Djurens Rätt - Animal Rights Sweden
Djurens Rätt is the largest animal rights and animal welfare organisation in Sweden. We are striving for a world where animals are respected as sentient beings with the right to their own lives.
Choosing not to include animal products in your meals is the most concrete and efficient way of making a difference for the animals. Did you know that one single person that goes vegan spares the lives of 15 cows, pigs and chicken as well as 2000 fish every year? It’s really quite outstanding that each and every one of us can make that big difference. It makes you reflect over what all we can achieve if we stand together, don’t it?
Welcome to a journey towards a more animal friendly world: Download Djurens Rätts inspirational magazine with tips and recepies for a more animal friendly lifestyle
To relentlessly stand up for animals is the very essence of Djurens Rätt and has been since the organisation was founded in 1882. Djurens Rätt conducts animal rights advocacy work vis-à-vis parliamentary politicians, municipal politicians, the authorities, EU politicians, institutions and companies. Each day we are shaping the opinions of the people through articles in newspapers and magazines, interaction via social media, our extensive summer tour and via our campaigns. Our aim is to make as big a difference as possible for as many animals as possible.
Djurens Rätt is dependent on voluntary support in order to be able to help the animals. Djurens Rätt consists of all of its members and donors who work together. In that way, we are a strong and growing movement that stands up for those who have no voice of their own.
What we do
We work on behalf of all the animals that are suffering through animal experiments in the food industry's animal factories, in cages on fur farms, and animals, which in other ways are being exploited by people so that they do not have an outlet for their natural behaviours.
Djurens Rätt is working to bring about attitudinal and legislative changes that raise the status of other animals in accordance with our basic view. We are advocating that the activities in society that are significantly contrary to the interests of animals shall be abolished. But as long as these conditions remain, the circumstances in which animals exist must be improved. Djurens Rätt prioritises work in the following areas: animal experiments, animals in the food industry, fur production and veganism/consumer.
Djurens Rätt is a pronounced anti-violence movement, because we believe that neither people nor animals should be subjected to violence. Through democratic advocacy, political influence and changing people's attitudes we want to realise our goal: a society that does not oppress animals. We operate primarily in Sweden but we also work with other organisations and networks internationally and within the EU.
We are politically independent and the organisation is structured according to the classic popular movement model with local organisations as its base and a national conference as the highest decision-making body. Every two years, the national conference chooses an executive committee that has a national organisation with salaried employees and national working groups to assist it.
What we think
The relationship between humans and animals is for better or for worse. But because we humans have all the power, the relationship is characterised by the fact that, fundamentally, it is all on our terms. But power does not make it right.
Animals are like people, living, sentient beings with interests and needs that must be satisfied. Biologically, man is also an animal, so the correct expression should actually be "man and other animals". People, however, can choose to do good or evil, and they therefore possess a particular responsibility to their fellow creatures.
The ability to experience, feel pain and desire, are common to animals. It is this ability that means that a creature has interests such as not being exposed to suffering. Suffering can take many forms, both physical and mental. A creature's moral status is not determined by its intelligence but by its ability to empathise.
A common belief is that you only need to take into account other animals in the form of entire species or populations. But because suffering is experienced by individual creatures, not by individual species, the individual creature should instead be made central. What leads to suffering can vary not only between species but also between individual animals.
Animals must be able to live in a way that provides an outlet for their natural behaviours, in accordance with their specific needs. The objective should be that animals shall not be exploited by people in such a manner and for such purposes so that they are incompatible with their own interests as individuals.
Human society and the prevailing morality should extend its solidarity and also allow other animals within its scope of consideration, compassion and respect.
Such an approach underlies our slogan: For a society that does not oppress animals!
Local and international commitment
The local organisations, and individual members/sympathizers are engaged in most of our efforts aimed at promotion and providing information. The basis and coordination of the campaigns and the development of scientifically substantiated reports are handled primarily by the national organisation.
We also work outside the country's borders. An important part of our work is to attempt to influence politicians in the EU in order to achieve better protection for animals. We do this through joint campaigns in Europe and through lobbying, notably via the organisation Eurogroup for Animals, of which we are members. Djurens Rätt is also a member of the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments and the Fur Free Alliance, among others. Read more about our international collaborations.
Djurens Rätt is dependent on voluntary support in order to be able to help animals. Djurens Rätt and its operations are therefore all of its members and donors. It is the membership fees, inheritances and other types of gifts that enable Djurens Rätt to be a strong voice that represents the animals.
Djurens Rätt has a “90 account” which means that the organisation is monitored by the Swedish Fundraising Control. To be given a 90 account requires, among other things, that at least 75% of each year's revenues goes directly to the organisation's operations in the same year. Djurens Rätt is also a member of Frivilligorganisationernas Insamlingsråd – FRII (the Swedish Fundraising Council), which brings together many of the major non-profit relief organisations in Sweden.
Where the money goes
Djurens Rätt works at several different levels. We work by shaping public opinion and have a lot of contact with companies in order to inspire and encourage an improved approach to animal welfare. We want to make it easier for consumers to make animal-friendly choices. A large part of our work also consists of exerting political influence – partly through direct contact with politicians and partly through various reference groups that operate within the authorities.
Much of Djurens Rätt's work is carried out by volunteers who are active throughout the country, but we also have employed personnel. The money that Djurens Rätt receives goes to the entire organisation. It funds everything – from printed materials and surveys, to campaigns and salaries. It makes it possible for the organisation to be out there talking directly with tens of thousands of people, to maintain a considerable presence in social media, to organise seminars that target politicians and other policy-makers, to participate in major international collaborations, and much, much more. Membership fees, inheritances and all other types of gifts are quite simply the means that enable all aspects of Djurens Rätt's activities.
The Nordic Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded on 7 October 1882 at Stockholm Palace by cabinet minister, Johan Christopher Lembcke at the invitation of Princess Eugénie. A few days later, on 11 October, the newly formed organisation held its inaugural meeting at the venerable Hotel Rydberg on Gustav Adolfs torg in Stockholm.
Princess Eugénie was the organisation's first member, and Adolf Leonard Nordwall from Strängnäs was the organisation's first President. Nordwall died in 1892 and the organisation had a low level of activity until the year 1900. The Nordic Community then received new management – the married couple Elna and Christian L. Tenow, who unlike Nordwall advocated a vegetarian diet for the sake of the animals – and even for health reasons.
In 1902, Elna Tenow started a pamphlet for its members ("Medlemsbladet") which changed its name in 1909 to "Djurens Rätt", a name which it has retained to this day. The Nordic Community grew rapidly in membership and by 1904 had upwards of 10,000 members!
In the Nordic Community, the same people who were active in the early 20th century remained on the Board until the 1940s with no one from the next generation becoming a member of the Board after Tenow.
Once again, a married couple would take over the leadership of the Nordic Community; Johan and Ellen Börtz. Johan was elected President in 1951 and retired in 1976, when he was 77 years old. Ellen was the Board's secretary. She took care of the administration and was the editor of the magazine.
The brochures became a way of reaching out to people, to talk about the painful experiments on animals. It resulted in membership beginning to grow, from having been at a record low of just under 700 members in the early 1950s. In 1959 the first local hive-off occurred, a branch organisation in Motala, by which time membership had passed the 3,000 mark.
When the Nordic Community in 1970 for the second time, changed its name to the Nordic Community against Painful Experiments on Animals, a final breakthrough was achieved. Membership increased to over 7,000 people. A new generation was committed not only to the abolition of animal experiments but they also questioned animal oppression itself.
The 1980s became a successful decade for the organisation. In 1985, Djurens Rätt gained more new members than ever before, more than 15,000 people. In 1990, the Nordic Community had the most members: 64,817. Throughout this successful decade, Birgitta Carlsson (1977-1993) was President of the organisation.
The 1990s involved Djurens Rätt becoming increasingly committed to matters other than animal experiments. The concept of animal rights became established after its introduction by Lisa Gålmark, an employee of Djurens Rätt. A new generation took up a position in favour of animals by becoming vegetarians or vegans.
At the national convention – the organisation's supreme decision-making body, it was decided in 1999 that the Nordic Community against Painful Experiments on Animals would change its name to the Association of Animal Rights (Djurens Rätt).
Djurens Rätt is of the opinion that all sentient beings should live their lives without oppression, coercion or exploitation. These seem like self-evident rights, yet this does not apply to all individuals. For those who, for example, walk on four legs, or lay eggs, their situations are very different.
There are often discussions about how wrong it is to discriminate against someone just because they have a certain skin colour or because they belong to a particular gender, even if the problems are far from solved. Systematic discrimination based on species (speciesism) is however, never disputed in principle. We shall now take a closer look at this. Humans have a special status. We can choose to do good or evil. Our ability to plan and analyse means that we have a responsibility to our fellow creatures. Anyone who has had a close relationship with another animal knows that they, like people, feel joy and sadness. It is reasonable to think that they want to experience joy, and that they want to avoid grief and suffering. Should they not be entitled to this?
Why animals should have rights
One argument that is often put forward, that only people should have rights, is that we are smarter. But that's not true. All humans are not smarter than all animals. And why should only the level of intelligence count? What happens to the rights of less intelligent people, for example, infants and old people who are senile? Of course, everyone should have rights regardless of their level of intelligence.
A second argument is that we have always exploited animals. But nothing becomes morally acceptable just because it has been in existence for a long time or is a tradition. What should we say about war and racism? Are they acceptable because they have been around for a long time?
A third is that we belong to different species. But species is a biological concept. Division into species says just as little about how to treat individuals as divisions that are based on ethnicity or gender.
Djurens Rätt is working to create a society that does not oppress animals, a society that caters to the interests of every individual, whatever their nature. Animals have rights!
THE MENTAL ABILITIES OF ANIMALS
It is obvious to many people that animals have feelings and are sentient beings. But even if we can all agree on that, there is a lot about the inner lives of animals that most people are not aware of. There are now lots of studies that show an animal's ability to reflect, solve problems, communicate and show compassion.
There are tens of thousands of species of vertebrates, and only a very few of them have been observed so closely that it is possible to say much about their mental capabilities. In particular, primates, rats, pigeons, mice, and more recently, dogs and corvids (the crow family of birds) have been examined, while far less research is available about the animals that are often used in the food industry. There are an amazing amount of species that we barely know anything about. This means that we must be very careful when we make assumptions about what animals are aware of and what they are not aware of, or what may be specific to human beings.
The basis of Djurens Rätt's work is the fact that animals are sentient beings. Because animals have the ability to experience emotions such as pleasure and pain, their life and death matters, and it is wrong to harm or kill them.
To injure or kill something that is not sentient, such as a tree, is an entirely different matter compared with the harming or killing of a creature that has a consciousness. How animals are treated does matter, the determining factor is their capacity to experience positive and/or negative emotions, such as pain, fear, joy or curiosity. It is also the basis for attributing animals with the right to life.
It is an obvious starting point for Djurens Rätt that non-human animals, just like humans, are conscious and have experiences. Sometimes different mental attributes are used, often referred to as “intelligence” as an argument for giving people greater value or a greater right to life than other animals. Intelligence is a poorly defined concept that is entirely based on a certain type of human thinking, and it is not intelligence that determines whether you are able to suffer or feel happiness. However, your mental abilities may be relevant to your specific needs and interests.
Knowledge of other animals' mental abilities will hopefully lead to a greater respect and understanding for our fellow creatures on Earth. It is often easier for us to feel empathy and compassion for those who are like us. That is why, on these pages, we are highlighting the characteristics that humans share with other species – but it is important to remember that other animals also have capabilities that we lack, that are perhaps more important for them.
ANIMALS IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY
The food industry is the area where the greatest number of animals are used, either in the production of food or to become food themselves. Each year around 100 million animals are killed in the Swedish food industry.
The above division is actually superfluous, because even animals used for the production of eggs and milk are killed when they are considered to be no longer of any use. As a result of harsh breeding and high production levels, this usually happens after a few years, or after an even shorter period of time. Examples of animals that are killed for food in Sweden include fish, chickens and pigs. These animals have one thing in common, they all feel pain and suffering. Fish don't scream in the same way as pigs, but that does not mean that fish do not suffer when they are caught and asphyxiate in the air.
The vast majority of people become upset when they witness a news report about animals suffering during transport or being mistreated at the slaughterhouse. Such reports are often followed by a wave of debate programmes and letters of outrage. They call for increased controls and stricter rules. Djurens Rätt is working for such immediate improvement of animals' conditions, but we do not stop there. We believe that all animal breeding within the food industry represents an unacceptable use of animals because it deprives them of life. Animals are not food!
Experiments with animals are conducted in many different areas of research, for educational purposes and in the pharmaceutical industry and other industries. Animals are used in situations where it is not considered ethically defensible to conduct experiments on humans. This means that the experiments would involve excessive risk, injury or too much suffering if carried out on humans. But it is also not ethically defensible to conduct these experiments on other animals, as they also feel pain and suffering.
Many of the experiments conducted today are painful and cause considerable suffering for the animals, which is unacceptable. The suffering is not limited, however, to the actual experiment. The habitats of animals used in experiments are generally poor, with confined spaces and a lack of stimulation. An increasingly large proportion of the animals are genetically modified, and are used as guinea pigs for various medical conditions in humans. These animals are in other words designed to develop diseases. Djurens Rätt is working for the abolition of all animal experiments that are not in the animals' interests.
This does not mean that we are opposed to scientific or medical development. Today there are sophisticated options that have replaced some animal experiments. These methods are often based on human cells, or human models or data. They can therefore be very good at predicting effects on humans. Unfortunately at present, options to replace all forms of animal experimentation are lacking. A major reason is that not enough is being invested in the development of methods that do not involve the use of animals. The lack of alternatives to animal experiments does not mean that humans have the right to use animals in this way. Animals are not subjects for experimentation!
ANIMALS IN THE FUR INDUSTRY
The fur industry involves the use of animals being raised and killed simply because people want to dress in their furs. Around 1 million minks are killed each year in Sweden for their fur only. In addition, a smaller number of rabbits are killed mainly for fur production. The animals are kept in small cages and their living conditions are very different from the life they are suited for. The keeping of foxes was discontinued in 2001, when stricter rules were introduced, and chinchilla farming was also discontinued in 2014.
Sweden exports fur skins valued at approximately SEK 270 million each year (1). Most of the fur that is produced here is exported, and the fur sold in Sweden is imported. Fur is also sold from a large number of wild animals caught in traps which have died a very painful death.
You don't see the full-length fur coat these days as often as before, and this is of course a step forward. Unfortunately, this reduction is offset by an increase in the use of fur on jackets, hats, boots, toys and other products. For the animals, it is not about how it is used, but about their lives. Djurens Rätt is working to ensure that animals shall be able to keep their coats, and that fur farming and other fur production shall be prohibited. Animals are not clothes!
Animal's rights need to be highlighted in all countries of the world. Djurens Rätt therefore is collaborating with animal rights' organisations around the world.
The conditions that animals in Sweden are subjected to are affected by what happens in other parts of the world, and vice versa. Sweden's membership of the EU means that Djurens Rätt is placing extra emphasis on influencing EU decisions on animal issues. We do this through campaigns with other European organisations and through lobbying. Djurens Rätt is also a member of several international umbrella organisations and organisations working with specific issues.
Animals in all countries should have rights! That is why Djurens Rätt is engaged in international work.
THE ANIMAL-FRIENDLY CONSUMER
For a society in which animals are not viewed as goods.
Animals are exploited because there is a demand for animal products, something the animal industry stimulates and maintains through constant marketing. Through animal-friendly consumption, you can influence the situation. Each animal-friendly choice you make means that animals are saved from suffering and oppression.
As a consumer, you can make an important contribution by asking for animal-free products. The more people that demand products that have not made use of animals, the greater the range of animal-free products there will be. Challenge companies by demanding that they assume an ethical responsibility for the sake of the animals.
One of the most important choices you can make in your daily life concerns our food, because it is in the food industry that the largest number of animals are used. Today one in ten Swedes are vegans and interest in the vegan diet has increased significantly in recent years. By choosing a vegan diet, you can save several thousands of individual animals over a lifetime. Vegan food is also healthy, nutritious, varied and tastes good.
Animal materials in our daily life
Animals are also used for many other products such as clothing, cosmetics, sanitary articles, furniture and lighting. There is also a wide range of cosmetics and household products that are tested on animals. Fortunately, there are lots of materials available that would lead to animals not having to be exploited. Djurens Rätt wants to make it easier for consumers to choose products that do not contain animal parts, or where production has involved their suffering.
Animals are not commodities!
ANIMALS AS ENTERTAINMENT
For a society where animals are not seen as entertainment.
Animals are used for entertainment purposes in a wide range of contexts. They are on display at zoos, they are trained to perform circus tricks or are tortured to death in the bullring. In some instances, such as in the case of horse racing, big money is involved. Animals are often used in the movies, both in feature films and for advertising purposes. Even the tourist industry makes money by exhibiting animals, for example, through photography and horse riding. In other situations, prestige and honour are at stake, as is often the case when it comes to exhibitions, contests and sports. What these activities have in common is that they use animals for human pleasure. It is not in the interests of the animals to be transported around or to be forced to do tricks.
Animals are sentient beings, with their own needs and interests. Djurens Rätt wants animals and their interests to be taken seriously, and we are working to combat all forms of animal exploitation for entertainment purposes. Animals are not entertainment!
ANIMALS AS FAMILY MEMBERS
Today, it is possible to buy an animal in the same way as you buy a car or a television. The animal becomes your property which you can get rid of or even kill if you no longer want it. Many animals are neglected, badly treated and abandoned by the people who should be taking care of them. Perhaps their purchase was not so well thought out, the cute little puppy became fully grown, the owner grew tired of caring for it or discovered that someone in the family had developed an allergy.
The smuggling of animals is another major problem. Smuggling often involves considerable suffering for the animals, and also constitutes a risk of infection to other animals and to humans. “Exotic” animals (i.e. animals from other parts of the world) and dogs are included among the animals most commonly smuggled. Exotic animals do not belong in Sweden, since they cannot thrive in our climate.
Djurens Rätt is of the opinion that animals that live with humans must have the status of family member. We are against the commercial breeding and rearing of animals contrary to the interests of the animals. We do not work with the relocation of animals, but we encourage all people who are thinking about getting a pet to consider firstly the adoption of an animal that needs a new home, instead of turning to a breeder. We must also ensure that we can offer the animal all the time and care that is needed. Animals are not possessions!
For a society where animals are not seen as targets.
In Sweden, over a million animals are killed annually while being hunted, and an unknown number are shot and injured. The animals that are hunted the most in Sweden are deer, elk and hares. Predators such as wolves and foxes are also hunted. Hunting is also carried out at sea, where seals, and in some countries, whales and dolphins are hunted. The animals are not even left alone when they are in protected areas or during periods when the animals are cared for when they are young. There is hunting in national parks and nature reserves, and a number of species are subject to so-called “protected hunting”, even during the time the animals are having their young.
Many different types of weapons are used in the hunt for the animals. The most commonly used weapons are rifles with bullets or buckshot, but other methods are also used such as traps, snares, harpoons as well as other animals. Hunting injures and kills other animals as well as the animals being hunted. Even animals that are being used in the hunt are killed. This includes dogs that fall prey to hunters' bullets, those that are injured and killed by other animals or killed in traffic.
For a society where animals have legal rights.
When a crime is committed against an animal, there is nobody to represent the animal or to conduct proceedings on its behalf in a court of law. This is something Djurens Rätt would like to change. We need a two-party system in the courts, even with regard to animals. Today, animals have more or less no representation, as no one has the right to plead before a court of law with regard to animal issues. Someone, perhaps the democratic animal rights and animal welfare organisations, must be entitled to represent animals in court. Furthermore, people are needed in the judiciary with knowledge of the situation for animals and the crimes committed against them, such as specially trained prosecutors.
Animals are particularly vulnerable in situations when crimes are committed against them, because they are in a position of dependency, and have few opportunities to protest. The situation is aggravated by the fact that cruelty to animals is not looked upon unfavourably by the judiciary, and that the penalties for animal cruelty and neglect are usually mild or are completely absent. Djurens Rätt is of the opinion that it must instead be based on the animal's experience of the crime. Animals have a right to justice!
BUILDING COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Human society is designed to suit the needs of humans. This is hardly surprising, but the more the world's population grows, the more we encroach upon the space and the living conditions of the animals we share the Earth with.
When a new road is built or a new industry is planned, an assessment is sometimes made of the animals in the immediate area and how they will be affected. Climate change and emergency environmental pollution usually impact first on animal life. The discussion usually revolves around populations, especially if no endangered species are concerned. But this is not the same as taking into account individual animals. When animals are injured, become ill or die, a sentient being is affected, and it hurts just as much regardless of whether the species is endangered or not. This is the starting point for Djurens Rätt's work. In this section, we will be looking more closely at how the development of human communities impacts on animals.
This text was translated by Swesteng Översättningar.