by Paul Lucardie
Whereas the 20th century could be considered the apex of comprehensive or thick-centred ideologies like fascism, socialism, or liberalism, the 21st century looks like an era of partial or thin-centred ideologies, such as ecologism, nationalism, and populism. Animalism can be included here as the most recent addition. In philosophy, the term denotes the view that human beings should be regarded as animals. This view seems to be shared generally by the animal advocacy parties that have sprung up in several countries during the last two decades. Some of them explicitly call themselves ‘animalist party’: the French Parti animaliste (PA) and the Spanish Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal (PACMA). If they articulate a relatively coherent set of ideas organised around core concepts that could qualify as an ideology, why not refer to it as ‘animalism’? Insofar as the parties focus mainly on the relationship between human and other animals, animalism must be a thin ideology.
In order to explore this question, I analysed the programmes and manifestos of seven parties that participated in national or European elections between 2014 and 2019: the Australian Animal Justice Party (AJP), the French Animalist Party (Parti animaliste, PA), the Spanish Animalist Party Against the Maltreatment of Animals (Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal, PACMA), the Portuguese Party Persons, Animals and Nature (Pessoas Animais Natureza, PAN), the German Party Man, Environment and Animals (Partei Mensch Umwelt Tierschutz (PMUT, also called the Tierschutzpartei), and the Dutch Party for Animals (Partij voor de Dieren, PvdD). They were all founded in the 21st century, except for the German PMUT which dates from 1993. The PMUT and the Dutch PvdD won a seat in the European Parliament in 2014 and again in 2019, while the PvdD and the Portuguese PAN have been represented in national parliament since 2006 and 2015 respectively.
Five out of seven parties investigated here presented broad programmes dealing not only with animal rights and with environmental questions but also human problems like health care, migration, foreign policy, education, and constitutional reforms; only the relatively new parties in Australia and France focused (in this period) purely on animal-related issues.
Compassion seems to be the core concept in the programmes, while equal rights (progressively extended to men, women, migrants, animals) and interdependence of all living beings can be considered adjacent concepts. Compassion seems broader than commiseration and less condescending than pity. It may entail awareness of both the suffering as well as the joy of another being and a desire to act, e.g., to alleviate the suffering. Compassion is decontested by the animalist parties as a political principle rather than a private virtue. It should be stimulated and implemented by the government, rather than by corporations, churches, or charity institutions. The state should legislate and implement compassion for non-human as well as human animals, such as discriminated minorities, migrant workers, and refugees, unemployed, and handicapped people. More specifically, it should ban cruel practices like hunting, scientific experiments with animals, and—in the long run—all livestock farming as well as all forms of discrimination between human beings. And it should provide welfare or a basic income for the poor at home and increase foreign aid to the poor abroad. The central position and specific meaning of compassion seems to distinguish animalism from other ideologies. Christian democracy and ‘compassionate conservatism’, as advocated in the US around 2000, do not imply strong state intervention but rely more on civil society.
The experience of compassion with non-human animals might facilitate the advocacy of animal rights by animalists. The extension of equal rights from human beings to (at least some) non-human animals seems to me the second basic element in the animalist ideology, or in Freeden’s terms, an adjacent concept. Parties like PACMA, PAN, and PvdD often compare the struggle for animal rights to the liberation of (black) slaves in the 19th century and the emancipation of women in the 20th century. Basic rights to life, liberty, and well-being are and should be progressively extended, and inequalities and discrimination progressively reduced, if not eliminated. To justify this claim, some parties refer to the argument of the Australian philosopher Tom Regan that non-human animals have an intrinsic value and are each ‘subject-of-a-life’, having desires, memories, emotions, and a psychophysical identity. Non-human animals and animals share this quality, and some animals like primates or dolphins may be similar or even superior to some human beings (e.g., infants or old people with severe dementia). Whereas other parties might agree that non-human animals have an intrinsic value and as a consequence should not be used and abused at will by human beings, they rarely argue for a progressive extension of equal rights (by the state) to non-human animals, as animalists do.
A third essential component of animalism appears to be the idea that all living beings are interdependent. Even if Christian democrats and conservatives may adhere to a more or less organicist view of society, they would not claim that ‘man, animal, and nature form a unity’ or advocate a vegan diet as a consequence. Interdependence is illustrated by the impact of human activities on biodiversity and climate, which in turn affects the life of plants as well as human and non-human animals. Animalist parties share this idea with green parties, but the latter regard animals as part of an ecosystem rather than as individuals, and do not use compassion as a core concept.
Therefore, it seems fair to conclude that animalism can be considered a thin ideology organised around the concepts of compassion, the progressive extension of equal rights and the interdependence of all living beings. However, it may be an ideology in statu nascendi. Though it seems coherent up to a point, some important questions have not been dealt with yet. How far should equal rights be extended from human to non-human animals? Should domesticated animals acquire full citizenship rights, while animals living freely in a human (urban) environment should be tolerated as ‘animal denizens’ with limited rights and animals in the wild should be left alone as much as possible, as Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka have suggested? Will the animal-citizens need some kind of guardian to protect them, like children and mentally disabled human beings? Is a subtle or ‘stratified’ hierarchy among citizens inevitable? At some point in time, animalist parties may have to find answers to these questions, in particular when they continue to grow and acquire political responsibility. Their relatively coherent ideology might help the animalist parties to grow further and prove to be more durable than many other new parties. Besides, their emphasis on compassion might be a source of inspiration beyond their own electorate.
 M. Freeden, Ideologies and Political Theory. A Conceptual Approach (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 485-487; see also M. Freeden, ‘Is Nationalism a Distinct Ideology?’, Political Studies, 46 (1998), pp. 748-765; B. Stanley, ‘The thin ideology of populism’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13 (2008), pp. 95-110.
 Animalism has been defined as ‘the view (..) that each of us is an organism of the species Homo sapiens and that the conditions of our persistence are those of animals’, see: S. Blatti, ‘Animalism’, in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), available at https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/animalism (accessed 28 July 2016).
 Here I follow S. Bein, Compassion and Moral Guidance (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013) especially pp. 1-2, 88, 95.
 See G. Dierickx, ‘Christian Democracy and its ideological rivals’, in: D. Hanley (Ed) Christian Democracy in Europe. A Comparative Perspective (London&New York: Pinter Publishers, 1994); B. Pilbeam, ‘The Tragedy of Compassionate Conservatism’, Journal of American Studies, 44 (2010), pp. 251-268.
 PACMA, ‘Declaración de principios del PACMA’, available at www.pacma.es/principios (accessed 21 July 2011); PAN, ‘Declaração de Principios e Objectivos do PAN’ (2009), available at www.pan.com.pt/declaracao-de-principios.html (accessed 6 March 2014); Partij voor de Dieren, ‘220x liever voor mens, dier, natuur en milieu. Verkiezingsprogramma Partij voor de Dieren’, in: H. Pellikaan et al. (Eds) Verkiezing van de Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal 22 november 2006. Verkiezingsprogramma’s (Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers 2006), pp. 373-405, especially p. 373.
 T. Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, revised edition, e.g. on pp. 243-244; not surprisingly, the Australian Animal Justice Party quotes Regan in its charter, available at www.animaljusticeparty.org/about/charter (accessed 12 May 2016).
 In German: ‘Mensch, Tier und Natur sind eine untrennbare Einheit.’ This is the first sentence in the basic programme of the German party (‘Grundsatzprogramm Tierschutzpartei’, p. 3, available at https://www.tierschutzpartei.de/wp-content/uploads/grundsatzprogramm.pdf (accessed 26 January 2021)); veganism is advocated on p. 13.
 See A. Dobson, Green Political Thought (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990) p. 20; Freeden, Ideologies and Political Theory, p. 527; R. Goodin, Green Political Theory (Cambridge: Polity, 1992); M. Smith, Ecologism. Towards Ecological Citizenship (Buckingham: Open University, 1998) pp. 1-17; Y. Stavrakakis, ‘Green ideology. A discursive reading’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 2 (1997), pp. 259-280.
 S. Donaldson & W. Kymlicka, Zoopolis. A Political Theory of Animal Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); see also see T. Benton, ‘Animal Rights: An Eco-Socialist View’, in R. Garner (Ed.), Animal Rights. The Changing Debate (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1996), pp. 19-41.
 The AJP suggested human guardians to administer the rights of animals, in its policy paper on Animal Law (on-line: http://animaljusticeparty.org/policies (accessed 26 May 2016)); Donaldson and Kymlicka do not seem to like the term ‘guardian’, without being able to get around the idea altogether, using clumsy terms like ‘human enablers’ (Ref. 3, p. 115) or ‘collaborators’ (p.153), ‘ombudsmen’ or ‘defenders’ (p.154).
 Even Regan, the philosopher who inspired not only the AJP but several other animal advocacy movements and parties across the world, discriminates between men and dogs in a crisis situation. In a sinking life boat or a boat without food a dog should be sacrificed to save a human life, as death would be a greater harm to a human being than to a dog, Regan argues (The Case for Animal Rights pp. 285-286, 324-327, 351). So implicit in Regan’s theory is a moral hierarchy, and some paternalism as well. In fact, he admits human beings have to be paternalistic when caring for animals as well as children (pp. 82-120). In the eyes of a more radical theorist like Gary Steiner, the Australian philosopher is too anthropocentric; see G. Steiner, Animals and the Moral Community. Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008) pp. 99-101. Yet even if Steiner’s theory of ‘cosmic holism’ based on ‘felt kinship’ with other living beings may be less anthropocentric than Regan’s right-based theory or theories based on compassion, in practice it might also imply a subtle hierarchy, as we, the dominant human beings, tend to feel more kinship with people of our own kind and more with furry or feathered animals than with snails, spiders and mosquitoes (ibidem, pp. 111, 117-163).