Members of Parliament and Animal Protection
In 2004, when MP Ivo Banac put forward a Proposal for the new Animal Welfare Act, drafted by Animal Friends, his words missed the point with many MPs, some of which showed alarming ignorance and lack of interest. Certainly, statements made by those MPs who took the issues of legal protection of animals seriously showed the weak points in the existing Law and, even though the new Proposal was apparently still too futuristic for Croatian Parliament, it did send a clear message, namely that changes would be inevitable.
In 2006 the first reading of the proposal for the Animal Protection Act took place on May 25 in the Parliament, fared much better and even though some MPs did not reveal any improvement in their education and attitude, most of them did show that the issues of animal welfare had become important and decided to endorse the prohibition of breeding animals for fur production and the extension of deadlines after which animals could be euthanized in animal shelters; the regulation on the prohibition of circuses featuring wild animals was likewise accepted. Certain MPs objected to the regulation on obligatory stunning of animals by an expert before slaughtering in households, which resulted in the subsequent modification of that regulation.
On November 29, the second reading of the Final Proposal for the Animal Protection Act took place, provoking far stormier reactions. During the reading, some MPs showed great knowledge on the topic and endorsed animal rights and welfare with enthusiasm, while others made completely contrary statements, some of which virtually discredited the Parliament. Most MPs, regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed with particular regulations in this Bill, showed much concern for the issues of animal rights and welfare, even though the debate was frequently straying into digressions, as if some of the participants had forgotten that the Bill should protect animals rather than encourage their exploitation. Even though many were arguing on the basis of all sorts of traditions, one could also hear opinions that traditions should also change in accordance with the times and that cultural presentation of Croatia and its tourist offer should by no means include cruelty towards animals. Regrettably, some were also laughing about slaughtering animals, eating lamb chops, and the like; one could even hear opinions that animals should not be spoken about in anthropomorphic terms such as pain, fear, or suffering!
Eventually, on December 1, the majority of MPs voted for the new Animal Welfare Act: 73 voted in favour of the Proposal, 3 against, and 1 abstained. The amendments on the complete prohibition of dog races and keeping dogs on chain were rejected. However, more alarming was the acceptance of an amendment that exempts bullfights from the general prohibition of animal fights. The Law will become valid on January 1, 2007.
All in all, Croatian MPs seem to be aware, some more and others less, that the future will inevitably bring long-lasting and positive changes concerning animal welfare and protection of animal rights. They know very well that the Dutch Parliament now has two representatives from the Animal Rights Party (PvdD), whose programme includes the statement that animals are – just like people – living beings, conscious and emotional, and that their rights should be respected and protected. Croatian MPs are aware that this is only the first such case in the world and that others will follow it, since the progress of endorsing animal rights is irreversible. Any politician that is oriented towards the future should, for the sake of the citizens and the ever-increasing ethical awareness, also promote animal rights by his/her actions. That development has evidently set on in Croatia, although at a very slow pace, resulting in more and more MPs now seriously endorsing animal welfare and animal rights.