Interview with Bert Stoop by Elke Doelman in magazine “Leven” (Life) 2004 nr 5; a few quotes.
Until 2000 research psychologist Bert Stoop was employed by the Dutch telephone company KPN. There he made assessment centers to test recently graduated academics on their potential as top managers. He enjoyed this work for years, until the managers he tested and found suitable started to make KPN an increasingly commercial organization and his job began to disappoint him more and more.
The Internet had fascinated him from the outset and he soon saw the potential of this medium to do something he really believed in.
"One day in 1997 I started to put my thoughts on paper. I wrote a piece about animal freedom every day for 300 days, until I wrote down everything that was in my head. This is how the website Animal Freedom was born.
With this site I want to be able to inform and give opinions. The informative part provides purely objective information about animal abuse, while the opinion part contains my own ideas about animal rights and those of all kinds of other people who, like me, want to express their feelings and emotions about, for example, the factory farming industry".
Do you think you have been able to change the ideas of politicians about animal welfare issues with your site?
It's not like I've ever heard that in so many words, but I'm sure I was able to bring about a change in thinking about animals.
In discussions about animal rights nowadays hardly anyone talks about the intrinsic value of an animal, and I am very happy about that. I've always hated this philosophically nonsensical idea.
The concept was first introduced when influencers thought that there was an easy way to get the general public to take animals seriously. However, because the intrinsic value of an animal comes down to the value of an animal apart from what you see in it, it is very difficult for two persons or camps to arrive at an unambiguous value.
As long as you fail to arrive at a precise value and conclusion together, there can be no policy about what needs to change in the treatment of animals. That is also why virtually nothing has improved in animal welfare in recent decades. Fortunately, it is now about other matters.
What do you think should be the essence of animal rights?
Animal rights should be the same as human rights, namely freedom, equality and brotherhood. The first two can be legally established, the last, brotherhood, is something that you as a person have to give substance to.
Freedom is essential. Just as you should not restrict people's freedom of speech or movement, you should not deprive animals of their freedom to behave naturally. They have the right to display their own species behavior and to be able to move freely. Humans are the only creatures in nature that restrict other creatures in their freedom. Animals never do that.
What do you think of the idea of an international animal court as suggested by Paul Cliteur a while ago?
I do not find VVD (liberal party) member Paul Cliteur credible as a philosopher on animal rights because he does not allow liberal ideas to apply to animal rights. He doesn't talk about freedom as a basis for animal rights. I do agree with him that there should be a place where you can hold each other accountable about your behavior towards animals.
The Netherlands, France and the United States should be the first countries to appear before such a court. The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of meat and dairy, which causes a great deal of animal suffering. 70% of the farm animals kept here are exported abroad. That is huge, but the Dutch have a blind spot when it comes to the disadvantages of export.
You are also involved in the Party for the Animals
I was listed when the Party first participated in the national elections in 2003 (No. 3). I was giving information, putting up posters, that sort of things. I had predicted in both the first general and the first European elections when the party joined that the party would just fall short.
I think the campaign has been run too much through the media. As a result, the grassroots lack sufficient involvement with the party. I did have my doubts about the campaign and some of the people involved.
However, I now still support the party program and will be committed to the party again in the next elections. The PvdD only needs 1 seat to generate a lot of attention from the media at home and abroad. With all the publicity it gets, the party can reach a lot of people with its message. (Added:
in 2006 the party entered the House of Representatives with 2 seats and now (2022) occupies 6 of the 150 seats.)
Do you expect people to think differently about animals in the foreseeable future?
Yes. Once enough people realize that becoming a vegetarian or vegan is the best way to interact with animals and to effectively do something for animals. I expect that in the not too distant future we will have a vegetarian society. People are becoming more and more easy-going and you can respond to this by offering plant-based convenience foods.
In addition, people are less likely to adopt pets for reasons of convenience, and that is also a good development. Many animals are kept in the Netherlands, both farm animals and ordinary pets.
In countries such as France and Germany they deal with animals much more normally than with us. For example, I find the consideration of adopting a pet to instill a sense of responsibility in children highly objectionable.
I am not an unconditional supporter of keeping pets. As a human being you could come into contact with animals in a natural way if animals could travel or migrate freely because the ecological main structure lends itself to this. All kinds of animals could then just come into our vicinity. By limiting hunting as much as possible, you also help animals get over their fear of humans. So much for a few quotes from Life.