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The topic of the present study is to depict the role of animal welfare in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). In addition to the study of the influencing ideological and political factors, the analysis of the then existing legal basis and an explanation of the importance of animal welfare in veterinary education are performed. Furthermore, the organisation of animal welfare in the GDR is picked out as a central theme. A major issue is the husbandry of the bovine and porcine species and the assessment of the animal production methods with regard to animal welfare. An attempt is being made to describe the so-called socialist relationship between human beings and productive livestock. The sources used for this dissertation were archived documents from the archives of the Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (Federal Archives Berlin-Lichterfelde), the Landesarchiv Berlin (State Archives Berlin-Lichterfelde) and files of the Federal Commissioner for the ecords of the State Security Service of the former GDR, documents of contemporary itnesses as well as articles from professional veterinary and agricultural journals. In addition, several contemporary witnesses were interviewed to the subject both in writing and orally. In the first part of the dissertation the general socio-political conditions in the period between 1949 and 1989, which influenced the development of agriculture, veterinary services and thus also animal welfare considerably, are described. This shows already that animal protection as an independent discipline was irrelevant. Afterwards the importance of animal welfare in the veterinary education is being presented. Herein it becomes clear that animal welfare was neither a lecture nor an examination subject in veterinary studies. This already reveals that the socialist veterinarian was not supposed to be a dedicated animal rights activist by profession, but that in fact he rather had to fulfil tasks in order to promote and organise the production in a more and more intensified agriculture. By means of the then following compilation of the valid statutory regulations of the GDR dealing with animal welfare, it is documented that there was no consolidated animal welfare act. Until the end of the GDR in 1990 the German Reich Animal Welfare Act of 1933 was officially still valid. This fact, however, was hardly known even to veterinarians. Besides that, there were a lot of single regulations dealing more or less with aspects of animal welfare. For years debates were made on a reorganisation of the legislation concerning the protection of animals, but to no avail. Throughout the entire existence of the GDR discussions on how to establish an organised form of animal welfare went on in a similarly tenacious manner. There was no organised animal protection in the GDR. The formation of self-organised, democratic movements was prevented by the government. In some communities people interested in animal welfare were able to enforce their admission to state mass organisations like the “Verband der Kleingärtner, Siedler und Kleintierzüchter” (union of garden plot holders, settlers and small animal breeders) or the “Kulturbund” (cultural federation). In the 1980s some groups dedicated to animal welfare emerged sporadically within environmental groups of the church.
Thus protected by the church these animal rights activists were at least able to exchange their thoughts and ideas. In the area of animal husbandry by individuals the so-called advisory councils for animal hygiene and welfare were officially responsible for the compliance of the animal welfare regulations. However, they only existed sporadically in major cities. In all other communities the local official veterinary surgeons were responsible for animal welfare matters. In the second part of the thesis, the keeping and feeding methods of cattle and pigs in the GDR are investigated. It is shown that depending on the agricultural development various problems occurred in conjunction with animal welfare. One of the main objectives of the East German government was the self-sufficiency of the country with foods from livestock breeding. The significance of the single animal became steadily less important due to the increasing intensification of agriculture.
When introducing factory farming methods attention was primarily paid to improve productivity and to minimise costs. In doing so, the characteristic behaviour patterns of the farm animals were hardly taken into account. In most of the livestock husbandry cases especially the needs of the animals for movement and activity could not be satisfied adequately. Various new methods have been tested directly on animals, which very often caused otherwise avertible suffering for them. The plan requirements dictated by the Party and subsequently by the government had to be implemented by all means without accounting for the real possibilities existing in practice. Ever since the collectivization until the end of the GDR one of the biggest problems as regards animal welfare was the husbandry of too many animals for which it was often impossible to get the necessary forage.
In order to tap forage reserves, one was very inventive. The testing of alternative forages often resulted in animals falling ill or dying. The lack of forages, building materials, capital and finally also a lack of qualified and motivated personnel were important causes for the massive losses that mainly occurred on young cattle until the end of the GDR. The citizens of the GDR were hardly informed about the processes in the agricultural operations. In industrial livestock husbandry animal welfare and hygiene were considered as a fixed entity that had to stand back behind economic interests.
Ethical animal welfare that centres the animal as a fellow creature being capable of suffering was almost irrelevant in the GDR.