Party for the Animals is a Dutch political party whose highest priority is animal welfare and the respectful treatment of animals. In the Netherlands, they are represented in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Provincial States. That is unique: never before has a political party devoted to animal welfare been elected to a national parliament anywhere else in the world.
The following outlines their vision:
Life on Earth manifests itself in many forms. The sheer number of animal species alone adds up to more than a million. Every organism attempts to preserve itself optimally, even if this is at the expense of other life forms. Species may be in competition with each other, or find themselves in a hunter-prey relationship. Together all forms of life are part of a global ecosystem, which is in a natural dynamic equilibrium. This means that life on Earth is not a peaceful paradise, but instead a permanent struggle in which all parties involved cause suffering to others, even to the death.
Humans are part of the Earth’s ecosystem, but – as a result of the species’ mental development and the culture that derives from it – they are capable of looking after their own interests at the expense of other beings more intensively and at a grander scale than any other living creature. However, the very same mental development also gives Homo sapiens the freedom to not inflict unnecessary suffering and damage on other organisms as well as members of its own species both today and in the future. This respect for the physical and mental integrity of all life on Earth provides the basis for a more peaceful way for humans to interact with each other, animals and nature in general.
This respect for life is still insufficiently developed in humans. This has led to and still continues to lead to a great coarseness and carelessness in human behaviour. As a consequence, natural areas are disappearing rapidly, animal species are becoming extinct and the global ecosystem has become heavily overburdened and disrupted, and the continued existence of large population groups is consequently threatened.
It is morally unacceptable for human beings to exploit nature so intensively that the living conditions on Earth dramatically change and the biotope of humans and other life forms deteriorate, decline or even disappear entirely. Future generations will be even more greatly confronted with the consequences thereof than the present generation. This is why it is crucial for humans to impose significant ecological restrictions on themselves. These should be directed at decreasing the use of space, raw materials, energy, plants and animals.
This goal is elaborated on more greatly in the Earth Charter, which stems from a United Nations initiative in 1987 (United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development: www.earthcharter.org) and is used as the point of departure for various nature and environmental organisations. In this charter, the protection of the ‘viability, diversity and beauty’ of the Earth is viewed as a ‘sacred trust’ for humanity. Article 15 formulates respect and compassion in interaction with animals as a separate goal. Cruelty to animals kept by humans should be prevented and hunting and fishing methods that ‘cause extreme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering’ should be banned. This charter is strongly focused on the sustainable use of nature by humans. While it is true that life forms other than humans are accorded their own inherent value and respect, and compassion in interactions with animals is prescribed, the Earth Charter does not lay down any explicit restrictions with regard to the use of animals.
This is, however, the case with the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Animals of the International League of Animal Rights in 1977. This declaration not only asserts that all animals should be treated with respect, but article 11 also classifies the unnecessary killing of animals and every action that leads up to this as a ‘crime against life’. Recreational hunting and angling are thus explicitly rejected, while animal experimentation is subject to the demand that it must serve an essential goal and should be accompanied by research into and the application of alternatives.
After two centuries of animal protection it is high time that far-reaching restrictions are imposed on the use of animals. All too frequently animals are still regarded as objects, which are always subordinate to human interests and may also be used for all those interests. Even if it takes place in a sustainable fashion, the exploitation of animals and their biotope has unavoidably negative consequences for the animals and almost always ends with their demise. Each kind of interaction with and use of animals should, therefore, be continually subject to a careful weighing-up of the gravity of human interests and the consequences for the animal. The moral justification for compromising their welfare decreases as human interests become less imperative and the consequences for the animal more damaging.
With this approach, the use of animals for non-essential human interests can be reduced and precluded altogether. It is evident that this applies to the production of fur, circuses, bull-fighting, angling and other animal-unfriendly forms of entertainment that involve animals. Religious and cultural traditions that compromise animal welfare should also be modernised in this regard. Indeed, traditions are not unchangeable phenomena, but may be adapted over the course of time in relation to new attitudes and moral norms as they have always have been in the past.
There should also always be an ethical assessment of the different interests of humans and animals with respect to the use of laboratory animals and animals bred for human consumption. Due attention should also be devoted to the use of alternatives to animal testing and animal produce in this regard. The development and application of these alternatives can, therefore, also be regarded as an ethical necessity for humankind.
Finally, a careful, loving interaction with nature and animals also means that people should show respect for the physical and mental integrity of animals in the very broadest sense. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights (1948) offers the most appropriate point of departure for this. This declaration lays down the conditions under which human beings can live and develop themselves in freedom and without repression. Humans must, however, pay heed to their fellow creatures. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights together with the Declaration for the Rights of Animals and the Earth Charter provide a practical starting point for the way in which people should interact with their fellow humans, animals and nature. This departure point is further elaborated in the Party for the Animals’ electoral programme and determines the political stance of the party with respect to current issues.
Party for the Animals, 11th July 2005
All articles and images courtesy of partyfortheamimals.info
published with permission
Marianne Thieme is chair of both the Party for the Animals and the parliamentary group in the House of Representatives. She studied law at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
In late 2006, the Dutch parliamentary press selected Marianne Thieme as the ‘Political Talent of the Year’. In January 2008, the youth organisation of the ChristianUnion, the smallest of the parties in the current Dutch governmental coalition, declared her ‘The Angel of the Year’. In this way, the ChristianUnion youth expressed their appreciation for the way in which she strives for justice for all living creatures. At the beginning of 2008, the Dierenbescherming (the Dutch Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chose Marianne as the ‘Animal Protector of the Year’.
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