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Animal welfare bill faces cross-party criticism

The new legislative animal rights proposal under consideration by parliament has been lambasted by MPs and interest groups alike.

Emakko ja porsaat porsimishäkissä
Image: HKScan Group

The proposed new animal welfare law has been criticised as deficient and outdated by MPs across party lines, as well as animal rights organisations.

Yle's A-studio politics talk show centred on the question on Thursday, following last week's demonstration protesting the new bill.

Greens MP Emma Kari said on the Yle TV programme that the proposal is being pushed through without sufficient restrictions and protocols in accordance with the wishes of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (Finnish acronym MTK).

Conflicting views

"It seems that a single group is getting everything it asks for. The union is wielding immense power here," Kari said.

She adds that the expert group originally consulted for the drawing up of the bill was almost unanimous in its stance that livestock animals should not be chained to tiestall cattle barns and that gestation crates for sows should be banned. Only MTK stood in the way, and neither stipulation is in the proposal.

Yle's show featured Minister of Agriculture Jari Leppä of the Centre Party, MTK veterinarian Leena Suojala and rights group Animalia's executive director Heidi Kivekäs.

Suojala said that compromises must be made, while Leppä called the bill "very modern" and emphasised the need to safeguard Finnish food production. Kivekäs countered by saying that animal rights organisations are not asking for radical amendments, and that the now omitted goals have already been instated in a number of countries.

Current animal welfare legislation is more than 20 years old, and work on the current bill – intended to come into effect in 2020 – was begun a decade ago.

Government programme ties hands

One possible obstacle to amending the bill is the present government's official programme, which promises that producers' costs will not rise during this term. In practice this means that all animal welfare improvements must be brought about without any funding – which would be necessary in order to ban tiestall barn practices and sow stalls and to ensure sufficient distribution of water to livestock.

Kari says this clearly indicates that the government's targets for animal welfare were never very ambitious to begin with.

"This bill has been touted as the world's best animal welfare law. That is extremely far from the truth," she said.

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