The Oostvaardersplassen (OVP) area in the Dutch province Flevoland acquired the status of nature reserve. A policy criterion for this nature reserve was developed by a scientific International Commission on Management of the Oostvaardersplassen (ICMO). This ICMO proposed to let nature (reproduction and natural selection of inserted grazers) run its course. To control the maximum number of animals was chosen for reactive killing and expressly not for preventive sterilization of animals.

The involved authorities and services agreed with the implementation and supervision of the project in accordance with the proposed ICMO policy criteria. As it turns out, the implementation and supervision of the project does not meet the criteria and intentions on providing shelter and extension of the habitat. This intended connection with the ecological main structure outside Flevoland appears to be totally unfeasible.

The OVP area has been downgraded, particularly in winter, to an unendurable habitat for the animals concerned. The deteriorating living conditions have led to an increase in animal suffering. Despite this development, the maximum load on the area was maintained. This disastrous development, known to all involved parties for years, has not led to adequate policy adjustments in order to stop the degradation and increased animal suffering.

These facts lead to the conclusion that the responsible policy makers, management and supervisors are not able or willing to change their policies. This creates the impression that they are – in addition to the powerlessness against the degradation of nature – also overwhelmed with a more acute ethical problem: the miserable death by lack of food and shelter for the grazers.

This ethical blindness is typical of costly government projects in which moral aspects such as animal welfare are at most a negligible priority, if mentioned at all.

The responsible authorities and their scientific advisors have so far shown no initiatives to actually stop the increased animal suffering.

The expressed concern, offers of help and complaints by citizens and organizations concerned with nature and animal welfare found no ears as one should not interfere with wild animals. By the way, what is the difference in status between a suffering animal and a suffering "wild animal"?

This also raises the question to what extent animal suffering is recognized if at all and what is done about it. Many express their sympathy, but few turn that into action. Be it about humans, animals or nature: the suffering must stop!

In our callous era of juridism, it is usual to let suffering pass without interfering, in the meantime carefully checking if laws are violated and punishing the offender far after the damage is done. In fact, inflicting suffering is condoned and direct action to stop suffering is illegal.

We take the activist position that suffering must stop immediately if it happens and – as we prefer – prevent it from happening. We rather sterilize than kill.

We see how, like the animals and their habitat, the OVP project as well is facing a miserable death bogged down by mismanagement. Around this project we see a widening gap between callousness and compassion, between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, between political defence and ethical vulnerability.

Did the leaders and "experts" involved in the project prove to be good shepherds?
Evidently not!

Then why is our Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Party) still embracing the continuation of the destructive policy?

Marius Donker

The Hague, 6 januari 2015