UK: New animal rights party launching

A new political party campaigning for animal rights across the UK is due to be launched at a London event.

It is calling for an end to live transports and a total ban on hunting and says the first elections it will contest will be in Wales next May.

The party is linked to a Dutch one which made history last month by getting two candidates elected as MPs.

The Party for Animals, founded in October 2002 with a smiling dairy cow as its logo, became the first animal rights party to win seats in a European parliament.

Marianne Thyme, one of the Party for Animals’ two elected MPs, offered some advice to her British counterparts.

“People who want to start a party for the animals must not be afraid to be a small group,” she said.

“They have to realise that they are pioneers and that nine out of 10 will not understand what they are doing but, fortunately, a lot of people don’t want to be nine out of 10 anymore.”

And the new group’s chairman, Jasmijn de Boo, told BBC Radio Five Live there were huge numbers of potential supporters.

“There are more than 3.3m people in this country who support animal charities every year – they donate about £570m pounds to those charities,” she said.

“And I think lots of them are disappointed in the current political system. The problem is that animal issues never rise to the top of the agenda of any of the existing political parties.”

Political representation

She said candidates would stand at elections for the National Assembly in Wales.

“We intend to contest the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2007, and one third of the seats there, 20 seats, are open to proportional representation, so I think it is definitely possible to get an MP in the Welsh Assembly.

“Then we will later extend the work into England and Scotland.”

The manifesto would prioritise banning hunting and ending the live transport of animals to Europe.

Ms de Boo said: “Main priorities include ending intensive farming systems with poor welfare consequences, ending transportation of animals to the continent – we would like to see an independent scientific inquiry into the validity of animal research and we hope to ban all hunting without loopholes.”

Ethical voters

But BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said there was a possibility that Animals Count could take voters away from the Green Party, potentially splitting the ethical vote.

It would be a real “slog” to achieve political representation, he said, and it would be time that could be spent lobbying traditional parties on animal rights matters.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell will be a keynote speaker at Sunday’s Animal Counts launch in Kensington Town Hall, London.

The party says on its website that it will aim to help “create a better world for people and animals”.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_politics/6203204.stm

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