Veganerpartiet is the first vegan party in Denmark. Their main goal is to put vegan ideology on the Danish political agenda. It is a question of dealing with Danish culture, starting with the traditions such as Grindadràp. We interviewed their political spokesperson, Michael Monberg, to get to know them better.
For a start, when was the Veganerpartiet born and what does it do?
«Henrik Vindfeldt and I met during activism and found that we shared a mutual interest in using video to reach a broader audience. I gave Henrik a few sources with background information on the Danish animal agriculture industry; how it destroys nature, how the animals suffer in large numbers and not least how it is all supported by politicians tied down by the country’s most influential lobby organizations. Henrik made a 20 minute video about these findings and needed a place to put it. Since it is the government that makes the laws that make animal suffering allowed, he wanted to use the words “vegan” and “party” – and so Veganerpartiet (The Vegan Party) was born on Facebook, and the video was quickly seen by many thousands. This was early 2018 and by the end of the year, we had built the structure for the political party, and we started collecting the 20.000 signatures needed to run for government».
What is the political ideology of the Veganerpartiet and where does it fits into Danish politics context?
«Animals in Denmark are mutilated and killed by the hundred thousands each day. And not a single politician talked about it when Veganerpartiet was born. If this was to change, a new way of seeing our fellow beings was needed. So we wanted veganism to become mainstream in the public and in politics. We are abolitionists, but we know that it is not the mindset that you first adopt. While veganism is central to our core, we also agreed to use Ecocentrism as a guiding principle. Ecocentrism simply puts man in context with nature – not above, not below. We are simply a part of the ecosystems around us. And we need those ecosystems to survive. And so Veganerpartiet ended up in the green left side of politics where we show the other parties that we can actually live our ideals».
What is the Veganerpartiet political program for Denmark?
«The most urgent matter is to reduce animal agriculture. Denmark has the most pigs per capita of all sizeable countries in the world. We are 5,7 million people but raise 40 million pigs. The statistics only mention 32 million, because the 8 million that die in the hands of farmers are not even counted. They are ignored just as their suffering is. Huge areas are used as crops to feed this absurd number of animals. So Denmark has cut down most of our forests and now almost 50% of the land is used just to feed pigs. Add a sizable area to feed 100 million chicken and a large number of cows and you can understand why we have the same level of natural protection as countries like Bangladesh. To put it short: nature barely exists in Denmark. To make matters even worse, we also import 1,7 million tons of soy from South America, contributing to loss of rainforest. This feed is transported on huge ships that pollute almost as much as all cars in Denmark. And we don’t even do this to feed our own population; 90% of the pig meat is exported to countries in northern Europe and to China. So we basically destroy our own land to provide cheap bacon to our neighbors. Veganerpartiet wants to make veganism normal and accepted and put an end to all animal farming».
Now, we talk about a much discussed issue in foreign countries: the practice of Grindadràp carried out in the Færøerne Islands. Could you, who are Danish, explain us what it is exactly?
«Grindadràp is the killing of Pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. The islands have done so for as long as people have lived on the islands. The first registered killings are from the year 1584. It has always been a way to sustain the lives of people on these remote and barren islands. While life was hard until recently, the faroese people have become part of modern consumerism and western life today. They have all modern conveniences: cars, housing, schools, supermarkets, internet. They now have among the highest CO2 emissions in the world. Still they like to picture themselves as this stoic old tribe of hardy people who only survive because they can harvest from nature. And the Grindadràp is a part of this old story. Reality is that the meat and blubber is contaminated with mercury and poisons from our industrial waste. Waste that rightly comes from all over the world, but that the Faroese also has their own part in producing. Another part of the story is that the Faroese now buy food from supermarkets, just like you and I. The meat and blubber is no longer an essential part of survival, but is consumed more of tradition and taste. The hunt itself is now done with a large fleet of motorboats guzzling hundreds of liters of gasoline. The hunt can take many hours as the animals are forced closer to land. Here a beach is chosen and the Pilot whales are forced into the arms of a waiting crowd. While the methods used to kill the whales and dolphins that accompany them have improved over the years, a great deal of suffering is always seen. Sometimes it is 10-20 whales or as we saw this year a pod of 1428 dolphins in one large bloodbath taking hours on the beach with many still flapping with open wounds in their bodies. Even the pregnant mothers are slaughtered, and the unborn fetuses are cut out and discarded when nobody looks. Not a single soul is sparred».
What position does the Veganerpartiet take on Grindadràp?
«Vegarnerpartiet is against all unnecessary violence towards other living beings. This includes Grindadràp because there is simply no need to do so. No Faroese would ever go to bed hungry if the killings stop. And so there is absolutely no reason to keep up a way of treating animals that would be banned if it was ever done to any other creature. The terror that these animals go through are not even seen on the most bloody floor in a slaughterhouse. Danish politicians should enforce sanctions on the islands until this ancient practice is stopped and the Faroe Islands should sign the international treaty on protecting marine animals».
Do you believe that all the non-governmental organizations and international movements that have spoken about Grindadràp, without first seeking the opinion of the Danish animal rights activists, have committed an abuse?
«No. The Faroese Islands are among the last in the world to kill whales and dolphins and so they must rightfully endure more pressure than most other countries. But to most groups the Grindadràp is something that takes place on some remote islands outside of their daily sphere of interest. So I believe that any group or movement looking to voice their interest in the Grindadràp should reach out to Sea Shepherd in order to be most effective. Sea Shepherd is on the islands to document the killings, we don’t see ourselves as more knowledgeable than any other organization working to stop animal suffering. I believe that we should all find ways of collaborating to make Grindadràp a thing of the past. Thus we need the pressure from all around the world to let the Faroese government know that one nation cannot treat animals and nature just as they please. This goes for all nations of course and we should all strive to make our own nations move forward toward a world where nature and animals are treated with respect».
Can the vegan culture of the Veganerpartiet respect the Danish food culture, or part of it?
«The Danish people used to be fond of greens and vegetables. In the last 60 years we have just been accustomed to eating more and more meat and dairy products. So we do have a historical background where agriculture was giving life and nutrients to the Danish people. This changed as agriculture was industrialized and subsidies were given to meat and dairy production, in great part by the European Union. These subsidies have been used to tell us all a story of the importance of meat as a source of protein and nutrients, even though it can be fact checked to be a great lie. Animals consume huge amounts of nutrients and protein, and only provide small amounts in return. We do not accept a food culture that destroys nature and life. We do however respect that we were also a part of that same culture, and that we cannot blame the individual. We need political and systemic change if the problems of animal agriculture and consumerism are ever to be tackled. But systemic change only happens if people act and show the way. That is why Veganerpartiet exists».