Finland is not known for its popular support of animal rights. Bestiality is legal, large fur farms are numerous and slaughterhouses notorious for their terrible conditions, yet the plight of animals has traditionally barely been part of public discourse.

And even when people do protest, their voices tend to be ignored: a 2013 citizen’s initiative attracted 70,000 signatories but was dismissed by parliament; and even the legislature’s own effort to improve conditions for animals farmed for their fur has come up against hurdles. Last year the government halted preparatory work on a fur decree and said any changes to the law had to be accepted by precisely those whose excesses it was designed to rein in: the fur, meat and dairy industries.

Now activist Johanna Wasström has launched a new petition calling on parliament and the ministry for agriculture to step up their animal welfare efforts.

‘Finland is, since 2012, in the process of revising its animal welfare legislation, and it’s high time that it’s finally completed. Unfortunately, the new government has recently withdrawn many important animal welfare improvements,’ according to Wasström.

A further blow to animal welfare came early this year with the abolition of the office of the Animal Protection Ombudsman.

‘Many European countries have in recent years taken huge steps forward for animal welfare, while the development in Finland has stagnated,’ the petition reads.

‘If Finland doesn’t enact a ban on bestiality and fur farming, and doesn’t considerably improve its animal welfare legislation, it will be a disaster for Finland’s animals as well as its reputation as a modern, civilized and ethical country.’

Kelsi Farrington