Last week I went to Bucharest, Romania, with a delegation from the European parliament’s Petitions Committee. We were dealing with a number of issues raised in various petitions including:
Wind turbines: There are protests against proposals to install 2,400 wind turbines in a scenic area of the country;
Gold Mining: There are protests against plans to invest a billion euros in a new gold-mining project in the town of Rosia Montana, where they have a two-thousand year tradition of mining, and 80% unemployment.
Bucharest Cathedral: The Catholic Church is very upset about a 20-storey building which has been erected within twenty feet of the historic Cathedral, using a very dodgy and illegal building permit. We met with the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bucharest.
International adoption: Romania banned international adoptions after the revelation of abuses of some children adopted abroad. Meantime the country has some 60,000 children in orphanages where money is tight and standards woefully low. Is it better to allow international adoption, accepting the risks involved — or leave children to the virtual certainty of a very poor life in a local orphanage?
But I want to record an incident unrelated to any of these petitions. We MEPs have recently been bombarded by huge numbers of spam e-mails protesting at the treatment of dogs in Romania. There seem to be grounds for the protests. There are reports of large numbers of strays being rounded up for slaughter, kept in appalling conditions, and disposed of with scant regard for animal welfare. I have to say that though I yield to no one in my concern for animal welfare, and especially that of dogs, I rapidly lose sympathy with these organised spamming campaigns, especially when, like this one, they are couched in impersonal and peremptory terms.
“We the undersigned as European taxpayers demand that you … etc etc etc…”. I noted that a high proportion of them came from the USA, and at first I replied “EU taxpayer? In Minnesota?” until the numbers became too great and I simply deleted them. (Apologies to any East Midlands constituents that I may have overlooked, but there were just too many to analyse).
I should add that I understand that there may regrettably be a need to cull stray and feral dogs, and I can accept that provided that it is done humanely. The evidence seems to indicate that this is not always the case in Romania.
However I found myself in Bucharest in a meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment Cristian Apostol, sitting in the vast marble halls of former President Ceausescu’s preposterous People’s Palace, now used inter alia as the home of the Romanian parliament. The opportunity to raise the animal welfare issue seemed too good to miss. It was a large meeting where many participants wanted to speak, and we had a full agenda and very limited time, so there was no opportunity for an extended debate, and indeed I was imposing on the patience of the meeting by introducing a non-agenda item at all. But I did mention that we had all been recipients of this spam campaign, that we were concerned about animal welfare, and that I invited the Secretary of State’s comments.
I was fairly astonished by his reply (which may have lost something in translation). He said that responsibility for the management of stray and feral dogs had been transferred from national to regional government — but offered no suggesting as to whether, or why, this might improve matters. And he spoke about the implications of their policy for human and public health. But he said nothing at all about animal welfare or the humane treatment of dogs. Nothing at all. It was as if animal welfare were a completely alien concept that he was unable to engage with.
It was not possible in that context to ask any follow-up question, but I will certainly be writing to Mr. Apostol.
So I hope that all those who have been spamming MEPs about Romanian dogs will take note that I did at least raise the issue with a Romanian Minister. I am sure that most readers of this blog will share my concern for stray dogs. But I wonder whether those who wrote to MEPs should perhaps be even more concerned about the plight of Romanian children in those orphanages?