Ascending political ‘Parties for the Animals’ influence political debate worldwide
The past decade has seen the rise of a unique international political movement. All across the globe, political parties for animal rights, nature and the environment have emerged -and- been elected. Bringing an eco-centric and global perspective to the political arena, these parties aim to gain influence, not necessarily for power – and with success! Whether it is from within or outside parliaments, these animal rights parties are firmly putting issues on the agenda that tend to be neglected by other political parties. How? Along with recent wins in the EU, the Netherlands, Australia and Cyprus, current election campaigns in Canada and France are just some examples.
Ecologism – the eco-centred rather than human-centred approach of societal issues – is what makes this political movement unique, as political historian Elsa Miedema points out in her recent research on the rise of animal advocacy parties around the world – by now in over 20 countries. ‘Whereas traditional political ideologies remain overwhelmingly human-centred in their beliefs and policies, animal advocacy parties acknowledge that all life on earth is part of the same ecosystem (the concept of ecocentrism), and recognise that all participants of the ecosystem have to work together in order for the whole ecosystem to thrive. Ecologist parties strive for a more balanced relationship between people and other animals, and the environment they live in,’ writes Miedema.
While the animal advocacy parties are represented in European Parliament, national parliaments and in regional and local councils in several countries, their impact tends to surpass their size and official representation. Changing policies is their main aim, and the insight that this can be achieved even without being part of the political power structure has become part of their strategy.
Amplifying impact, or: if you’re small, you’ll have to be smart
This summer, co-founder and -president of the French Parti Animaliste announced to run for president of the French Republic in next spring’s elections. Parti Animaliste achieved a historic win in the last year’s local elections, including in Paris and other major cities. The party already managed to considerably influence public and political debate: ‘When the Parti Animaliste obtained 2,17 % of the votes in European elections in 2019, this was a turning point,’ Hélène Thouy explains. ‘This result, won without financial resources, without media attention and despite numerous obstacles, surprised the other political parties. Above all, it has made them conscious of the fact that animal issues are political issues which they can no longer afford to ignore.’
With her presidential candidacy, Hélène Thouy aims to amplify this effect. ‘I am certain that we will be able to put the protection of animal rights at the forefront in politics and in the media in the course of this campaign.’
Likewise, in Canada, the Animal Protection Party ran in this week’s federal elections, advocating for improved animal welfare laws and stronger measures to address climate change and protect the environment. ‘Our candidates knew that — because of our electoral system — they have scant hope of becoming a Member of Parliament. Our candidates know, too—and this is why they run—that they can make the climate crisis, and animal and environmental protection decisive ‘ballot box’ issues in their electoral districts,’ party leader Liz White states. What is more, research has shown that their campaign significantly influences voting behaviour among voters of other parties. By commenting ‘from the side-line’, for example on ‘the animal debate’ among other parties and on other parties’ claims to champion animal welfare, the Animal Protection Party manages to push its perspective to the centre of political debate and even to influence election results.