Whilst visiting Amsterdam with some friends last weekend I came across a crowd of people carrying some interesting placards with images of cows and other farm animals. It turned out that the people taking part were protesting against the growth of intensive livestock farming in The Netherlands and were members of Partij voor De Dieren (Party for the Animals), a political party whose main goals are animal rights and animal welfare.
Partij voor De Dieren was founded in October 2002 and got 182,000 votes (2%) in the 2012 general elections. It holds two of the 150 seats in The House of Representatives and one of the 75 seats in the Senate.
The following from the party’s website give some details of their objectives;
The Party for the Animals is a Dutch political party that aims to improve the position of animals in our society. The party was founded to promote an awareness of the way in which humans treat animals and to emphasise that this needs to change – in the interest of not only the animals themselves, but also humans and the environment in which we all live.
The Party for the Animals’ platform is built around the belief that both animals and humans are living creatures with emotions and a conscience and therefore, animals have the right to be treated with respect by humans. This means that regardless of whether they are in the wild or are kept in farms or homes, animals should be able to live according to their own nature and not have their well-being affected by humans without reasonable or necessary reason. The party believes the extent to which a human society is ‘civilised’ can be measured by the way in which its members treat other living creatures and the natural environment in general.
The Party for the Animals was founded in October 2002 because the political environment in the Netherlands did not (and still does not) pay any attention to the interests of animals. Other political parties place concepts such as the economy, law and order, and integration above nature, the environment, and animal welfare. The Party for the Animals will give animal welfare the priority it deserves. Taking part in the political process provides the party with the opportunity of placing the legal protection of animals high on the political and social agenda and convincing other parties to support the interests of animals.
The existence of a political party primarily focussed on animal welfare perhaps helps to explain why Dutch milk processor Friesland Campina pays a premium for milk form grazed herds. Similarly, I believe that as UK citizens become more aware of how food is produced and the lives that farm animals live we will see demand for milk from free range dairy herds.