Saturday, May 10, 2008

Animals Count party for animals

Supermodel Twiggy is among Animals Count supportersA much-needed animals political party called Animals Count (supermodel Twiggy, pictured right, is among its supporters) has run in the recent London local election on 1st May, with a candidate for the Greater London Assembly, Jasmijn de Boo, and received 1,828 votes.

Considering that Animals Count contested only two London boroughs in the south of the city, Lambeth and Southwark, the fact that it was a new party and the limited budget available to it, 1.12% of the total votes was not a bad result.

“In a sense we are comparable to independent candidates in other constituencies, which typically received around 700 votes.” Jasmijn says. “Under the first-past-the-post-system people tend to vote more strategically rather than intuitively. Our result demonstrates that nearly 2,000 people in this constituency alone care so much about animal issues that they overcame their wish to vote strategically. I am confident we will grow and that the European Parliament elections in 2009 offer a real opportunity for Animals Count.”

There was fear that Animals Count, which is active in England, Wales and Scotland, would split the Green Party vote, although, given that party policies on animals, I cannot see how that can be a bad thing. However, the Green Party candidate for Lambeth and Southwark in fact gained 0.64% more votes than in the last election.

European political parties and elections

What is also interesting about this relatively new party is its Europe-wide scope. Its founder and chair, who was the candidate in the London elections, Jasmijn de Boo, is Dutch and was an active member of the highly successful Dutch Political Party for the Animals, which gained two seats in the General Elections in November 2006, nine seats in the Provincial Elections in March 2007 and one seat in the Senate in June 2007: a world first!

A similar party in Spain, Partido Antitaurino Contra el Maltrato Animal (party against bullfighting and maltreatment of animals - PACMA), won over 41,000 votes in the elections on last 9th March. Just over 61,000 votes would have been enough for a seat.

Similar political parties for animals also now exist in Germany, France and Canada.
"Animals Count aims to be part of the next big development in European politics," says Jasmijn. "We want to make London the world's leading city for animal protection."

Animals Count now has its eyes on the European Parliament elections, to be held in June 2009, and has already started preparing for them. This is a clever move, since early preparations are key to success.

The Dutch Party for the Animals (PvdD) was truly successful in the 2006 national parliament elections, and Animals Count wishes to use similar tactics and methods in the upcoming European polls.

In particular, it wants to imitate the PvdD’s use of state-of-the-art methods, like promotional video clips aired on TV and on its website, and use of celebrities who endorsed the PvdD and were the list-pushers (at the bottom of the list). The animations and clips were forwarded to members all over the country resulting in over 180,000 votes for the Party for the Animals.

Animals Count already has the support of several celebrities, including supermodel Twiggy (pictured above), legendary Queen’s guitarist Brian May who is also a scientist, actor Nicholas Ball, writer Jeffrey Masson, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, Prof. Robert Garner of Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester, and psychologist Dr. Richard Ryder.

In the run-up to the European Parliament (EP) elections Animal Counts intends to develop similar interesting, innovative campaign ideas. It is aware of competing with multimillion pound budgets of larger parties and the only way to get noticed is through media and email campaigns.

“The European Parliament is THE place to be represented as a political party for the animals” claims Jasmijn, “the Common Agricultural Practice (CAP) dominates the agenda (80%) and 50% of the European budget is spent on farming. This has huge repercussions on farmed animals in Britain (and obviously other Member States). Other important Directives include the Zoo Directive, the 86/609/EC Directive on the Use of animals in experimentation (currently under revision), the Transport Directive, etc. Many domestic laws are based on European guidelines; hence the importance of having a voice in the EP.”

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