2nd in series about eight remarkable women spearheading the battle for Animal Rights in their varied fields of science, art, law and politics, to celebrate the forthcoming International Animal Rights Day on Dec 10th
Today The Politician
“For as long as I can remember, I had a great love and admiration towards nature and animals and wanted to protect them.”
Marianne Thieme, leader and co-founder of the Dutch Party for the Animals, lawyer and animal advocate.
Marianne grew up in Veluwe, a part of the Netherlands where there are a lot of factory farms. She remembers it making her sad watching the transport trucks leaving the farms for their terrible destination.
Another vivid memory was as an 11 year old, seeing a seal hunt on TV. The shock of it prompted young Marianne to go out and join an animal protection society – though it wasn’t until she was at law school (where disappointingly for her, animal rights barely featured at all) that she turned vegetarian. The trigger was another TV documentary called ‘What the cow wants’.
“A researcher showed a cow with a silicon lid on the outside of one of her stomachs. It was possible to lift the lid any time to check what the cow had eaten and how her digestion was progressing. One used this information to adjust the animal’s diet to get more milk or meat. I realised then that animals were treated as objects and that I as a consumer did not want to be part of that.”
Why the change from law to politics? Well, she observed that for most of the political parties in Holland animal rights were very much a side issue. Unhappily, those politicians for whom it was a central issue viewed animals as commodities and animal welfare as nothing more than “high-priced nonsense”.
Just such a man came to power in 2002 – Jan Pieter Balkenende. With other farmers’ representatives in government he aimed to sweep away all the animal protections won over the past 20 years
That was the match in the powder barrel for Marianne! So riding the wave of growing concern about animal exploitation and abuse around the world, with three others she founded the Party for the Animals.
“After the liberation of slaves, women, giving rights to children, the next logical step was to consider the interests of animals seriously, to look beyond the interests of our own species. It’s the next emancipation movement,” she says.
By 2006 the party had won 2 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives. Now 10 years later they have 50 elected representatives in different levels of government, including one in the European Parliament. The party’s representation in government, though relatively small in number, has been hugely influential.
Some of their achievements in the last decade:
- a ban on fur farms in the Netherlands
- a ban on wild animals in circuses
- a ban on the import of hunting trophies
- a significant drop in meat consumption per capita. Only 25% of the Dutch now eat meat every day
- an increase in public willingness to call police about animal abuse, research results show
- a growing public appetite in general for animal protection
- mainstream parties responding to public opinion by adopting more animal-friendly policies
- 12% of the population considering voting for the party
Just as excitingly the Dutch party has ‘seeded’ nearly 20 other political parties standing for animal justice in Europe, Australia and North America. We have two right here in the UK: The Animal Welfare Party and the Animal Protection Party
Marianne is now campaigning for the Dutch government to put a tax on meat which she hopes will encourage people to switch to a more animal-friendly, planet-friendly plant-based diet.
Long may this dynamic, passionate, charismatic woman continue changing the world for animals!
Add your name to the Declaration of Animal Rights here
Go vegan for the animals here