Meet the French Animal Party candidate running for president

In the land of foie gras and bullfighting you might expect animal rights concerns to be low on the agenda. But Hélène Thouy is hoping to change that by running for French president with the Animal Party. We spoke to her about her campaign and her party's aims.

Hélène Thouy announces her intention to run for the French presidency as a candidate for the 'animalist' party.
Hélène Thouy announces her intention to run for the French presidency as a candidate for the 'animalist' party. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

It is unlikely that the Parti Animaliste will gain the keys to the Elysée following France’s 2022 presidential vote, but its candidate, Hélène Thouy, insists that this is not the point. 

“Our objective is to make the question of animal welfare a major theme of the next presidency,” she explained, after a long couple days at the National Mayors’ Congress, asking for support from delegates. “By winning votes, we will show the next President just how much the population wants ambitious measures for animals.”

Thouy is the party’s first ever presidential candidate. They won dozens of seats in French municipal elections in 2020, after attaining 2.17 percent of the vote EU parliament elections the year before. One recent poll has placed Thouy above former government minister, Arnaud Montebourg, and just behind the French Communist Party. 

If elected, Thouy would enact tougher sanctions for animal abusers and create a special ministry for animals. But her party’s key pledge is to scrap intensive farming – of livestock in particular. This, she said, is important for humans as well as animals. 

“Intensive farming is very bad for the health of the general population. It pollutes the environment and rivers, which can have catastrophic consequences. We need to reduce consumption of animal products by half and move to a different agricultural model.” 

The 37-year-old lawyer became heavily involved in animal activism as a student and has served as a lawyer for the French animal rights group L.264, whose modus operandi is to infiltrate abattoirs to expose abuse, in a number of high profile legal cases. 

Thouy co-founded the Parti Animaliste in 2016, exasperated by the lack of action from traditional parties. 

“We saw that the law was incapable of defending animals and that the parties were completely closed to the idea of doing anything about it,” she said. 

READ ALSO Here’s what you need to know about France’s new animal rights law

The newly passed animal welfare law demonstrates that the Parti Animaliste is already having an influence. A press release issued by the Senate recognised the role of ‘pressure from extreme pro-animal movements’ in putting the bill on the table. 

“The law passed today was the result of our success at the European elections. Politicians are starting to pro-animal positions for electoral reasons,” said Thouy, who has been hitting the campaign trail and juggling her duties as a lawyer simultaneously. 

Since the gains made by the party at last year’s municipal elections, there has been an explosion in the number of animal rights advisors working as advisors to city councils. 

Various polls suggest that animal rights are a cause close to the French hearts. A 2021 IFOP survey found that 75 percent of French people would support a ban on bullfighting; 89 percent of those polled in 2019 said that animal rights were important; while 2016 YouGov poll suggested that 87 percent were opposed to intensive farming. 

Announcing her candidacy back in July, Thouy declared: “To be French is to be audacious. Believe me, you must be audacious to launch a political party which fights for beings that can never vote for it.” 

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Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted