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Be politically active for animals. Start a political party for animals and their rights or join an animal political party that may already exist in your country.
Politically minded? Then start your own animal political party. Think again if you presume that advocating for animals is not a hot political issue. Members of the most successful animal rights party in the world sit in the Dutch parliament. The party leader, Marianne Thieme (b 1972), said, "We want a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing animals the right to freedom from pain, fear and stress caused by humans.” (1) The party's manifesto lists over 200 actions to protect animals and nature from human exploitation.
The Dutch animal rights party began in 2002 when two women set up Partij voor de dieren (Party for Animals). Inevitably, few people took them seriously at first. But the news media gave them wide coverage, drawing in valuable supporters and attracting candidates to stand in all but one of Holland’s electoral districts. The party’s activists fought the elections with a tiny budget and minimal political experience, and had to struggle with their non-political full-time jobs. The outcome was that the Party for Animals won two seats in the 150 member legislature, almost two percent of total votes in 2006. Nine of their representatives also won sits in Holland’s provincial states.
Elsewhere other animal activists have also founded animal rights political parties: in Canada (Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party), Germany (Partei Mensch Umwelt Tierschutz - or Tierschutzpartei for short), Spain (Partido Antitaurino Contra el Maltrato Animal) and Britain (more below).
Animal Welfare Party
Forming new political parties is common in countries like Holland with proportional representation. But it is not altogether uncommon in countries with a first-past-the-post electoral system, such as the United States and Britain. Indeed, the Animal Welfare Party (previously called Animals Count) is one of the latest parties to emerge on the British political arena. The Animal Welfare Party was originally chaired by co-founder Jasmijn de Boo (b 1975) who was an active member of the Dutch Party for Animals and one of their candidates for the 2004 elections to the Parliament of the European Union.
The overriding factor in the constitution of the Animal Welfare Party is respect for living beings. This respect is based on recognising that animals have an interest in fulfilling their lives and avoiding suffering. The Party's constitution states that humans have a moral obligation to protect the interests of animals and that by doing so will live in a more worthy human society. The aims of the Animal Welfare Party can be summed up as:
Starting a Political Party
- Promote animal rights.
- Advance the moral and legal status of animals.
- Encourage animal welfare education.
- Protect nature.
- Advocate healthy living.
So what must you do to start a political party? First, get together with other people who share your politics and commitments. Second, follow the rules for starting a new political party in your country. The rules will likely include registering your party with the appropriate authority, opening a bank account in the party’s name, and making a formal public declaration of intent that you are forming a new political party. Your formal declaration would include:
- The name of your party.
- The address of your party headquarters.
- The names of the party leader and main post holders, such as chair and treasurer.
- The party's manifesto, along with the party's mission, aims and constitution.
As well as supporting animal rights you will have to give thought to your mainstream policy: taxation, health, education, law and order, defence, foreign policy, and so on. You must also deliberate on how your party will be funded, happily by a high profile patron - with an open cheque book. Not least you should inform the news media with a press release (see Chapter 3: News Media) to win supporters.
Your Political Prognosis
Your chances for gaining power are best if you live in a multi-party state with a proportional representation electoral system. Proportional representation favours many small parties getting seats in the legislature. However, in the proportional representation system you would almost certainly have to form a coalition with one or more other parties, in order to dominate other groupings. Therefore you would have to jiggle your policies a bit to make your policies acceptable to your coalition partners.
It is unlikely you will be elected to govern in a state with a strong two-party first-past-the-post system. Nevertheless, in a two-party system the party in power might conceivably invite you one day to join them in a coalition should they become weak and desperate for your support to bolster their administration.
However, you could still have a positive influence for animals even if you never get to wield power, and even if only a minority of the electorate supports you. Your mere presence could make the main parties moderately revise their policies in your direction in order to capture the vote that would otherwise go to your party. This is what happened in Holland in the run up to the elections to the European Parliament in 2004. Political commentators stated that the Party for Animals would do well, consequently mainstream parties added animal issues to their own policies to seize the animal vote. In fact, Canada’s Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party see themselves as deliberately playing this role. Rather than develop as a strong independent party in their own right, they lend their endorsement to animal-friendly candidates standing for the major parties, which is strategy you could try.
Political parties often identify themselves with a colour for easy recognition. Colours in Europe are traditionally red for left wing, blue for right wing, and green for parties that strongly support nature. Yellow and pink tend to be associated with centre parties, orange for nationalistic parties, black for the far right and purple for royalist parties. Buff could be your appropriate political colour - the colour of animal disguise and camouflage. Failing that, why not a green-buff union!
(1) Animal Welfare Party at www.animalwelfareparty.org.
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