Holding MEP elections alongside the ones for local councils saves on money, but has the potential to confuse the important local issues with the important EU issues. European Pariament and its committees discuss and vote on a number of animal related policies, so we thought of putting a few important ones for your information and hope this helps make the choice less confusing. Just remember that the MEPs you choose do not only affect you and your country and therefore the animals here, but will be part of of larger body that steers EU policy, thus having a potentially negative or positive effect on animal across the EU, but even the world as we have seen with GDPR that EU can implement policy that effects the whole world, when it wants to.
WHO DID WHAT...
The European Parliament's Intergroup for Animals
The intergroup organises monthly meetings to discuss salient issues brought up by the public, i.e. you, with the input of experts and stakeholders, and is open to all MEPs that are eager to participate, thought they may send a representative in their place if they are unable to make it. It plays a key role in driving changes in policy and is in practice one of the best or only ways MEPs become aware of the issues so close to your animal-loving hearts. The intergroup publishes membership and attendance records, if you want to assess how active MEPs that are up for re-election were, you can visit http://www.animalwelfareintergroup.eu/meetings/attendance/
Sadly, we will not have the opportunity to support one of the most active members but we wanted to give a shout out in appreciation to Marlene Mizzi for her work. She walks away from European Parliament with 2017 EU4ANIMALS award.
Vote Tracking and Participation
Votewtach.eu has extensive ways for you to track your MEP's votes, which way they swing, how loyal they are to their party's policies (whether that is a good or a bad thing, we'd rather not comment), how often they participate etc. And you can filter which policies you are interested in. There is not a policy filter for animal welfare per se, but we suggest having a look at rankings on "Agricultural" and "Fisheries" which contain votes for protection of animals during transport, trade policies related to animals and a lot of it ties in to hot potatoes that we animal lovers have to deal with all to often. The two most influencial MEPs we have had in this respect are Miriam Dalli and Roberta Metsola so it is imprtant to question these two on what their position of animal welfare issues are, especially since they seem to have their seat secured for the upcoming term.
That's just how you might be able to see which existing MEPs have made their weight and interest known on the issues.
THE HOT POTATOES
Pet travel and pet trade
We are very familiar with the pet travel scheme and how much easier it has become for us to travel with our pets, for us to send or receive animals across state borders and how this has facilitated international rehoming. As with everything new, there were gains from this and there were losses, which we hope the EU will reassess to implement improvement. While we agree travel should remain easier than it used to be, we would love to see some sense coming back into how this effects the spread of disease. For example, the current policies totally ignore the very real possibility that a rabies vaccine might not work as it does not require a titer test for travel, and also ignores the different disease profiles of different countries at the risk of introducing new diseases to naiive populations where vets might even be inexperienced with that particular pathogen, with zoonotic disease being of particular concern.
EU parliament voted on the Common Agricultural Policy on the 2nd April which will set the tone for the next 7 years. They voted for the EU to continue subsidizing Europe’s most environmentally destructive factory farms. It meas that Europe lost a golden opportunity to turn things around for animal welfare in farms, agriculture's contribution to global warming and environmental erosion. The committee decided to not heed the warnings of scientists the world over about the necessity to kick these practices to the curb. But all is not lost, your vote as well as your money can change things for the better sooner rather than later.
Stray Population Management
With easier pet travel, the last decade has seen a significant increase of rehoming across state borders. Malta has not been any different. When Malta had many more stray dogs, it was common practice to send dogs to Germany, Sweden, Spain, and so on, for rehoming at one of many NGO centers overseas. As it goes, we are also receiving such rehomed dogs from Sicily and other parts of Europe. While we definitely agree that no mater where, animals in need should be helped, we cannot agree that rehoming overseas is a necessity. The lack of action of the country of origin to control the stray population is the direct cause of such animals needing help. EU Parliament can, if willing, adopt a resolution to steer member states towards each making sure that they are doing their part, by implementing humane stray management programs, therefore minimizing the impact on other member states. It is after all in the best interest of every state and their animals.
A rather contentious subject since there are many ways in which animals are used for testing and not all pose a welfare problem, so I have to specify here that I am not talking about taste and palatebility testing here. I am taking about the use of animals to test cosmetics and medicines for effectiveness and toxicity, which is already flawed in principle as not being the same species, animal testing tells you very little on how the human body will use and tolerate the same chemicals. Just remember we have different ways and rates at which we metabolize things. We don't even process food the same way nor need the same proportion of nutrients. Besides the potential harm these animals are exposed to, it is also worthy of note that most are destroyed after the experiments and that the quality of life of a lab animal is not what you and I would call satisfactory, let alone good. So again it is well worth probing your MEP so you know what you are actually voting for on this topic in case they will be asked to make their position useful in their work.
Food labeling and censorship
To you and I, veggie-burger and a vegan-sausage mean exactly what they describe; products that resemble in shape and consistency the hamburger and sausage but are made from plant ingredients. Well, little do most of you know that MEPs were asked to vote to ban these words and that they actually did. This hinders the consumer's freedom to choose such food by making it difficult to identify such foods on a supermarket shelf or menu as it forces the vegan and vegetarian food makers to come up with new names for these items that have not yet reached the lexicon of the man on the street or the person stacking the shelves. Just to give you an idea, we have had the term "almond milk" for as long as we can all remember, but the possibility of that product being labelled as such is threatened by the lobby who would sooner see terms like, milk, burger, sausage, cheese, etc. reserved to only the products they themselves sell.
Similarly, there is still a free-for-all system for labeling products as vegan and/or vegetarian with the consumer being left with having to either check every ingredient or restricting their diet to only those labelled as such by external review such as the Vegan Society.
Additionally, as mentioned before, the EU has only imposed animal welfare labeling on eggs. Even in that respect, the criteria to fulfill in order to label eggs as free-range is deceptive. The English dictionary meaning of "free-range" is "(of livestock, especially poultry) kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement." That is not however what the law allows to be labelled as such, because the animals need only have free movement for at least part of the day. Which part and how long is not defined. It means that the MSPCA could label their dogs as free-range because we let the dogs run in the yard while we clean their kennels. Most buyers do not know this. Heck I didn't know this until a few weeks ago.
We have seen that when it wants to the EU is fully capable of imposing its rules beyond its member states (yes I am talking about GDPR) so when you think about it the EU can impose its food labeling regulations on all imported products sold in EU states. Your vote counts for something! Don't waste it by not participating or by voting for the wrong person.
ANIMAL LIBERATION MALTA AND VEGGYMALTA SEND QUESTIONS TO MEP CANDIDATES
We expect answers and we will be looking out for them.