This iron is hot but then what?

This article was first published on The Malta Independent on the 21st March.

I’ve always strongly believed that the electorate is by far more knowledgeable and savvy than most politicians think or assume. Before I decided to run for office myself, just a couple of years ago, I too used to feel that candidates and politicians gravely underestimated my ability to measure, judge and decide.

In fact, just before every election, as soon as political campaigns kicked off, I always felt patronized with empty promises from politicians from all sides and colours. Suddenly, with elections around the corner, many took an interest in me, in my family, in my neighbours and also in issues that they normally wouldn’t have spent any time on.

Ask any animal activist and they will tell you that this phoney attentiveness from politicians just before an election is particularly true when it comes to animal welfare related issues. The problems in this area are complex and have been long-standing; the promises have been long coming and the results always incredibly elusive. So it’s no wonder that now, when I approached a group of animal activists as a political candidate myself, I was met with eyes rolling into foreheads and skeptical attitudes of disbelief.

Animal activists in Malta, and dare I say all over Europe, have been relentless, persistent and determined. For years they’ve been trying to influence public opinion by encouraging cruelty-free living, changing public policy and passing laws that protect animals. Notwithstanding their passion and dedication however, our exploitation, neglect and abuse of animals is unabated.

I am convinced that not enough is being done at European level in this area and that a bigger focus can and should be afforded on this issue, not only because it should form part of our overall environmental policy but also because it is the right thing to do.

The next MEP elections for which I’m contesting will determine Europe’s political priorities for the next five years. Any progress in the area of animal welfare is almost completely dependent on the parliamentarians that are elected, and this is why I’ve taken a serious commitment to improve the situation of animal welfare on a European level by being the first Maltese MEP candidate to sign the EU Animal Welfare Pledge.

About the Pledge

The pledge is far reaching and deals with different areas, from farm animals to wildlife, from equines to pets, from animal science to the trade of animals.

In summary this is what I’ve wholeheartedly committed myself to:

  1. I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge to ensure that animal sentience and its implications is acknowledged in all relevant legislative proposals and policy initiatives that come before parliament.
  2. I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge that in the case of a revision of the treaties, I will support the inclusion of animal welfare as a shared competence. This would allow the Union institutions to make law on animal welfare per se, just as can be done within individual Member States. This reflects EU citizens’ expectations, as the majority of them believe some or most decisions on animal welfare should be taken at the EU level (Eurobarometer, 2016).
  3. Currently compliance and enforcement too often fall short of expectations. So, I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge to pledge to urge the commission to ensure efficient enforcement and implementation of animal welfare related legislation in all member states.
  4. I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge to support the adoption of a general animal welfare framework law to provide a minimum level of protection to all animals while safeguarding the existing acquis (accumulated legislation, legal acts, and court decisions which constitute the body of European Union law). Current animal welfare related EU legislation is still limited in its scope. The introduction of an EU-Framework Law on animal welfare would have the objective to provide basic protection to all kept and abandoned animals, including stray animals of domesticated species thus reflecting the principle of animal sentience enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty. The law should by all means not water down the current EU animal welfare acquis but provide clear rules facilitating better and more thorough levels of compliance with existing animal welfare related legislation.
  5. I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge to promote and support policy developments for the introduction of better animal welfare standards
  6. I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight pledge to call on the commission to appoint a commissioner on animal welfare. Animal welfare is a horizontal issue that touches upon a variety of European policies. Today, about a quarter of the Commission’s departments directly relate to the interests of animals. Putting animal welfare under a single Commissioner is a goal to ensure it receives a joined-up approach by the EU’s executive. This would send a strong message about any Commission’s commitment to improve the lives of animals.

I Dr. Roselyn Borg Knight, wish I could say that once elected I will see to it that wild animals are protected and not kept as pets, that breeders are heavily regulated, that strays are briskly picked up from the streets and taken to a safe and adequate environment, that people caught in breech of the law will face timely justice and that farm animals are respected and loved regardless of their fate. But of course, had I to promise all this, I’d be like those politicians who used to patronize me before I decided to run for office myself.

If all the passionate and relentless animal activists I know have had little success in the past, I know just how hard it is to achieve all this. What I can say however, and I say this hand on heart, is that I am truly committed to this cause, that I will work with anyone who can assist me, and that I will give it my very best shot.

Signing the EU Animal Welfare Pledge, was just the first step. The road ahead is long, but the iron is hot, so let’s do this.

For the full details of the pledge click here


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