There is currently a widespread tendency among electorates to move towards the big tent parties. Christian democrats, Liberal or Social democrat parties, once conditioned by rigid ideological boundaries, now are in a process of transformation, seeking to attract voters of different ideologies.

This type of ‘super-market’ transformation has been met with mixed reactions. Parties that focus on very specific issues have emerged. One example of the latter is the Animal Party Cyprus, which has been rather successful in courting supporters since its founding just a few years ago.

Cyprus is among the smallest EU member states and this means that politics have a more direct impact on daily life than in other countries with bigger populations.

Kyriacos Kyriacou has served as the president of the Animal Party Cyprus since the beginning. In an interview with European Interest, he explains the particularities the party faces in Cyprus. A part of the European family of pro-animal parties, his aims are to boost coordination of pro-animal activism on a European level.

Kyriacou, a convinced vegan, stresses the differences between the Green political parties and the pro-animal parties. He explains that the former became parties of the establishment, while pro-animal parties have a tough and clear policy on all topics related to animal welfare.

European Interest: Animal Party Cyprus (APC), a new party for Cypriot politics, won 1% of the vote in the country’s last election. According to the latest polls, the party is now close to 3%. This may not be high for a political party, but it is for a party that is fighting for the protection of animals. How do you explain this increase in popularity? Is this an indication that Cypriot society’s perception of animals is changing? 

Kyriacos Kyriacou: The increase in the party’s vote share is mainly due to day-to-day actions, events and generally its presence in the daily lives of fellow citizens. This daily action has sent similar messages to our fellow citizens and, yes, we agree that Cypriot society is changing in terms of animal welfare issues. Of course, not to the extent that we are expecting. We still have some way to go.

Soon, Cyprus will have a Commissioner for Animal protection. This seems to be an innovation among EU member states? What will be the duties of this new commissioner?

Up until this very moment, we do not have any indication from the President of the Republic about his intentions to create a Commissioner’s position on animal issues. For the European Union, it is now an innovation. But, above all, it’s a way for the pro-animal political parties of Europe to find ways to remind our fellow European citizens that issues related to animal welfare should be at the forefront. What’s certain is that a Commissioner would help ensure that the various animal services of the state are coordinated. A Commissioner will be able to monitor the developments in the implementation of programmes and legislation and, in general, ensure there is coordination between all departments and ministries.

Autumn is one of the two periods of the year during which the mass massacre – the illegal hunting of ‘Ampelopoulia’ song birds – takes place. These birds are considered a local delicacy. Given the fact that this is part of organised crime activities, what is the Party for Animal’s concrete proposal on this matter?

Hunting in the autumn, and in particular the trapping of ‘Ampelopoulia’ is a crime that has been committed for decades. The Party for Animals simply says there should be zero tolerance for this criminal behaviour by illegal hunters who trap thousands or hundreds of thousands of birds that are almost all protected, with their only motive being commercial gain. The Party for Animals is calling on the state to increase policing and, in cooperation with all stakeholders, to show zero tolerance. Also, those arrested should not only face a fine but also imprisonment for many years so that the corresponding messages are sent to future and aspiring trappers.

As regards the coming European elections, the pro-animal parties in EU member states held two meetings in June: one in Brussels and the other at The Hague. According to the participants, the plan to form a pan-European list or a pan-European party is on the way. What will be the main slogans of the campaign?

At this stage, we must first agree on a joint programme, a manifesto that outlines the priorities on which all pro-animal parties of Europe will work towards.

At European level, the parties are planning a campaign on the Transport of Live Animals. What are the main goals of this campaign? What do the parties propose? How have the other political parties reacted?

About the campaign for the ban of live animal transport, our party’s position is simply to ban all live animal transport. The fact is that these animals are transported in poor conditions and for long distances, and many die literally ‘upright’. We are not interested in improving the conditions. Those who eat meat should know the truth, including those who use them for religious purposes. Let’s put an end to this deplorable situation. And of course, the other pro-animal parties are along the same line for a total ban on the transport of live animals.

As for the reactions of other political parties, it is not even worth discussing. Their interests are only in commercial gain and of course there are the various lobbies of the big livestock farmers who are either members of these parties or finance them.

During the discussion of the issue at the European Parliament in July, an MEP of the Dutch Animal Welfare party, Anja Hazekamp, called for a committee to investigate alleged violations and maladministration in the implementation of the Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport.

Millions of live animals are transported thousands of kilometres each year in miserable conditions and hundreds of thousands never reach their destination. The decision, of course, did not satisfy anyone because the Commission accepted that there could be violations. It did NOT accept the setting up of a committee of inquiry, but that the matter would be discussed by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee. This is, in a nutshell, like putting the wolf to guard the sheep.

Among the key topics discussed during June’s pan-European meeting were food security and sustainable alternatives. Since this is associated with agriculture what is the position of the parties and of the Animal Party Cyprus on GMO? Is your proposal for a return to agricultural production associated with the opposition of GMOs? 

All animal welfare parties are opposed to any policy on genetically modified foods and, of course, intensive farming. It is time to return to non-intensive farming and environmentally friendly and animal-friendly methods. Below are some points of changes that we want the EU to implement, and, in general, we want a situation that takes seriously the current circumstances regarding the future of our planet – our only home – and the animals in general.

Animal rights

Animals have the right to live according to their natural dispositions.

  • Raising the moral and legal status of all animals.
  • Ensuring proper animal welfare legislation and implementing existing animal welfare legislation across all EU member states.
  • Fighting the illicit trade of pets in the EU and halting the barbaric treatment of stray dogs and cats in Europe.
  • Maintaining the international moratorium on whaling and ending the hunting of whales and dolphins worldwide.
  • A ban on recreational hunting.
  • Introducing an import ban on fur and closing all European fur farms as soon as possible.
  • Phasing out animal experiments by stimulating non-animal alternatives.

Agriculture, fishery and food

  • Re-directing EU subsidies away from livestock farming into plant-based and organic

agriculture.

  • Ending the subsidised overfishing of waters in Europe and abroad.
  • Ending EU subsidies for the promotion of animal products through EU-campaigns.
  • Ending cruel live animal transports within and outside the EU.
  • Opposing the production and import of GMOs, animal products and products from cloning in the EU.

The problems related to animal cruelty cover a vast list of topics: farm animals, mistreatment of pets, fur farms, hunting of wild animals and birds, use of animals in tourism among others. Are the pro-animal rights parties focused more on one of these? Are there any concrete steps proposed to reform EU legislation?

I will answer this question in the most significant way and it concerns a number of cases of animal maltreatment. For example, bullfighting and minimising EU subsidies to finally stop this macabre and unacceptable ‘sport’ under the pretence that it is tradition.

What issues divide the Animal protection parties and movements of the Greens?

Unfortunately, we can see a gap between green political parties and pro-animal parties and rather than diminishing it is growing. This began some years back with the greens of Germany. When Oscar Fischer of the Green German party was appointed foreign minister, he was forced into a collision with his opponents when they were protesting on rail trains that would transport nuclear waste to other countries. This is where the division began.

It’s the power and the post that many love. The Green parties have become worn down by the political arena because they are not clearly positioned on issues of animal welfare and protection as well as other ethical and moral principles. For example, the British Greens are demanding bans on horse racing.

Will they dare ask for a universal ban on racing? What about the dog fights? Why have the Greens in the European Parliament not clearly identified themselves on the issue of spending EU taxpayers’ money on subsidies for bullfighting? What does it also mean when the Greens say they want tougher regulations on live animal transport instead of a universal ban?

These issues and many others are the ones that separate the Greens from the pro-animal political parties. In conclusion, I would say that when the elections are local or at European level, the parties that are attacking the pro-animal parties are the Green parties.