More than 500 MEP candidates signed a pledge to better protect wildlife, according to the animal welfare advocacy organisation Eurogroup for Animals.
Based in Brussels, the group launched the “Vote for Animals 2019" campaign in January. By signing the pledge, MEP candidates agree to better enforce existing animal welfare legislation, support adopting a broader legal framework for animal protections, and support naming a European commissioner on animal welfare among other more specific policy suggestions.
The over 500 candidates who signed the “Vote for Animals 2019” campaign come from political parties across the spectrum, although many come from those already focusing on environmental concerns.
The number of signatures "marks an upward trend in interest in animal welfare," Eurogroup for Animals political adviser Joe Moran told Euronews. Moran said the number of signatures continues to increase daily.
Sweden, Denmark, Poland, France, and Belgium have the largest number of candidates supporting the pledge, according to the non-profit group AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection.
In the "Vote for Animals 2019" campaign video, prospective EU candidates talk about ending the use of wild animals in circuses and respecting existing EU legislation on issues such as transporting animals.
“The EU already has a law that protects transported animals, but many member states don’t respect these rules,” says current German MEP and 2019 Social Democratic Party candidate Maria Noichl in the video. In February, the MEP supported limiting animal transport to a maximum of eight hours.
The candidates also commit to joining the EU’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals to “join forces with other animal welfare-friendly MEPs.” The Intergroup currently has 114 members of which only two MEPs were elected as members of animal welfare-associated parties.
After the elections in May, the EU Intergroup will have to be reformed. Eurogroup for Animals is hoping that the pledge will ensure that the Intergroup continues to have support.
Is the pledge limited to environmental parties?
Animal welfare parties are hoping to increase their presence in the upcoming European elections.
In France, 59 of the 119 candidates pledging to support animal welfare are from the “Parti Animaliste,” a party dedicated solely to animal rights. But only one candidate from each of the top two polling parties, the Rassemblement National and French President Emmanuel Macron’s “La République en Marche,” signed onto the pledge.
In Sweden, similarly, only one candidate signing the pledge is from a party polling top three in the country.
“Even if I’m not elected, the animal cause will be well defended by French eurodeputies,” tweeted MEP candidate Pascal Durand. He is the only member of President Macron’s European elections list to sign the pledge.
Moran thinks the momentum behind the pledge will help bring animal welfare issues to the major European parties as well. "In many member states, the campaign is really just beginning... we expect to see an upsurge in more of the mainstream parties as we get closer to the day itself."