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“Why does one animal count and not another?” - interview Monique Janssens

“As a PhD student at EUR, I study the ethical responsibility of businesses for animals. Take animal testing and the livestock industry, for example. What makes businesses accept that responsibility and what stops them? I combine my research with running my own company. I’m actually a communications consultant and I advise companies about corporate social responsibility and communicating honestly about it. I also give training in ethics. A better world for all, that’s what drives me.


I was 12 when I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian and 14 when my mother finally approved. I’ve always grown up with pets and suddenly I became aware of the livestock industry. First, I was concerned with how animals were kept. Then organic meat might have been a good alternative, although it didn’t exist then. But I soon decided that you can’t just kill a chicken, cow or pig just because you feel like a piece of meat.
After my studies, I became a manager of the Utrecht branch of the Dutch Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I sometimes accompanied the inspector to pick up a dog after a case of animal cruelty was reported and of course you encounter some terrible things. At the same time, I began to ask myself questions. Why does one animal count and not another? We’d rush out with the ambulance to save a dog, obviously killing lots of insects or a snail on the way. Why is one rabbit a pet and another Christmas dinner or a fur coat? And why do we find that ‘normal’?
Curious to explore that issue more, I embarked on a master in Applied Ethics. I increasingly began to feel that any animal with a certain awareness is an individual that wants to live, just like a human being. That’s also the reason why, as a single mother with very little time and space, I didn’t want any more pets, even though my son – now aged 20 – would have loved them. So that he could still grow up with animals, we used to foster rabbits and rats for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The animals were there already, so they didn’t need to be bred for us. Because that can cause all kinds of problems.
I’m now trying to eat a more vegan diet, although I’m not all that consistent. For example, I love Greek yoghurt. On an open roof terrace near my apartment in Utrecht, there are some chickens in a big run. I do eat their eggs.
When I was young, you didn’t see many vegetarians and vegans. People used to joke about them – they liked woolly socks and moaned a lot. Now they’re trendy. People are becoming more aware of the importance of animal welfare and how eating meat affects the environment. Sometimes I wonder why it’s taken so long. But I very much hope that this trend continues!”

Journalist: Karin Spillenaar
For: Erasmus University

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