The government, heeding calls from animal rights activists, announced the creation on Monday of a new state authority aimed at investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty. The new so-called dyrepoliti (animal police) will be a cooperation between the state agricultural ministry and its Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet), and the state police directorate and economic crimes unit Økokrim.
“This is a great day for everyone concerned with animal rights, and efforts to fight crime against animals,” Agriculture Minister Sylvi Listhaug said at a press conference Monday afternoon. Her ministry finally responded to calls that have gone out for many years, also during previous governments, to make a concentrated effort to ensure animals’ rights.
Several ugly cases of cruelty towards animals have cropped up in recent months, not least the case of a farmer who allowed all his cattle to starve to death. It was by no means the first time such a tragedy occurred in Norway, and the agricultural inspectors have also sought more authority and means of preventing or prosecuting such cases.
Listhaug said the new “animal police” unit will be launched as a pilot project in the county of Sør-Trøndelag, where the local police district and Mattilsynet will work together to fight violations of animal welfare. The agency primarily in charge of food safety will continue to carry out inspections and have veterinarians on staff, while the police set up a group charged with handling cases of criminal animal abuse.
“This will be tested over a three-year period and evaluated along the way,” Listhaug said. She said the goal was to establish a “well-functioning” organization for cooperation between the police and Mattilsynet.
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said that crime against animals “often fell between the cracks” and it was now important to make it a priority, with Listhaug saying it can also prevent assaults on people.
Officials at Mattilsynet, who handled 38 cases of animal cruelty last year alone, were relieved. “We have sought a cooperation like this for a long time,” Harald Gjein, director of Mattilsynet, told state broadcaster NRK. Animal rights activists were also pleased.
“The process of taking violence against animals seriously is underway,” stated Siri Martinsen, head of animal rights organization NOAH, in a press release Monday afternoon.