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International Conference for Animals in Politics (ICAP) 2024

On 7 and 8 March 2024, Convergence Animaux Politique brought 53 animal protection NGOs from 11 European countries (Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, etc.) together in Paris for the first International Conference for Animals in Politics (ICAP).

Amongst the participants were NGOs such as Four Paws, Humane Society International / Europe, ProVeg, Anima International and GAIA, along with some twenty French political figures or representatives also present at the inaugural event. These included former minister André Vallini, senator Arnaud Bazin, member of parliament Anne-Laurence Petel, and candidates in the European elections. 

An inaugural conference on animal welfare governance across Europe

The inaugural conference on Thursday 7 March was devoted to the governance of animal protection across Europe, and put into perspective the different solutions adopted by Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy to integrate animal protection into the heart of their institutional systems. It has been a valuable opportunity to broaden horizons and enrich the debate in France and elsewhere.

The question of governance is crucial for considering the interests of animals in politics. How can these interests be most effectively represented within institutions? Is a dedicated ministry, whose portfolio does not include conflicting interests, better equipped to advocate for animals, or is it doomed to lose out in decision-making against those with greater political clout? Would an independent authority outside of the government, such as an ombudsperson, truly have the capacity to influence it? Could constitutionalizing animal protection offer hope for substantial progress?

Dounia Tadli, representative of the Walloon Minister for animal welfare, Céline Tellier, shared her experience of the introduction of this ministerial function in Belgium in 2014,  which has been a source of positive emulation between the regions. 

In summary: Currently, Belgium has three Ministers of Animal Welfare, three Animal Welfare Councils, and three regional administrations responsible for the topic (Walloon Region, Flemish Region, and Brussels-Capital Region). This situation fosters positive emulation in terms of progress in animal welfare, taking into account the specific sensitivities and realities of the different regions. However, ensuring coherence and coordination among the various entities remains a challenge. In this regard, standardizing practices and legislation at the European level, for example through the appointment of a European Commissioner for Animal Welfare, represents an exciting prospect.

Joana Born, representative of the first German Federal Commissioner for Animal Protection, Ariane Désirée Kari, appointed on 12 June 2023, underlined the importance of this new mandate to advance the animal condition at national level and within the European Union, whose independence is its main strength. 

In summary: Ariane Désirée Kari, Germany’s first Federal Commissioner for Animal Protection has initiated a new phase of commitment to animal welfare in 2023. At the heart of her mission are three crucial functions: facilitating dialogue between stakeholders, advising the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Food, and addressing citizen concerns. Drawing on her background in veterinary medicine and animal welfare, her strategic approach encompasses innovative communication campaigns, legislative advocacy and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Martin Balluch, President of VGT (Verein Gegen Tierfabriken) presented the political process that resulted to the constitutionalisation of animal protection in Austria in 2013. 

In summary: In Austria, animal protection NGOs ran a citizen initiative in 1996 to have animal protection enshrined in the Constitution. Despite the success of this initiative, which was signed by 35 members of Parliament and 8% of the population, their demands were not translated into political action. In 2012, the NGOs therefore launched a major collective campaign, including demonstrations in front of Parliament, press conferences and a symposium (specialist congress). After a year of intensive campaigning, animal protection entered the Constitution. However, in order to balance its effects, the government also included animal production and research (animal experimentation) as constitutional objectives. Over the last ten years, the Constitutional Court has regularly relied on this new provision.

Geovani Ciconte, Institutional Relations Specialist of LAV (Lega Anti Vivisezione) presented the political process that resulted to the constitutionalization of animal protection and its revolutionary impact on Italian legislation.

In summary: LAV has been involved in a complex constitutional revision process, culminating in the passage of a draft law introducing animal protection as a fundamental principle of the Republic in 2022. This amendment underlines the need to align private economic activities with social utility, health, and environmental concerns, including animal welfare. LAV’s efforts have led to a revolutionary transformation in Italy: current legislation must be revised in the light of this constitutional reform.

A day of sharing and cooperation between european NGOs

On Friday 8 March, NGO leaders and advocacy officers participated in a series of conferences and workshops to discuss effective political strategies for advancing the animal condition and encouraging the emergence of new areas of transnational cooperation. A number of NGOs shared their feedbacks of successful political campaigns, so as to draw lessons and best practices that could be transposed to other countries. The workshops also provided an opportunity for NGO representatives to share their respective difficulties and seek solutions together, as well as to compare their methodologies for developing political campaigns.

In a European context that is increasingly uncertain for the animal condition, this unprecedented event is intended to initiate greater consultation and cooperation between animal protection NGOs, beyond national borders and beyond the European level alone.