Interview with “Menschen für Tierrechte” (People for Animal Rights)
Robert Kresse: MfT is working on a class action lawsuit in Germany. What exactly is this and how could it help pigs in detail?
Marion Selig: In the constitutional state of Germany exists a serious tilt concerning law in terms of animal welfare: livestock owners, as there are e.g. pig farmers, can sue through all instances against requirements of animal welfare, which are assumed as to strong. So, they can defend themselves against the assumed violation of their rights via a juridical path; this can happen if, for example, the official veterinarian determines to offer more space to pigs. Animal rights activists on the other side have no opportunity to prosecute more animal welfare by court. Assuming, my opinion was, that conditions in pig breeding are absolutely agonizing and violate the law of animal welfare – which say, that animals have to be kept and supplied species-appropriate –; neither myself as a private individual nor as deputy chairwoman of my association could take legal action against this. The only possibility would be to report an offence to the prosecution. We can tell from experience that such complaints almost always are dismissed. Verbal hearings with external experts and so on practically never take place.
The class action lawsuit for animal rights would remove this situation. Because it would allow accredited organisations of animal welfare to take legal action – substitutional and quasi as a lawyer for animals – which formally have now legal position. The class action lawsuit for animal rights would not create a new law on animal welfare, but is absolutely necessary to enforce already existing rules and regulations effectively. With the class action lawsuit for animal welfare, organisations for animal welfare could juridically control the current housing of pigs. Even a lawsuit against the castration of male piglets without anaesthesia would be possible.
By the way: the only German state, which established the class action lawsuit for animal welfare so far was Bremen in October 2007. Class action is not a novelty: in conservation law, the law concerning handicapped people and the competition law the class action law suit is already accepted and proved of value.
Robert Kresse: What in general criticises MfT on pig breeding?
Marion Selig: Pigs are intelligent and social animals. Mothers build a nest before they give birth. They suckle their children for three months. Within the group there is a network of social relationships, which are especially close to related animals. Pigs like to look for seeds, fruits and grasses in the ground. They like to wallow themselves and are curiously exploring their environment. All these things they cannot do at all in the nowadays common way of pig breeding. Today piglets get cut off their ring tail and their eye teeth. Male piglets are castrated – currently this is permitted in the first days of theirs lives even without anaesthesia. „Rearing pigs“ („fatteners“) are kept on a slatted floor – that means tightness, stench and boredom each and every day. Female animals for breeding are reduced to machines of parturition, who can live together with the other pigs only for a part of their pregnancy. Shortly before, while they give birth and the weeks afterwards the mothers have to stay in small boxes – almost completely motionless.
Robert Kresse: What is the most crucial point for MfT criticising on pig breeding?
Marion Selig: In the end, conventional pig breeding altogether is absolutely tormenting and not acceptable. Mulitating of animals, the permanent keeping in the stable on a slatted floor, often without litter and the poundage of the mothers on small boxes are a total non species-appropriate; boredom, injuries and conduct disorders – which means considerable suffering – are preprogrammated.
Robert Kresse: How does the optimal type of housing for pigs look like according to MfT?
Marion Selig: As animal rights activists we in principal question the keeping (in imprisonment) of animals. Apart from the animal’s rights to life and physical integrity, it’s not necessary to keep them for food-production and to kill them. On the contrary, the consumption of animal products causes a lot of problems, concerning human health as well as the climate change. The bigger part of greenhouse gases results from breeding, killing and eating animals. Besides, the energy of plants is destroyed and also a lot of energy from elsewhere is wasted.
But as long as human beings will keep animals, we account it as necessary to arrange the conditions of the keeping of animal as acceptable as possible. As it concerns pigs, this would mean: a life in family connection, enough space, time to spend outside, litter in the stable, prohibition of small boxes, prohibition of castration without anaesthesia and of the amputation of tails and the cutting-off of eye teeth.