The Party for the Animals was founded in 2002. At the time, animal welfare played a minor role in politics. Animal interests have always been secondary to economic interests. Animal protection organisations were unable to actually change this. Politicians’ involvement in animal welfare and animal rights was non-existent. Incumbent political parties failed to bring these issues out into the open sufficiently.
In 2002, Marianne Thieme (our current party leader), Lieke Keller (the director of our party bureau) and Ton Dekker (former board member) founded a party that made animal rights and animal welfare its main theme so as to really change something. The Party for the Animals was born, just before national elections in January 2003.
At first, the new party was greeted with a heavy dose of criticism and ridicule. What do you guys want? Are you really a political party exclusively representing the interests of animals? But there were also many positive responses. We received numerous emails from people (from the Netherlands and abroad) who finally saw a glimpse of hope for achieving a more respectful and more humane treatment of animals.
To the great surprise of the people who criticised us, we only just failed to obtain a seat in national Parliament in 2003. It really was a close shave, or else we would have been in national Parliament straight after our foundation. That was a huge achievement, given the short preparation time and lack of financial means to organise an election campaign.
In November 2006, there were new elections after the Cabinet had fallen. This time we did succeed: the Party for the Animals was elected to Parliament with 2 of the 150 seats in the Dutch Lower House: Marianne Thieme and Esther Ouwehand.
Following the election to parliament, the party was expanded with a youth organization (PINK!) and a scientific bureau (the Nicolaas G. Pierson Foundation).
In 2012, the party celebrated its 10th anniversary with a documentary about the history of the Party for the Animals until then: The Pacer in the Marathon.
The party has grown into the most important animal rights movement of the Netherlands with a total of fifty representatives: two in the Lower House, two in the Upper House, one in European Parliament, eighteen representatives in ten Provincial States, twelve representatives in twelve city councils and fifteen representatives in eight Dutch ‘water councils’.
On the 15th of March, the Party for the Animals won five parliamentary seats in the national Lower House elections. As a result, the party went from two seats to five, an increase of 150 per cent.