Animal rights activists campaigning in Prague
On Monday a Plzen based animal rights group set up a tent in Prague's Palackeho Namesti in the hope of educating the Czech public on the virtues of vegetarianism, animal rights and animal welfare. Vegetarians in the Czech Republic are a rarity - their number is probably the same as the number of non-beer drinkers in the country - that is to say, very few. Radio Prague's Alena Skodova spoke to, Tomas Pop, a member of the animal rights group "Freedom of Animals" about the organisation, it's principles, and the public's response to their campaign.
"It's really bad, the law regarding the protection of animals has been around since 1992 and is too general. However, it is to be amended in the near future to put Czech law in line with EU regulations. Our organization had filed several suggestions with the Agriculture ministry on how to amend the law, but they were swept off the negotiating table because people in the ministry said it would be amended anyway. So the EU is our big hope."
The Animal Freedom organization has turned to the Czech parliament, calling for changes in the existing law, but Mr. Pop said it's always money which counts and so animal rights activists face a powerful rival - they have to fight strong anti-lobbying groups in both houses of parliament. On the other hand, the general public looks upon the issue with understanding:
"If people see photographs or videos about animals treatment here, they usually show interest in helping us change the situation. The problems is that many of them quickly forget about it, so it is necessary to repeat the same things over and over again. We have also launched a campaign in the form of lectures for children and young people. We visit kindergartens, primary and secondary schools where we show films and talk about animals."
I myself try to buy cosmetics that are not tested on animals, but sometimes it is quite difficult to find them. I asked Mr. Pop if he thought the supply of alternative products on the Czech market was sufficient?
"I think there are enough of these products, although not all of them are available in normal shops. There do exist lists of cosmetic companies which do not test on animals. However some say they do not test their products on animals but they mean only that they do not test their final products on them - the ingredients may have been tested on animals, though. It's up to the public to demand that more companies create untested products and properly label them."
When I asked if he was satisfied with the current campaign, Mr. Pop told me things were going well. On their first day, the Freedom for Animals group organized a tasting of vegetarian food for passers-by, many of whom were surprised at how good it tasted. The organization is quite pleased that within the first two days of the campaign, they have already sensed an increase in public interest and awareness.