses.


Domestic animals can in general be kept in sufficient large enclosures. (However, one can speculate whether a circus-horse should have the freedom to trot). In general speaking, wild animals are more dangerous and more unpredictable. Therefore there are stricter rules to their accommodation. Especially primates, bears, elephants and wild cats have to pay a high price for freedom of movement; this limits their normal behaviour (freedom 4). Also enrichment is usually not possible: a chimpanzee likes to climb, but circus-accommodation lacks climbing-facilities. Through such privation many circus-animals display stereotypical or apathetic behaviour, which can be considered as mental sorrow (freedom 5).


As long as the duration of transport is within restricted range and the transport cages are adequate and comfortably equipped, some will argue that this is an acceptable aspect. Yet there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether circus animals experience transport as stressful (freedom 5). It is known that a once-only transport of farm animals is experienced as very stressful. Circus animals are often put on transport and it’s not known whether they get used to it. Each time the animals gets transported they have to get used to a new, for them hostile environment.


On the subject of teaching acts on animals there’s big controversy. The circuses personal most often argue that they train their animals by successive approximation, which means the gradual learning of behaviour. A lion that has to jump through a burning hoop can for example first be taught to jump through a normal hoop. Subsequently the fire which he has to jump through will be made bigger so that the lion gradually gets used to the fire. Animal welfare people are inclined to believe that circus-animals only get trained by means of torture instruments. Though they are known, horrific cases, this should not be generalized. For example: some dog-owners teach their dogs tricks in a harsh manner, but most teach them with rewards. However it should be reminded that not all animals are so keen on learning tricks as dogs do. Cats are self-willed and will not often perform for a reward. Moreover, with big wild animals it’s of importance that an animal trainer creates a dominant position over his animals. Some degree of physical force seems to be unavoidable (freedom 3 & 5). Besides, some tricks are too difficult to learn for wild animals to do through the approximate approach. Training isn’t necessarily cruel as long as long as animals are used that enjoy learning to perform and this is done by means of reward and as long as the tricks do not cause them stress.


It is sometimes stated that circuses are more animal friendly than zoo’s are, because they at least seek distraction during their performances. However, then it is assumed that they enjoy performing. That assumption is unfounded. The acts are in general routinely and compulsive, which can cause boredom and even aversion (freedom 5). Animals that display enjoyment in acting out tricks are exceptions to the rule.

Winter accommodation

The condition of the winter accommodation is most often poorly. For domestic animals it’s quite possible to accommodate them in good conditioned housing. For a number of animals, in particularly wild animals, winter accommodation is problematic, because they can’t adjust to another climate. The animals are then kept in a small enclosure so the climatic-conditions can be controlled or they are kept outside where the climatic-conditions can not be controlled (freedom 2 & 4).

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A planning application for construction of stabling for 3.500 pigs on the Venekoten was recently submitted in Ooststellingwerf. Planning applications for expansion of 2 pig stables on the Weperpolder are also being considered. In one case, the environmental permit is pending, in the other two cases, the permit has already been granted. In the municipality of Leemsterland, an application is being processed for expansion - from 6,000 to 10,000 pigs - of a stable on the Koopmanweg in Echtenerburg,. The environmental permit is available for perusal.
Construction and expansion planning applications for pig farming are published well in advance on the Council pages in local papers. Citizens can make objections, provided they are stakeholders. To qualify as stakeholder you must at least be a direct neighbour of the farmer in question. And even then you will need to come with sufficient convincing arguments to prevent execution of the plans.
The numerous people concerned about the welfare of the thousands of animals to be held in these livestock factories and the environmental consequences thereof , are not considered stakeholders. Their objections are therefore mostly swept aside. In this way, the number of stakeholders remains “under control”, as pig farmers do not normally have many neighbours. And that handful of people who are concerned about the effect on their personal living comfort, often give up the fight, disheartened at the influence of the Powers which assert themselves when economical issues are at stake. The result is that more and more of these factory farms appear, also in Friesland. And yet, others than animal lovers and direct neighbours would be worried if they realised how unhealthy these mass stables are, for also for them. Because they do more than stink to high heaven. The list of health hazards of mass stables mainly contains only the emission of dust particles and ammonia. The ultramodern filters and air purifiers so acclaimed by champions of factory farming still allow through 10 to 40% of harmful dusts and stench. In itself detrimental enough for the inhabitants of neighbouring areas, but the much larger threat to public health remains underexposed.
Keeping animals in high concentrations has huge consequences for welfare and health. The stress caused by the unnatural conditions in which they are kept makes the animals extra prone to diseases. To combat this problem, they are administered preventive antibiotics in generous doses. In spite of attempts by authorities to limit use of antibiotics in livestock farming, this is only on the increase. Excessive use of antibiotics leads to immunity on the part of bacteria – the more they are administered, the less effective the drugs become. As a result, more than 50% of pig communities have already been infected by the resistant “hospital bacteria” MRSA.
MRSA stands for “Meticilline-Resistente Staphylococcus Aureus”, an extremely dangerous bacteria for the elderly, children and people with reduced resistance. The bacteria forms an enormous threat to care centres such as hospitals and nursing homes. MRSA can lead to various infections and even to shock, but can also cause serious damage to vital organs via the bloodstream. Patients can die from infection of the heart valves. As the symptoms of MRSA infection are so diverse, doctors are often unable to detect them immediately.
Once an MRSA-infection has been diagnosed, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Antibiotics can be lifesaving. And this is where the biggest problem lies: the MRSA-bacteria is immune to practically all standard antibiotics. There are a few types with which the bacteria can be fought, but these have extremely nasty side effects. This is why Dutch medics are reluctant to use them. In Southern Europe, however, these antibiotics are prescribed on a large scale and even at this stage it is apparent that the MRSA-bacteria quickly becomes immune to these drugs also.
As far back as 1998 the Health Council warned of the serious consequences of large scale antibiotic use in livestock farming. In 2006 the Risk Assessment Bureau of the Food and Goods Authorities announced that we could speak of mass MRSA infection in Dutch pig farming. Almost half of these pig farmers is a carrier of the bacteria. Pig farmers and their families are therefore placed in quarantine when being admitted to hospitals. Farms with thousands of pigs are dens of infection and form a health risk to people living in the neighbourhood and all who directly or indirectly come in contact with pig farmers, members of their household and the pigs and their meat. As the bacteria is probably spread by air, pig transports form an extra risk. The RIVM has informed that there is a high presence of MRSA on surface water around pig stables.
The general public hears little about this. If it does make the news, the danger to public health caused by the pig farming sector is played down. Too much attention to this subject would, after all stand in the way of the development of mass stables. There have been enough warnings from medical quarters, but the sector seems obstinate and the authorities come no further than halfhearted measures. An out- and- out public health crisis seems imminent. The Party for Animals has repeatedly raised this threat in parliament, the television programmes EénVandaag and Zembla have devoted airing time to it, and the organisation Pigs in Need (Varkens in Nood) has been protesting for years. That the ministers responsible do not intervene, only goes to show how much influence the livestock and meat sector has in The Hague. Economic interests would appear to bear more weight that public health.
Intensive livestock farming has lost sight of the human factor long ago. The very fact that it is impossible to keep animals on this scale without filling them up with antibiotics says enough. Yet the plea for increasing the scale continues despite the fact that more and more newspapers (only recently in an article by the Ministry for Housing, Regional Development and the Environment (VROM) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature) emphasise the necessity of consuming less meat and dairy products.
Authorities do precious little to curb the strides being made in livestock farming, in spite all of the serious objections in many areas. “Agrarian Entrepreneurs” wishing to set up a livestock factory, or to expand their industry to mass stable proportions are encounter not the slightest obstacle in their way.
Nobody seems to want a time bomb like this in their vicinity. But at the same time the number of pigs “living” in factory farming conditions in Ooststellingwerf are on the increase. (The numbers are now more than 10.000 against 26.241 inhabitants.) In Lemsterland a farm is expanding to 10.000 pigs. There are mass pig stables not far beyond the Council boundaries. And who is to say that it will stop at this?
The key question is: will you continue to allow yourself to be pushed aside as “non-stakholder”, whilst your health and that of your family is at risk?

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Cultured tissue replaces laboratory animals

Bart De Wever has worked in the field of human skin culture for many years. Not for transplantation, but as a means of testing the effects of cosmetic products. De Wever explains: ‘There is a real need for alternatives. First and foremost, there is, of course, the suffering inflicted on so many laboratory rabbits. However, we are also facing another problem. The skin and cornea of the rabbit differ considerably from those of humans and therefore do not always accurately predict the way in which a human will respond. Clearly, it is high time to use an alternative.’

De Wever has developed a method for culturing skin, corneal tissue and oral mucous membrane tissue. ‘Tissue cultured “in vitro” (in an artificial environment) is a very good alternative. It is an excellent way of testing the toxicity and effectiveness of products.’ How does De Wever go about this process? ‘We take cells from human tissue – from skin that is removed during a surgical procedure, for example. We isolate the individual cells from the tissue and then put them into small plastic beakers that have a permeable membrane in their base. The cells are fed by this membrane and start to grow. After about two weeks, tissue – in this case, skin – has formed. We then expose the cultures to the air. Under these natural conditions the cells mature, and well-keratinized skin or a strong cornea forms.’

Does this mean that, within a few years, laboratory rabbits will no longer be needed? De Wever: ‘We are still at the pre-validation stage, in which we have shown that the results from our models are comparable to those from the animal model.’ To facilitate this process, De Wever chose twenty substances that had already been tested on rabbits. Based on the results of these rabbit tests, ten of these substances had been classified as non-irritants, and ten others as either mild or strong irritants. ‘We applied these substances to the cultured corneal tissues and studied the reaction. The traditional Draize Test measures the degree of redness of the rabbit’s eye and observes how long it takes for the redness to disappear. The substances that cause redness in normal skin or corneal tissue are called cytokines. The cultured tissue also produces cytokines, and we are able to measure these. Cells will die. If the rate of cell death is low, this means that a substance is not a strong irritant. And if cell death is high, the opposite is true.’

However, De Wever was not completely satisfied. He went on to test his results by using the same number of substances in comparable tests on cows’ eyes (obtained from a slaughterhouse) and snails. ‘Our findings were confirmed once again by the results. We demonstrated that ten of the chosen substances were irritants. But our tests showed that three of the ten substances that were not actually classified as such, were, in fact, irritants.’ This was confirmed by hospital data obtained from people who had experienced problems after getting one of these three substances in their eyes. Our findings were confirmed from all sides. ‘It’s cause for concern that the information on toxicity contained in data banks is based on rabbit tests and indicates that these three substances are completely harmless. In actual fact, it has been shown that they do cause irritation.’ For further confirmation of his results, De Wever carried out his experiments in the laboratories of no less than four large pharmaceutical companies. The results were repeated in every laboratory, which proves that De Wever’s in vitro test is reproducible. The same cannot be said of the Draize Test. ‘At one time, three substances were tested on rabbits in 24 different laboratories. Every laboratory came up with different results. Clearly, they were not reproducible.’

Professor Frans Ramaekers – a professor in Molecular Cell Biology and De Wever’s supervisor – organized a small symposium on the occasion of De Wever’s Ph.D. thesis defence. ‘At this symposium, internationally renowned scientists exchanged views on alternatives to animal experimentation. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry showed a great deal of interest as well. De Wever’s research is also of great importance to this group. From 2009, cosmetic products that have been tested on animals may no longer be sold within the European Union. As a result, the hunt for alternatives is in full swing. Both from an economic and from a political point of view, Bart De Wever’s research is attracting a great deal of interest.’

Throughout Europe, De Wever’s alternative is seen as important for the near future. Bart De Wever says: ‘The European Commission is shortly planning to test the toxicity of 30,000 commonly used chemical substances because there is not enough toxicological data on them. There is a real need for a data bank. It is estimated that this research will entail four million animal experiments and will cost €2.5 billion. Putting aside the question of capacity, I should point out that, even if all the laboratories in Europe were to work on this full time, the research wouldn’t be finished until 2057. The decision has now been made to test the most commonly used substances first.’

Bart De Wever is critical of the so-called toxicology bibles. ‘Government employees take these “bibles” too literally and accept them unquestioningly. Even worse, people who question them are considered to be nuisances. But the fact of the matter is that you cannot always satisfactorily compare animal experiments with the human situation.’ Unfortunately, it could be another ten years before the alternatives are validated. ‘But at least we are on the right road,’ says Bart De Wever. ‘Three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world have supported my doctoral research. The cosmetic industry is almost certainly going to adopt this animal-friendly and cheap method.’

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To stop animal abuse and factory farming:

As a consumer, you have an arsenal of weapons that you can use to help stop factory farming.
1 Stop factory farming by what you eat
2 Don't buy from companies that don't care about animal rights

3 Vote out factory farming
4 Protest against permits for factory farms

5 Write to newspapers and magazines

6 Support organizations against factory farming

7 Make clear how you feel about animal rights

1. Stop factory farming by what you eat

Maybe the most important means at your disposal: stop giving money to factory farming by no longer buying meat and other products from factory farming.

Don't eat foreign animal products. Welfare objections stick to imported animal products. Why would a country overproduce and deplete its natural resources? This cannot go hand in hand with a balanced and animal-friendly way of working. By the way, this mainly goes for Holland. With Dutch products, you should select ecologically responsible (biological) products. For instance, prepare meals without meat (more often). Ideas for vegetarian dishes can be found for instance at the Vegetarian Union.
Products from biological farming are a good alternative for factory farming.
A strange phenomenon is that people are prepared to make healthy and responsible meals at home, but seem to forget this principle at school or at work. Apparently there's not the time, the will or the possibility to stop and consider the origin of their food there. Make clear that you want responsible foods in the company restaurant or cafeteria, which doesn't come from factory farming but is ecologically (biologically) responsible.

2. Don't buy from companies that don't care about animal rights.

In general: you can use your economic power and show companies that for this reason you do not wish to make use of their products and services.
Don't open accounts with banks that give out loans to companies in factory farming.
Don't buy from supermarkets that don't offer ecological products. If you want to invest or save money, consider green investments.
Check out our information on quality marks to see which companies do or don't consider animal rights.

3. Vote out factory farming

During local, provincial and national elections, vote for a party or candidate who speaks out against factory farming. Approach political parties and ask them about their viewpoints regarding factory farming. Many Members of Parliament can also be reached through e-mail. Read party programs. If your party hasn't got an animal-friendly program. Select one from the list that does.
Political parties have to bear their responsibility for animals as well.
Look under "taking action" for examples of writing actions.

4. Protest against permits for factory farms

If factory farms want to settle near you or want to extend their stables, there are possibilities to stop them from getting permits. Local departments of environmental organizations can help you (often free of charge), for instance by giving legal advice. For names and addresses, look on the page with national and local action groups. It is often possible to do something against companies that already have permits, if you can prove that you are really troubled or bothered by them.

5. Write to newspapers and magazines

Submitted letters-sections in newspapers, magazines and club periodicals are often read by many people. Sending a letter in which you state your opinion on factory farming, can make many people think. You have a better chance of getting your letter published if you react to an article you read earlier in that paper or magazine. Also read our writing tips.
Various magazines and national and regional newspapers have a site on the Internet, and often offer the possibility of sending in your letter through e-mail.
Send a protest letter to the Code of Advertising Committee if you see commercials or articles in the media that do not take animals seriously or if they are misleading.

6. Support organizations against factory farming

In every country there are various active organizations that fight factory farming. If you want to help them, you can become a contributor and/or apply as a volunteer to help with actions.
Register as a volunteer and help (with) others to give animals a dignified existence.

7. Make clear how you feel about animal rights

It can be tricky to determine how far you can go. If you exaggerate, it may turn out wrong. If you say nothing, nobody will know how you feel. When you have dinner with other people, you can always tell them (up front) that you won't eat meat from factory farming. And if you go shopping, tell the sales person that you are looking for ecological products. If you want to convince others of your viewpoints, it is best to target people whose ideas are close to your own. It takes a lot of time and energy to convert patent opposers. Don't strain yourself. Be brief and don't attack others when you tell them how you feel. If you are looking for (counter) arguments, read our list of non-valid arguments. If you have doubts on how to go about something, send us an e-mail and we will advise.
If you make your own action materials, be sure to make them yourself or borrow them from official organizations. Don't make (improper) use of logos or materials of the party you are protesting against.

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How you can help animals?

* Skip eating meat, fish or poultry on some days. There are plenty of delicious and healthy alternatives that don't involve animal suffering.

* If you do want to eat meat, then go for meat from free-ranging animals or meat from biological farming. In Holland over 400 million animals are kept in factory farming. Factory farms aim to have minimal production costs and maximum profit. Pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, ostriches, rabbits, etc. are crammed together in stuffy pens. They're fattened as quickly as possible, so that they can hardly stand on their legs because of their weight. Then they are transported to the slaughterhouse over great distances and under bad circumstances. Alternatives for this animal suffering are free-range products or eco-products, which are recognizable by the CPE-mark for poultry, the PVE/IKB-mark with the curl, or the EKO-mark for biological cattle farming.

* If you want to eat fish, choose 'stress-free fish'. These fish are killed immediately after capture. Whatever you do, don't buy bio-fish, that are raised closely together in underwater cages. This is done with eels, catfish, salmon, carp and trout. Crustaceans are subject to another form of animal suffering. Lobsters, snails, clams, cockles, shrimp and oysters are boiled alive. Sea turtles are cut from their shells alive to make turtle-soup. Enjoy?

* Skip all animal products on some days. Pay attention to what you eat or wear.

* If you want to eat dairy products or eggs, buy biological dairy products and free-range eggs instead of battery eggs. Also be careful when you buy products that have these eggs as ingredients. Billions of chickens live in battery cages, and they each get a space of one A4 sheet of paper. There are plenty of eggs available from chickens that have more space or that can go outside.

* Don't eat horrible delicacies, such as frog's legs or goose liver. Frog's legs are cut off live frogs, and to make goose liver pate millions of geese are force-fed with great quantities of grain.

* Buy products that haven't been tested on animals. This not only goes for cosmetics (make-up, toothpaste and shampoo), but also for detergents and cleaning-up liquid.

* Don't have fun at the expense of animals. Be critical when you visit a circus, zoo or dolphinarium. On no account go see the bullfights when you're on holiday. Don't fish. Fish have feelings too and can experience pain and fear. Of all the fish that are freed after capture, at least 10% dies. Don't hunt. Pleasure hunters kill around 2 million animals each year in Holland alone. If you want to shoot, shoot pictures with your camera.

* If you want to keep a pet, get one from a shelter. But consider carefully which animal would best suit you. Pets take a lot of time, energy and money.

* Take care of your pets. Make sure they get plenty of food, space and attention.

* Report animal abuse or neglect.

* Don't buy fur. Holland still has 200 fur farms, where millions of fur animals are kept crammed together in wire cages.

* Don't buy souvenirs made from animal material, such as ivory statuettes, ashtrays made of elephant's feet, crocodile bags, etc. Rare animals are killed especially for the purpose of making these things.

* Respect the lives of little creatures as well. Ask animal interest groups for tips on how to remove 'pests' the animal-friendly way.

* Keep the pets in your house healthy. Make a hole in the ice on your pond in wintertime. Hang up birdseed balls during vicious winters. Make your garden a friendly place for butterflies, bees, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, etc.

* Don't overfeed the ducks in the park.

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Questions about animal rights and more answered for kids

Do we have the right to confine an animal?
Do we need to eat animals to stay in a good health?
Is one allowed to kill an animal?
Do animals love humans?
What does "respect for animals" mean?
Are humans of a greater value than animals?
What is the objection against free mutual trade between countries?
Are zoo animals really happy?
May we teach animals tricks like in a circus?
Are there books about what I can do for animals?
Do you have posters on animals?

Do we have the right to confine an animal?

Animal Freedom thinks that humans and animals are different, but have an equal right to freedom. Freedom is the most important thing there is. Throughout the history of nature, there's never been an animal species that gave other animals so little space as humans do today with the bio-industry. In the past, pets used to walk around the house freely. They ate scraps of food, which humans left over and were eaten themselves at a certain moment.

Animal Freedom believes that we shouldn't confine animals in such small spaces (think for example of a goldfish in a bowl), in order that they aren't able to express their natural behaviour. We do think that putting a fence around a pasture, to make sure that animals won't escape, is all right. On the other hand, humans have the right not to be bothered by animals living next door. Freedom is bound by borders.
If you want a pet, it's a good thing to first consider whether you want to confine an animal. Don't get an animal from an asylum thinking that it will be liberated by you. After all, another animal will then take its place. Maybe it's a better idea to ask your parents to visit places, where you can meet animals, more often.
Animal Freedom believes that we shouldn't confine animals in such small spaces (think for example of a goldfish in a bowl), in order that they aren't able to express their natural behaviour. We do think that putting a fence around a pasture, to make sure that animals won't escape, is all right. On the other hand, humans have the right not to be bothered by animals living next door. Freedom is bound by borders.
If you want a pet, it's a good thing to first consider whether you want to confine an animal. Don't get an animal from an asylum thinking that it will be liberated by you. After all, another animal will then take its place. Maybe it's a better idea to ask your parents to visit places, where you can meet animals, more often.

Do we need to eat animals to stay in a good health?

No, we don't need to eat animals to stay in a good health. Nor need we drink milk or other dairy products. Milk is for young animals. Just as calves, children don't need to drink (mother) milk any longer once they are growing up. It isn't unhealthy to eat dairy products, but it neither is necessary.
Eating meat also isn't necessary. Indeed, meat contains some substances, which humans require, but these substances are first broken down to building blocks that are also found within plants.
Thus, eating meat is a detour. A valid argument for eating meat is that it takes less effort to stay healthy. If you don't eat too much meat that is! People like vegetarians, who don't want to eat any meat or fish at all, have to be more careful to make sure they ingest all of the essential building materials. This is even more for important vegans. People who want to sell lots of meat and dairy products will do anything to make you believe you really need it. They even make you think that animals want nothing more than to be eaten by you. Have they become stupid from eating meat?

Is one allowed to kill an animal?

In the Netherlands, you aren't allowed to just kill an animal. We do however make a difference between animal species. Killing an insect, like a mosquito, isn't prohibited. For a pet it's necessary to have a good reason if you want to have its life put to an end. You are not allowed to do that yourself. This has to be done by a veterinarian. Unless the animal's very sick or very old, the veterinarian won't put it to sleep.
Nor are you allowed to kill an animal you're going to eat. Only butchers are authorized to do that. In the Netherlands this arrangement is to prevent unnecessary suffering of the animal when it is slaughtered.

So what about hunters?

All hunters must have a hunting license to shoot animals and they only are allowed to shoot a few species. Hunting is prohibited during spring season when animals look after of their cubs.

But hey, don't animals kill each other in their natural environment?

Indeed, animals do kill one another in their natural environment. It often happens quickly however and the reason is almost always to obtain food and hardly ever for fun or out of annoyance.
Animals don't kill insects, but use their tail to chase off annoying insects. Killing to obtain food has happened for millions of years. Consequently, equilibrium has established between predatory animals and hunted animals. As long as animals are in good health and not too old their odds of survival are good. The same goes for plants. This way, nature stays beautiful. Death is the fate of animals that aren't able to take care of themselves (no more).
Animal Freedom has the opinion that animals have the right to come to a zenith of beauty before they die, just as humans. This is only possible in freedom.

Do animals love humans?

You'd think this is true, when a cat rubs up against you. Cats do that to mark your clothes with their scents. Other kinds of behavior, that give you the idea they love humans, are often related to the wish of the animal to be fed. In addition, many pets are bored, so they are in need of some distraction, like a dog. Humans often make the animals artificially dependent on them in such a way that it seems as if the animal appreciates the given care. You could say that many animals want to live close to humans, because there is much food to be found near them. Animals will make sure though they want get caught, because they like their freedom even more.

What does "respect for animals" mean?

Parents often say that you must have respect for other people. Usually they mean people who stand out because they are different. For example, they are old and because of that slower or they're from abroad and speak the language badly. 'Respect for animals' actually implies that as well. Animals want humans to keep a little distance. That's precisely what the word "respect" means. It's a Latin word and means (freely translated) that you'll have to keep some distance and first consider if others want to have contact with you. Many animals don't want to be picked up or caressed. Respect also means that you consider the correctness of your judgment. Some animals like dogs and cats appreciate a lot of attention; other animals like birds and fish just want to eat and to be left alone. There is not a single animal that appreciates being locked away in a small hutch. Respecting animals thus involves that you won't do something like that.

Are humans of a greater value than animals?

The value of humans is as great as they please. But what is the meaning of this word value? Values may be expressed in money, or in the amount time and effort one spends doing something. It's important to realize that no one is of such a great value that this allows him to do whatever he wants with animal and human lives. Or the other way around: No human or animal is so worthless that people can do with it whatever they want. In a way, their lives than become of less value.
People and animals, violating the freedom of others, run a risk of being killed by that person or animal.
Freedom for humans is one of few values for which they are willing to sacrifice their own lives. A much smaller group is also prepared to this for animals. This means that most people think humans are more important than animals. It does however not mean that humans are actually more important!
Animals are concerned with different things than humans; they know for example no ambition, sense of honor and a sophisticated language.
Humans and animals are equal in their right to freedom. You may appreciate differences and similarities between humans and in several ways, just as long as you respect the animals.

What is the objection against free mutual trade between countries?

From time to time all countries confer jointly about the regulations that should apply for mutual trade. These conferences are known as WTO-negotiations. What's going on?
Is freedom to buy and sell not very important, just as Animal Freedom represents freedom for animals. Isn't it important that people in other countries have enough money to buy food and other stuff?
True, but freedom can't be without borders, or otherwise it would be meaningless. If no one would have to act upon these borders, the strongest prevails. This applies between countries, in the schoolyard and upon the street. Because we already have a lot of free trade, you are able to buy cheap shoes of foreign manufacture and to buy apples from the far side of the world. Well that's good isn't it? Not always, for who manufactures these shoes? And who pays the price for the transportation of apples all over the world. Some shoes are manufactured by children in the Third World. If they must work all day, they can't go to school and than they don't have the freedom to choose a profession. Concerning the apples: People who haven't got anything to do with these apples contribute to the transport costs to your supermarket. This is done by means of taxes.

If the strongest can do what they want the weaker, liker elderly, children and animals become victims. Perhaps you don't feel sorry for grandparents and yourself, but just think about the circumstances of elderly and children in the Third World. They have nobody who looks after them. The pigs and chickens in the Netherlands (as in many western countries) are fed fodder grown in the Third World, on land whereupon people don't have the space any more to grow food for themselves. A part of the meat produced in our country is sold to the origin of the fodder. This means competition for cattlemen in the Third World. As a consequence some people over there don't make enough money to buy that meat or that there's not enough food supply from their own environment.

When each country in the world provides its own food, export shall only rarely be necessary, that would only seduce people into exploiting nature for that purpose. We are concerned with food made out of animals. For, if you want to make food from animals and you want to sell in other parts of the world, your selling price must be low. Otherwise, no one will buy it. The difference between the actual and the reasonably expected price is what the animals pay for. Therefore Animal Freedom thinks that meat (products) should not be exported to foreign countries and pleads that cattlemen in Holland will only keep cattle for internal market from now on. In exchange the farmer has the right to claim that consumers pay the costs involved.

Are zoo animals really happy?

Zoos were founded in the past by people who visited all corners of the world. They brought the animals home to show what kind of rare and beautiful species they encountered during their journey. That way, zoo visitors didn't have to travel themselves to see these animals. Of course the zoos made a fine amount of money by charging entry fee. But it became clear very soon that some animals weren't happy in this artificial environment. Because of the small space they had, many animals had to walk in circles. This is where the expression 'walking in circles' comes from. They were bored to death and eventually many of them went mad. Nowadays the composition of animals and their accommodation have changed. You hardly ever see predatory animals anymore, because these don't feel at home in small spaces, where they are incapable of hunting. Animals that are still being kept get as much free space as possible and their natural environment is imitated as good as can be done.
Zoo's are there for the public, not for the animals. If it is economically unattractive or otherwise unattractive to keep them alive, the animals are put to death (f.e. surplus and young animals that are not cute baby's anymore).
Because there's not much left of their natural environment as well, zoos received a new function: breeding animals that are threatened with extinction. It obviously is better to try and protect these animals in their natural environment too.
Animals are happiest in their own natural environment. This is why an Ecological Main Structure (EMS) is constructed. The EMS implies that all the small nature reserves will be connected to one another and to new reserves, in order that animals (and plants) can travel freely and encounter congeners. This will hopefully prevent them from becoming extinct.

May we teach animals tricks like in a circus?

In case you've read the answers to the pervious question, you probably know the answer to this one. Before we can make animals do tricks we first have to make them depend upon us. If they were to choose they'd never do tricks spontaneously. Why should they? Animals don't want to earn money or receive applause. They have no desire for such appreciation.
The position of animals can be compared to that of children. Children also depend upon adults and have to go to school to learn stuff, often against their will. Children too, prefer to be free. The major difference between children and animals is that children receive full freedom once they've become adults, whereas pets, circus animals and bio-industry animals never will. Animals Freedom thinks this is inequitable, don't you agree?