04/01/02 Six Months of Animal Friends
Press conference report
Animal Friends is currently working on several campaigns are a preparing a number of others for the benefit of animals. This report contains information on the events in the last six months, i.e. since the organization was founded. Founded on the International Day of Vegetarianism, on October 1, 2001, this organization has clearly stated its aims - to fight for the rights of animals and to promote their protection, as well as vegetarianism as an ethical, ecological and healthy lifestyle.
In the last six months since its founding the organization developed into a relatively large and a strong non-profit non-governmental organization ready to act in all areas of animal protection, to react against any violation of the Animal Welfare Act as well as against all cases when the rights and needs of animals as living beings are being neglected. Our numerous activities and reactions show how much violence on animals has been incorporated into our society, and how much effort is needed to fight for a different treatment of animals.
Changes we managed to accomplish are obvious already after our initial six months. Vegetarian meals have been introduced into student cafeterias, and their introduction to other public institutions is expected as well. The decision on approving the permit to hunt in the area of the Nature Park Medvednica has been blocked, and a request for its reconsideration has been submitted. Hundreds of people turned to a vegetarian diet and became animal friends, and have joined us in our efforts to change the present condition, while thousands and thousands of others received our leaflets or have seen our messages in the media.
Campaigns we would like to emphasise are:
- demand to ban circuses with performing animals
When the Medrano circus performed in Zagreb we have organised several protests in front of the circus itself, and have submitted a demand to the city of Zagreb to ban any future visits of such circuses. After having shown the film on cruelty over animals in circuses we have received a negative answer from the local authorities for agriculture and forestry. However, we intend to pursue this issue as we have a large support of the public, which has been absolutely horrified to learn how the animals performing in circuses are being trained, treated and transported.
After Zagreb, we have organised the same campaign in Rijeka, where we have again organised protests and submitted to the City of Rijeka a demand to ban circuses with performing animals. This campaign then continued in the city of Pula, and it is our intention to submit this demand to all other cities in Croatia as well.
- petition to introduce vegetarian meals in public institutions
On the International Day of Vegetarianism and for the whole week afterwards, a petition was being signed to introduce vegetarian meals in public institutions like schools, hospitals, kindergartens, the army and prisons. Several thousand people have signed it, and the petition was submitted, together with our demand to all ministries in charge of certain public institutions, as well as to the president, the prime minister and the government. We have already received a positive response from the Ministry of Science which introduced vegetarian meals to student cafeterias, the Croatian Parliament which also offers vegetarian meals in its cafeteria and from several other state institutions, while the ministries of education, defence and health, as well as the president and the prime minister have not reacted to our petition. Our demands will be resubmitted to all these addresses, and we will continue doing this until vegetarian meals are offered to all Croatian citizens as their right to choose. Vegetarians will not be discriminated any longer because of choosing a healthier, ecologically friendly and ethical diet.
- fur - never again, campaign against wearing fur
This campaign was initiated last winter with several protests and a support march in downtown Zagreb. We have decided to continue it in March, and have yesterday officially initiated the campaign to ban the production of fur in Croatian farms with the performance of Robert Franciszty.
Next Thursday we are organising a similar protest to the one that occurred yesterday in downtown Zagreb, on the so-called "Flower Square" where fur coats were burned. In this next one a funeral procession will carry caskets with fur "decorations," i.e. foxes, weasels and a number of other unlucky animals killed for fashion. The action will be called "In Memory of the Victims of Fashion" and will encompass the funeral procession and lighting candles in front of fur stores. In addition we will be showing films on the cruelty on animals in the fur industry on the "Flower Square" and will be handing out material related to the topic.
- revoking the permit to hunt in the Nature Park Medvednica
After eight years of ban, hunting in the Nature Park Medvednica has been permitted, to which we have strongly reacted, and had immediately organised a protest in front of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. During the protest a meeting was convened with the ministry officials, those of the nature park and the animal friends representatives where it was agreed that this decision will be resubmitted to Minister Kovacevic for reconsideration. After several weeks of stalling the decision was transferred to the administrative board of the nature park, which has still not reached a decision hoping we will forget our demands. The public is on our side and the number of protests against hunting on Medvednica is increasing.
- demand to revoke Article 54 of the Hunting Act of the Republic of Croatia
After a recent statement by President Mesic from an official session of the hunting association, where he referred to hunters as real animal protectors, while we, according to Mesic, "do not know much about hunting" and "spread all kinds of stories," we have decided to initiate a campaign on showing the public the truth about hunting. If the president himself can say that the hunters are protecting animals, it was our assumption that most of the public did not think differently. The hunting lobby is exceptionally strong in Croatia, and their 'truth' is imposed through the media, misinforming the people on the issue.
After the killings and hangings of dogs and cats on trees in Medjimurje, we have composed a demand to modify Article 54 of the Hunting Act which allows people with a valid hunting permit to "remove" (which hunters interpret as "shoot") dogs and cats in case they are found in a hunting area 300 m from an inhabited place. We are of the opinion that this Act is insane, and since it does not fall within either a necessary law nor an international standard (which the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry claims it is), we have demanded its abolishment.
As a result of our persistence we have finally received a response from the stated ministry, where deputy minister Zeljko Rendulic attacks us, saying we should be "co-operating with the hunters instead of conducting a senseless war?!" Due to this response as an official stand of the ministry, in addition to the fact that the ministry is run precisely by hunters, we have decided to ask the international community for animal protection for help.
We have sent an internet petition world-wide which has arrived to thousands of addresses and organisations literally throughout Europe and North America, and countries like Guatemala, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Australia and Oceania. In many countries various organisations initiated parallel campaigns asking their population to boycott tourist destinations in Croatia, demanding from their governments to cut short negotiations on Croatia joining the European Union. This reaction is not what we had wanted, but if this is the only way to bring about changes, we will have no choice but to use this international pressure of organisations and individuals fighting for the rights and protection of animals.
At this point the petition has several thousand signatures, mostly from West European countries, but also from all other continents, even from some countries where war or other disasters are raging. Letters of support that we are receiving are numerous and strong. Croatian tourist season might be in danger, but the people responsible for this problem accuse us instead of doing what is necessary and reasonable - to modify the insane laws and respect the Animal Welfare Act.
We are afraid that if our demands are not met and the official stand towards animals in Croatia does not change, the international community could initiate a strong pressure on Croatia, putting the Croatian tourist season in danger.
Some of the campaigns we are planning in the next couple of months are that we are working on now:
- the list of Croatian manufacturers and distributors of cosmetics and cleaning products tested on animals
The aim of this campaign is to compile a list of all manufacturers who test their products or their ingredients on animals, as well as a list of all those who do not do this. Some of the leading manufacturers of cosmetics and house cleaning products in the world do not test their products on animals and such lists exist abroad for a while, which is why we want to compile such a list for Croatia as well.
Within this campaign we will inform the public what tests on animals actually comprise, and how much they benefit or harm people, as well as how necessary they really are and how much benefit certain industries have from them, to the disadvantage of animals, science and humankind in general.
- life on a leash is not a life
The campaign will request people not to keep their dogs tied, as dogs suffer significantly from this, who are by nature friendly beings, and for who isolation and the restriction of movement is extremely agonising in yards where they spend their entire lives chained. Croatia is full of examples of this kind, where dogs spend their lives in a two meter area around their "doghouse" both in bitter cold and in the summer heat.
Animal Friends is planning a number of other campaigns, not related to the ones listed above, as well as publishing pocket-size vegetarian cookbooks, vegetarianism for beginners, children's books, the organisation's bulletin and magazine. We have already held a number of lectures and have shown films which we will continue doing. We have visited several cities so far (Osijek, Rijeka, Sibenik, Zadar, Labin, Sisak, and others) informing the public about our activities, vegetarianism and current campaigns.
We have also registered an information stand each Friday and Saturday in the next several months, where the public will be able to learn more on animal protection and rights, vegetarianism, the organisation itself and of course, join our organisation as members.
Another important thing is also our web site www.prijatelji-zivotinja.hr which is updated daily, and includes a number of interesting topics, petitions, pictures, information on famous vegetarians among famous movie, music and fashion stars, on great vegetarian philosophers and others in human history, while the section "frequently asked questions" contains answers to absolutely all questions on animal rights, vegetarianism, hunting, tests conducted on animals and all other activities of our organisation.
In their first six months Animal Friends has proven to be one of the most active organisations in Croatia, and one of the most interesting ones as well, as we receive a number of questions and support mail daily, and the number of our members grows by the day. We hope this trend will continue in the next six months and in the coming years.