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Picture: Kabsik Park/Flickr

The Finnish political parties are slowly waking up to support legislation where gestation crates and tie-stall cattle barns are banned to ease the suffering of animals. But there are still black sheep limping among the pols.

“It is very satisfying that 5 out of 7 parties support the ban of confining structures. These ways of keeping animals are one of the most serious farm animal-related issues that have to change,” Mai Kivelä, the acting executive director of Animalia, says in a bulletin.

The opinions are revealed in a survey conducted by Animalia and SEY, the Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Associations. The questionnaire to the Finnish parliamentary parties shows that support for improving the Animal Welfare Act exists in the Finnish political field.

In addition to the animal welfare organisations political parties like the Green League and the Left, are demanding a ban on the unethical gestation cage and the use of tie-stall cattle barns.

A gestation crate is a metallic cage where the female breeding pig is kept during farrowing for about 9 weeks. The sow can’t turn. The piglets suck milk through the cage. The crates have been proven to forestall sows’ normal social intercourse and taking care of the piglets, and they cause severe welfare issues. In addition, half of Finnish dairy cows live in tie-stall cattle barns. The frustration from being tethered to one place is believed to cause abnormal behavior, such as stereotypy.

[alert type=green ]The frustration from being tethered to one place is believed to cause abnormal behavior.[/alert]

The pols also support the pain relief of farm animals and the supply of drinking water. The parties were almost unanimous on the improvement of pain relief, except for the Finns Party. The continuous securing of water supply was supported by most. It is not currently required by the law that fur animals have a continuous access to drinking water.

However, many key problems, such as strengthening the surveillance of animal welfare, are not supported by the parties.

“It is worrying that there are only three parties supporting the strengthening the surveillance of animal protection. There is room for improvement in surveillance and combatting defects because, according to a new report by the Finnish food safety authority Evira, 23 per cent of the sample-based animal protection inspections revealed shortcomings,” says Maria Lindqvist, the acting executive director of SEY.

The inclusion of animals’ intrinsic value in the Act generated most uncertainty, and two parties gave no answers to the question at all. According to the animal welfare organisations, animals as sentient beings that have intrinsic value should be the starting point of the Act. At the moment, animals are objectified in the Act, and they do not have any rights at all. It is essential that the parties set out their positions regarding this question in the law reform.

The Green League and the Left Alliance are the most animal-positive parties as they both support the Animal Welfare Act improvements mentioned in the survey. The National Coalition Party supported six improvement needs out of ten. The Social Democratic Party, the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, and the Centre Party were more negative about the animal welfare improvement needs. The Finns Party turned out to be the most adverse party to animal welfare.

[alert type=red ] The Finns Party turned out to be the most adverse party to animal welfare.[/alert]

The Finnish Animal Welfare Act is 20 years old, and it is behind the development and the latest research information on the other Nordic countries. The parties were asked about their thoughts on the improvement of the most central issues of the Animal Welfare Act. The survey was answered by the National Coalition Party, the Left Alliance, the Green League, the Centre Party, the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, the Social Democratic Party, and the Finns Party. The Christian Democrats did not answer the survey.

The aim of the Animal Welfare Act campaign by SEY and Animalia is to give Finland the best animal welfare legislation in the world. The campaign collects signatures for a petition that demands the decision makers to address the most severe defects in the animal protection legislation. Further information about the campaign is available at www.elä

Here are the answers of the political parties in Finnish.