Djurens Parti – Party for Animals was established in late 2013 as an initiative to bring animal rights to today’s politics. What the party wishes to combat is that as animals have no voice of their own but have an equal intrinsic value. Parikka Altenstedt’s stance on the party’s policies: “Our goal in Sweden is to get in the Parliament and to local boards in cities, as well as to regional representative bodies and teach others to become aware of animal perspectives in politics; animal protection, meat- and food industry, city planning, fur industry, trot industry, animal’s working rights, hunting issues, animal testing, animals as pets and the business around that, and the list goes on. Animals have the right to co-exist with humans with their own conditions and should be treated as thinking and feeling subjects and not as objects or raw material in our economy”.
Many individuals find that the above touches could interfere with human rights. For example, with issues such as animal testing and the security it gives. Some of the policies the party has established therefore could potentially clash with human rights. If this happens, which ones are to be followed: human rights or animal rights? Additionally, the party solely advocates policies on animals and their treatment but does not seem to have much to say in other fields. Comparing them to other one-policy parties, such as the Pirate Party in Germany and their respective/counterpart Animal Parties in other countries; one-policy parties have had to collide with other parties in order to get their policies through.
Why was an establishment of a new party needed in Sweden rather than adding more animal friendly policies to other parties’ politics? Parikka Altenstedt: “We waited for seven years for the other parties to get here, to recognise animal rights in their political agendas. Lately, the progress in the Swedish parliament has been negative with the new wild animal legislation from 2013 and even the head of the Swedish Green Party, Gustaf Fridolin, got a hunter´s licence! Some individuals in other parties do a great job but it is not enough to change the legislation significantly and neither is it enough to click “like” on Facebook. We need to active in parliament. What we will battle with now is to sharpen the animal rights legislation and get the state agencies to follow them”.
In November 2013, the Swedish government weakened the protection of wild animals by giving special rights for hunters, which Johanna Parikka Altenstedt calls “the last drop of an outrageous wild life politics of Sweden during the last seven years”. She states that finding more people to work with was easy as many shared Parikka Altenstedt’s thoughts on animal rights, she connected with Jonas Paulsson from Stockholm, and thus establishing a party was just a step away. Animal rights parties are a growing, international trend: the Swedish Djurens Parti points to its Dutch counterpart, Partij voor de Dieren as a successful example, as they have sat in the country’s parliament for the last few years. Interestingly, Turkey, Spain and Portugal are newcomers in the movement and in addition, India has its own Ministry for animal rights. Parikka Altenstedt comments: “We should learn from the other [parties]. In the European Parliament elections, we have two top names from Skåne, who we would like to link with other countries animal parties and work for legislation to protect animals from slaughter transports around the continent”. Animal rights are considerably well taken care of in Sweden compared to Southern Europe and Turkey, where it seems more convenient to establish a party for the sole cause. Before tackling animal rights in the North, should inequality and social welfare be battled first?
Before establishing the party, Parikka Altenstedt herself established a Facebook page, an online petition and is still actively sharing news online. Still in the phase of gathering members, is the party subjected to collecting likes on Facebook what Parikka Altenstedt herself judges as inefficient? So far, the members of the party have come from different areas of society with one sole thing in common; animals. “We have a high diversity within our supporters — Djurens Parti attracts young people who never thought they would vote, gathering people who want change and we give them possibilities to run for elections. Vegans, people with pets, older people, intellectuals who see animal abuse and cruelty as a philosophical and intellectual problem: Many groups and individuals out there understand that animals make people come together.” It is indeed admirable that many different generations are gathered in one party, around a subject that they cherish but is it enough? All levels of society need to be reached for full support in the parliament. People who do not have contact with animals, do not understand the aims of the party and might find it insignificant. The Animal Party needs to find ways to develop their policies more broadly to touch all levels of contemporary politics to attract more members.
In the super election year 2014 here in Sweden, the Animal Party has registered for both national and European Parliament elections. How will the party plead to more voters in order to get to the decision making organs? Parikka Altenstedt states that “the Animal Party’s big agenda is to change minds – the society is not for people only but for all the living creatures and we need to see animals, as part of our environment and life”. In order to change the Swedish and European wide political agendas, more awareness of the party needs to be raised and their own policies must be broadened if they wish to continue without colliding with other parties. Harmony between humans and animals sounds like a futuristic dream in our consumerist world, as well as defeating global warming, but it is essential that someone starts the battle. Due to the steps of Johanna Parikka Alternstedt, a new promising party with benevolent policies has been established, with some aspects that need developing in order to get more voters.
By Charlotta Lahnalahti
Picture 1: Marji Beach, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Picture 2: Farm Sanctuary, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0