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PARTIDO ANIMALISTA: The rise of vegan and animal rights political parties in Spain and European Union

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The Partido Animalista (PACMA) uncompromising animal rights positions, rather than broader environmental coalition and activism, are driving PACMA’s increasing popularity in Spain.

DIEGO TORRES: The green wave sweeping parts of Europe could take on a more radical form in Spain. Green parties have been gaining ground in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, but Spain’s environmentalists have struggled to attract voters. That’s changing, thanks to a radical animal rights party. Pacma [Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal] — which promotes veganism to fight global warming and wants to ban zoos, circuses, bullfighting, fishing and hunting — is predicted to send one or two MEPs to the European Parliament in May, joining a small club of animal rights parties with a representative in the European assembly (the Dutch Party for the Animals and Germany’s Human Environment Animal Protection.)

But while in those countries and elsewhere, traditional green parties are far more popular than animal rights groups, Pacma is on track to become the closest thing Spain has to a viable environmentalist party. With a young, leftist and predominantly female support base, Pacma is currently polling at the highest level since its founding in 2003 — at 1.8 percent, according to the Center for Sociological Research — and looks ripe for a breakthrough that should worry the far-left Podemos and even Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez ahead of Spain’s April 28 national election.

Some pollsters predict Pacma will win half a million votes in the general election — double its 2016 result — further eroding the declining electoral prospects of Podemos, with whom the pro-animal party competes for votes. This, in turn, could make life difficult for Sánchez, as it would complicate his chances of putting together a viable coalition and his plans for staying in office. “We’re convinced that we’ll obtain representation in the European Parliament and we don’t rule out giving a surprise in the general election,” said Silvia Barquero, the president of Pacma and the party’s lead candidate for the European Parliament.

Originally founded to fight bullfighting and other festivals involving animal mistreatment, Pacma’s focus has long been on animal issues. But Barquero said they have recently adopted much of the environmental and social agenda of traditional green parties. “We’ve got much in common with the environmental movement,” she said… More recently, Pacma has focused on promoting veganism to save the planet — a position most traditional green parties consider too radical. “The cattle industry is responsible for the emission of over 18 percent of greenhouse gases and it’s a matter of responsibility for governments to recommend and promote diets based on vegetable proteins,” Barquero said. “In Europe, we’re doing exactly the opposite, meat is being subsidized, and the consumption of meat is being promoted with public money”…

Yet supporters and rivals alike reckon that the party’s uncompromising animal rights positions, rather than broader environmental activism, are driving Pacma’s increasing popularity… The party’s ascent also speaks to the failure of Spanish environmentalists to establish a competitive green party. Spanish green lawmakers have been elected to the European Parliament in the past, but Pacma’s Barquero is likely to become the first to do so in her own right rather than as part of a wider political coalition.

Mario Rodríguez, the executive director of Greenpeace in Spain, said the green movement in the country is “tribal” and “atomized,” leading to political parties joining wider coalitions — usually with leftist parties — that put green demands in their electoral programs but do not prioritize them. Equo, for example, was formed in 2011 by merging several small groups and is currently the biggest traditional green party in Spain. It has mostly run in elections as part of wider coalitions — lately with Podemos — and has managed to get some lawmakers and local councillors elected to office, which Pacma has not, since the animal rights party favors competing on its own. SOURCE…

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