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.
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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.
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.”