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Animal-focused minor political parties

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Party Politics for Animal Advocacy Part 1: Animal-focused minor political parties

Authors: Ren Springlea

Key Points

  • Animal parties are minor (niche) political parties with a single-issue focus on animals.

  • Animal parties can win seats in elections that use proportional representation. The most important strategic decision is to choose to contest elections where seats can be won with just a couple of percent of the vote. Animal parties have won seats in five countries (Australia, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal).

  • When an animal party wins even one seat or a couple of seats, the impact for animals is typically positive and moderate. Occasionally, the impact can be enormous.

  • We recommend a handful of countries where we think small grants are likely to help animal parties win at least one seat. Providing initial funding for animal parties in these countries appears to be low-hanging fruit, and this small level of funding is likely to have a disproportionately high level of impact.

Executive Summary

This approach involves establishing political parties with an explicit, and typically single-issue, focus on animal advocacy. These parties are minor (niche) parties. Animal parties can usually only win seats in elections that use proportional representation.

There are a few ways that animal parties can influence the lives of animals. The main way is by winning seats in legislatures and exercising power over legislation, government budgets, and so on. Animal parties can also influence policy in ways that do not necessarily require winning elections, such as obtaining policy concessions from other parties and setting the political agenda.

Currently, animal parties have won seats in national and sub-national legislatures in five countries (Australia, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal). The track record of the animal parties in these countries shows that the impact is positive and moderate, though massive wins do happen sometimes. The impact falls into four main categories:

  • Large policy wins, which seem rare but enormous (i.e., hits-based). These crop up on the rare occasions when the policy agenda and the specific makeup of the legislature provide a window for an animal party to secure large policy concessions from other parties. Examples include major policy changes (e.g. inclusion of fish in animal welfare laws or bans on widespread farming practices like beak trimming) or allocating millions of dollars for animal welfare in national budgets.

  • Small policy wins, which seem quite common. Examples include policies that benefit small numbers of animals (e.g. bans on particular types of hunting, restrictions on animal experimentation).

  • Shifting the political agenda and influencing the policies of other parties. This effect is notoriously difficult to measure, though it does seem to be positive and meaningful.

  • Capitalising on the non-legislative benefits of being an MP. This can include joining parliamentary committees, using the public stature of an MP to gain media attention for animal issues, and using allocated budgets to conduct campaigns outside of parliament.

In elections, animal parties typically attract just a few percent of the vote (e.g. 0 - 3%). There are numerous jurisdictions around the world where parties can win seats with modest votes like this. We believe that these jurisdictions are low-hanging fruit. Forming parties and contesting elections in these jurisdictions would result in animals gaining representation in a number of additional legislatures. There is less evidence that animal parties can readily expand their vote through advertising - instead, it appears that animal parties are mainly supported by a small core of passionate voters, and that the vote will therefore remain somewhat steady at around 0 - 3% over time. So, we think that the most important consideration is not necessarily advertising or crafting a perfect campaign strategy, but rather picking the right elections to contest, i.e. running in elections where parties can win seats with just a couple of percent of the vote.

We ask whether there are any legislatures around the world where a) animal parties are not currently contesting elections, and b) an animal party would probably win at least one seat if such a party were formed and contested an election. In some of these jurisdictions, an animal party does exist but it is not contesting all available elections.

We think that the most promising jurisdictions, along with the number of seats we would expect to win, are as follows:

  • Switzerland (Swiss Animal Party / Tierpartei Schweiz): ~8-9 seats (across regional + national legislatures)

  • Brazil (Animal Party of Brazil / Partido Animalista): ~2-5 seats (across regional + national legislatures)

  • South Africa (new party): ~4 seats (across regional + national legislatures)

  • Chile (Animal Party of Chile / Partido Animalista de Chile): ~1 seat (national legislature)

  • Israel (Justice for All Party): ~1 seat (national legislature)

  • Argentina (new party): ~1 seat (national legislature)

We also identified a few jurisdictions where the expected number of seats is more modest. Nevertheless, we think that these jurisdictions are still worth considering:

  • Norway (new party): ~0-1 seats (national legislature)

  • Albania (new party): ~0-1 seats (national legislature)

  • Colombia (new party): ~0-1 seats (national legislature)

  • Sri Lanka (new party): ~0-1 seats (national legislature)

  • Dominican Republic (new party): ~0-1 seats (national legislature)

We would also recommend for all existing animal parties to ensure that they contest all elections available to them, including elections for state or regional parliaments.

The next step would be to reach out to local animal advocacy communities (or animal parties, where applicable) in the countries listed above. We have not considered the local contexts of these countries when forecasting the expected number of seats, so our forecasts may need to be adjusted up or down based on local considerations. For Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, and Israel, it would also be important to check whether the existing animal parties are indeed limited by funding.

We emphasise that all animal parties are great and should be supported, but these are the countries where an initial seed grant from a foundation is likely to generate a disproportionately high impact.

The costs to funders would be relatively small. These new parties may need financial support to contest the first election in each country. Most of this cost would pay for advertising, an online presence, and enabling a small team to work full-time on an election campaign in the few weeks immediately before the election. We suspect that around ~$30,000 USD would be the upper limit on how much a party would need for the first election. After the first election, the party would usually not require ongoing support from foundations - any elected legislators would receive a salary, the party may be eligible for government funding, and the party may build a base of paying members.

We also conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis to illustrate the impacts that animal parties can have. Basically, the lessons from this analysis are that: costs are low; most elected animal parties can successfully pass small policies (benefiting thousands of wild or companion animals); and some elected animal parties can successfully pass enormous policies (benefiting millions of farmed animals). This approach is difficult to scale as it is limited by the availability of legislatures where seats can be won with just a few percent of the vote. However, given the low costs, the positive impact, and the opportunity for occasional big wins, we think that helping animal parties contest additional elections would be a great part of the movement's portfolio.

Table of Contents

3.1 We focus on proportional representation

3.2 Contesting more elections seems better than spending more on advertising

5.1 Where do animal parties exist?

5.2 Method: How we forecast the chance of winning a seat

5.3 Results: Our predicted chances of winning a seat for existing parties

6.1 Where do animal parties not yet exist?

6.2 Results: Our predicted chances of winning a seat for future parties

8.1 Australia: Animal Justice Party (New South Wales)

8.2 Belgium: Victoria Austraet, Independent

8.3 France: Ecological Revolution for the Living (REV)

8.4 Netherlands: Party for the Animals

8.5 Portugal: People-Animals-Nature (PAN)

9.1 Costs: Parties often pay for themselves

9.2 Impact: Our rough back-of-the-envelope calculation

10.1 What do studies tell us about animal parties?

10.2 How do minor parties influence policy?

10.3 What is the relationship between elections, veg*n voters, and animal welfare?

1. How Do Animal Advocacy Parties Work?

This approach involves establishing political parties with an explicit, and typically single-issue, focus on animal advocacy. These parties are almost always minor parties (the only exceptions being when parties join larger alliances, as in France).

Animal parties can realise impact by pursuing three main strategies. Of course, these strategies can support each other, and each strategy benefits from obtaining votes.

  • Winning seats. A few parties have won seats at the national or regional/state levels (see table below). There have also been some successes at the supranational level (European Union) and the local level. When an animal party wins seats, it can influence legislation, which can be a major opportunity for policy influence. It is typically unrealistic for minor parties to implement their own legislation. Parliamentarians can also use their status to gain attention for issues, such as in the media or by building coalitions with other parliamentarians from other parties (1).

  • Policy concessions. For example, we illustrated in a previous article how the animal party in Australia can secure pro-animal policies from the government simply by running in elections (2). The election summarised in that article used preferential voting, in which a voter casts their vote by ranking the available candidates. This allowed the animal party to obtain policy concessions from one of the two major parties in exchange for having the animal party's voters rank that party above the competing major party when voting.

  • Agenda-setting. For example, the animal party in the Netherlands "did not seek to implement its own animal welfare proposals directly, but rather it sought to make established parties work harder on animal issues through their participation in elections and in parliament" (3). Influencing the agenda may be easiest for parties that can win seats, though parties can achieve some influence over the agenda simply by being very active during elections (2).

Animal parties are unlikely to represent a pathway to victory for the animal advocacy movement on their own. The reason is that the success of animal parties is usually tied to public opinion. Nevertheless, animal parties can have an impact well beyond their level of formal electoral success, so animal parties could form one part of a portfolio of strategies used by the movement.

2. Theory of Change

The following diagram summarises the mechanisms by which animal parties contesting legislative elections can help animals. The main mechanism is, of course, winning one seat or a handful of seats and then using that position inside the legislature to pass animal welfare laws and to secure pro-animal concessions in other legislator's proposed laws. However, as the diagram shows, this is one mechanism among many. Many of these mechanisms are discussed in detail later in the report (see sections "8. Track Record of Existing Parties" and "10. Academic Literature").


  • Yellow bubbles = central points in the theory of change

  • Blue bubbles = helpful institutional factors that are out of the movement's control but useful to look out for

  • Green bubbles = end goal

Since our analysis is focused on winning just one seat or a handful of seats in a legislature, this raises the question of how much policy influence a party can exert in a large legislature by holding just a handful of seats. On this topic, one cannot generalise - the answer will vary wildly across jurisdictions, and even in the same jurisdiction across terms of parliament.

On one extreme, there are cases where a single seat gives a minor party the power to make or break governments. We can illustrate using an example from outside animal politics. The Australian 2010 federal election resulted in two MPs striking the jackpot - the election resulted in a hung parliament, where the balance of power during the formation of government was ultimately held by just two independent MPs. These MPs found themselves in a position where they were being courted by the two major parties (which were hoping to form government) with major policy initiatives, high-value development projects in the MPs' districts, and even an offer of a Ministerial position (4,5). If an animal party MP found themselves in this position, the policy impact for animals could be transformative. On the other extreme, there are cases where a government commands a majority of seats, meaning that a single seat held by a minor party would be of little relevance.

Most of the time, minor parties that win a seat in a legislature would find themselves somewhere in between those extremes. Furthermore, whether an elected animal party finds itself in a powerful legislative position or not, merely holding membership in a legislature can also allow a party to exert policy influence through other means. One such means is sitting on parliamentary committees. For example, a Member of Parliament from the Animal Justice Party in New South Wales, Australia was the chair of the Select Committee on Animal Cruelty Laws (and a member of many other committees). Another way to exert policy influence is by capitalising on the public stature, staff budgets, and travel rights that come with being an MP. People elected to legislatures can use the profile and resources associated with this position to draw attention to their issues. This was exploited by one early legislator from the Australian Greens, who "for most of her time in parliament concentrated on the outside world", attracting substantial media attention to her chosen issues (1). It is easy to see how a legislator from an animal party could substantially magnify the attention given to, say, undercover investigations on factory farms.

3. Voting Systems and Minor Parties

In this report, we are mainly interested in how parties influence policy by winning seats in legislatures or otherwise influencing legislative elections). Our current view is that animal parties can successfully win seats in proportional systems, but this would be extremely difficult in majoritarian systems. Animal parties can certainly have meaningful policy influence without winning seats, but they would need to explore other avenues for achieving impact.

3.1 We focus on proportional representation

We distinguish between two broad classes of election systems.

  • Majoritarian systems. These are also called "winner-takes-all" systems because the most popular major parties (typically two major parties) win almost all of the available seats. The percentage of seats won by the major parties typically exceeds their combined percentage of the vote. An example of a majoritarian system is First-Past-the-Post as used in the United States Congress. Importantly, we consider some preferential voting systems to be majoritarian, an example of which is the Instant-Runoff Vote used for the lower house in the Australian Parliament.

  • Proportional systems. These systems distribute seats to parties roughly in proportion to the share of the votes that the parties received - a party receiving 10% of the vote can expect to receive about 10% of the available seats. There are a few different mathematical formulae used to distribute the seats. Some jurisdictions have a minimum threshold that parties must surpass before receiving any seats (e.g. 5% of the vote).

There is also a third type of electoral system - the ni-ni system. This is just a category that captures all miscellaneous systems that aren't accurately described as majoritarian or proportional. This term is an abbreviation of the French phrase "ni l'un ni l'autre", meaning "neither one nor the other" (6). We do note that, for the purposes of this report, we treat some ni-ni systems as proportional systems (e.g. mixed electoral systems in which voters "cast separate votes for two sets of seats allocated by different systems, most commonly single-member plurality and proportional representation"; and proportional with majoritarian incentives, in which "other electoral rules give incentives to support larger parties" (6)).

Animal parties are minor parties. How does the election system influence the success or failure of minor parties?

When it comes to majoritarian systems, the conventional wisdom is captured by Duverger's law. This law states that majoritarian systems naturally lead to stable, two-party systems in which minor parties are doomed to exclusion from the legislature (7). The mechanism typically offered to explain this pattern is that a voter does not want to "waste" their vote by voting for a party that is unlikely to win a seat in that voter's electorate - this leads to voters almost always voting for one or two major parties, which in turn makes minor parties seem like even less viable options (8). In contrast, Duverger concluded that proportional systems naturally lead to multi-party systems, in which minor parties often win seats (7).

While Duverger's law does hold in many jurisdictions, there are also exceptions. Voters do not always vote in the purely strategic way that is suggested above - evidence from elections shows that voters, even in majoritarian systems, simply vote for the candidate they like the best (8,9).

Academic research has identified some important circumstances in which minor parties can successfully win seats in majoritarian systems:

  • Regionalist parties. Historically, minor parties in majoritarian systems have been most successful when they focus on issues specific to one region, ethnicity or demographic, enabling a minor party to receive high support in a small locality (6,9,10). This effect is magnified in federalist countries: the existence of provincial legislatures "provides a power base for minor parties that can then be used as a platform for national office" (11).

  • Anti-establishment parties. When voters feel discontent with established parties and frustration at the lack of options, they often express this dissatisfaction by voting for particularly radical minor parties. However, for minor parties to pursue this strategy, they must have policies sufficiently radical that they cannot be co-opted by major parties (e.g. extreme right-wing populism). This means that minor parties may have success where they can a) establish an ideology that is sufficiently distinct and radical to avoid being co-opted, and b) run on an anti-establishment platform to capture dissent in the population (8).

  • Centrist parties. Centrist parties can act as a reasonable alternative to the major parties when voters are dissatisfied with the major parties. In particular, Quinn (10) shows that minor, centrist parties are most successful in electoral districts where one major party is highly dominant and the other major party is weak - this enables the minor party to appear as viable as a major party and therefore benefit from tactical and protest voting in those districts. This dynamic is specific to centrist parties.

More generally, Gerring also found that minor parties in majoritarian systems perform better when voters tend not to identify strongly with mainstream parties, and worse when mainstream parties are strongly organised (11).

With this understanding in mind, we believe that animal parties (which are minor parties by definition) will typically perform poorly in majoritarian systems:

  • Animal parties are not regional. While certain demographics tend to be more supportive of animal welfare than others (12,13), the baseline support for animal parties is small (typically a few percent of the vote), so any correlation between demographics and support for animal welfare is not strong enough to concentrate potential supporters of an animal party into a specific electoral district.

  • Animal parties are not really radical. While animal parties often propose some radical policy measures (e.g. the abolition of animal agriculture), animal welfare is not radical as a general topic. This means that major parties, if they feel threatened by an animal party, can safely adopt pro-animal welfare policies and therefore co-opt animal welfare as an issue (2). This means that animal parties cannot cultivate an identity that is truly and stably distinct from major parties (8). We will return to this point, as pressuring major parties into adopting pro-animal welfare policies often represents a major win in its own right. (Related to this point is the fact that radical minor parties can have animal welfare as one policy among many (14), though these parties are not really animal parties.)

  • Animal parties are not really centrist. Animal parties are typically associated with left-wing and/or green politics. Notably, some animal parties are not left-wing but are single-issue (15) or even right-wing (e.g. Italy's Animalist Movement, which is not to be confused with Italy's Animalist Party). Animal welfare does attract the support of right-wing parties in some countries (e.g. the UK). In any case, it would be rare for an animal party to be positioned as the most viable centrist party for which dissatisfied voters can submit a protest vote, as required by Quinn's model (10) of centrist parties.

Based on this reasoning, our current view is that animal parties can win seats in legislatures that are elected by proportional voting systems, and we think that animal parties will find it extremely difficult to win seats in legislatures elected by majoritarian systems. However, animal parties can definitely still influence policy in majoritarian systems - it is just a matter of influencing policy by means other than winning seats. This represents the working hypothesis on which we will structure our analysis in this report, and we would welcome any counter-arguments.

3.2 Contesting more elections seems better than spending more on advertising

In this report, we adopt the following mindset: we think it is important for animal parties to contest as many (winnable) elections as possible and to support those campaigns with sufficient resources to get the party name on the ballot, to produce an attractive policy platform, and to maintain an online presence. But we are less keen on spending large amounts on advertising for animal parties during election campaigns, once the party has those minimum sufficient resources. This is a working hypothesis, subject to future evidence.

Tentatively, we believe that advertising for an animal party during an election campaign has a negligible effect on the number of seats won by the party. The alternative view is that advertising is important, and that spending more money on advertising during a campaign would allow animal parties to win more seats.

In favour of the belief that advertising is important:

  • It is widely believed that political advertising by mainstream parties has a meaningful effect on their vote. This belief has empirical support in some (but not all) academic studies (16–18) and in the observation that mainstream parties almost always spend lots of money on advertising during election campaigns (though that latter observation does not necessarily prove that such spending is an effective use of money) (19). On the other hand, there has been no analysis specific to animal parties, and relatively few analyses specific to minor parties.

  • The Party for the Animals in the Netherlands has witnessed a vote that is steadily increasing over time. This suggests that animal parties can increase their vote by building their popularity and profile, and advertising may be one component of this. On the other hand, there is an alternative explanation. Dinas et al (20) show that when small parties enter a legislature, they typically experience a subsequent increase in their vote because having an elected parliamentarian "signals organisational capacity and candidates’ appeal, and reduces uncertainty about parties’ ideological profile". So, the increasing profile of the Netherlands may not necessarily be related to any actual marketing.

  • In Australia, the Animal Justice Party observes higher votes at election booths where party volunteers hand out flyers to voters as they arrive (2). On the other hand, this may be correlation rather than causation - perhaps naturally higher support in a particular suburb means that there are more people willing to volunteer for the party. Also, it is unclear whether volunteers handing out flyers on election day would have the same effect as paid advertising (e.g. on social media during the election campaign).

In favour of the belief that advertising is not important (i.e. our assumption for this report):

  • There is reason to suspect that animal parties operate differently to mainstream parties (and even differently to other types of minor parties) and are hence an exception to conventional wisdom. One view that is common in the academic literature is that minor parties tend to attract a core of voters who are committed for ideological reasons. For example, Adams et al (21) conclude that minor parties can maximise their votes if they "maintain their policy appeal to those core voters who are drawn to them for ideological reasons". For animal parties, this would be a small core of voters who are already strongly committed to animal rights or welfare. Securing votes from other groups of people may be less tractable. Under this view, it is far more important whether the animal party has policies that appeal to this core of voters - in this case, the party simply being on the ballot may be all the advertising that is needed to win the support of this committed core. Whether the voter sees an advertisement for the animal party may therefore be less relevant.

  • Votes for existing animal parties are mostly capped within a narrow range (see data in "5. Expanding Existing Parties"). It is common for animal parties contesting proportionally-represented elections to receive votes between 0% and 4%, but anything above this is quite rare. This suggests that, at the most, advertising can help within this narrow range, but perhaps not above it.

  • The academic literature has found that, in general, advertising "tend[s] to produce small average effects" (19). Even if the effect of advertising is above zero, it may be small.

  • In one election in Australia, the animal party invested a high marketing spend, but received a much lower vote than expected (2). On the other hand, this is a single data point, and it is impossible to tell if the vote would have been even lower without the advertising.

We emphasise that the evidence for either of these beliefs is ambiguous. There is simply no data on the effects of political advertising on the vote secured by animal parties. There are a few weak pieces of evidence on both sides of this question. This is why we are sceptical about spending the movement's resources on advertising for animal parties until stronger evidence arises - we are far more confident in spending resources to ensure that animal parties are contesting all (winnable) elections.

4. Current Seats: Where Have Animal Parties Won Seats?

The following table shows the five countries where animal parties have won elected representation at the national or regional/state level. Note that we give a more detailed description of each party's track record below (see section 8, "Track Record of Existing Parties"). This table also excludes parties that have won seats in the European Parliament rather than national or regional/state legislatures (see section 7, "European Parliament").

Table 1: Countries where animal parties have won seats at the national or regional/state level.

*"Lowest Successful Primary Vote" means the lowest vote in a particular electorate that successfully resulted in winning at least one seat in that electorate. This is not intended to show how popular each party is - rather, this shows how low a party's vote can be while still winning electoral representation.

**The party in France secured these extremely high votes as part of a larger alliance, due to France's system of running as political alliances. In all other contexts, it is unrealistic for an animal party to achieve a vote this high.

Note: The Italian Animalist Party did technically win a seat in the 2020 regional election in Campania, though this was a combined nomination with an environmentalist party, so we do not consider this to be a seat held by an animal party.

There are a couple of key takeaways from this table. Typically, seats have been won in legislatures that use proportional representation. The main exception is France, where the animal party joined a large and well-recognised alliance of parties. In Victoria in Australia, the election system involves a group voting ticket, an uncommon and unpredictable form of voting that can disproportionately benefit minor parties.

Also, animal parties have often won seats with just 1 - 2% of the primary vote. A vote of this level can be obtained very reliably by animal parties in most places.

Therefore, perhaps the most important strategic decision is to pick the right country and legislature in which to contest an election. In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria are the two states with the largest populations, which means that they have the largest state legislatures, which means that they have the lowest vote required to win at least one seat in a state legislature (at least in the proportionally-represented upper houses). Therefore, Australia's animal party has won seats in these legislatures, even though the party receives a very similar vote in other states.

Beyond representation within countries, some parties have won representation in a supranational legislature: the European Parliament. Members are elected using proportional representation. The parties from Germany (Human Environment Animal Welfare Party), the Netherlands (Party for the Animals), and Portugal (Peoples-Animals-Nature) have won representation in this body. We discuss the European Parliament in greater detail below (see section 7, "European Parliament").

A number of parties, including the ones listed above, have won representation at the local level (e.g. municipalities or local councils). These positions can lead to meaningful policy change for animals at the local level. However, we don't detail these victories here, as the list is long.

5. Expanding Existing Parties: Where Could Animal Parties Win More Seats?

5.1 Where do animal parties exist?

At least focusing on the strategy of actually winning seats, the best way for the animal advocacy movement to proceed could be to find jurisdictions that a) use proportional representation, b) have large enough legislatures that parties can be elected with just a few percent of the vote, and c) do not already have an existing animal party, or have an animal party that could run in additional legislatures if given extra funding.

Given the huge number of legislatures worldwide, there is still some low-hanging fruit - this is compounded by the fact that many countries have subnational legislatures at the regional/state levels, and it is common for these subnational legislatures to have power over agricultural policy anyway. Therefore, funding just a few small parties in a handful of countries could increase the power of the animal advocacy movement in legislatures worldwide.

The following countries have animal parties that have not yet won elected representation in national or regional/state legislatures: Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Moldova, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, the UK, and Turkey (2,22–24). The US has an animal party, but no proportionally-elected legislatures. Denmark did have a party, but it seems to have merged into a larger party with a focus on environmentalism rather than explicitly animal welfare (23).

5.2 Method: How we forecast the chance of winning a seat

In this report, we are interested in finding additional legislatures where animal parties could win seats.

Proportionally-elected legislatures have an election threshold - this is the minimum vote required for a party to win at least one seat in an election. Some legislatures have legally set thresholds, while others have de facto thresholds determined by the number of seats available. For example, if a legislature has 20 seats, then a party would usually need to win around 5% of the vote to win a seat; but if a legislature has 200 seats, then the party would usually only need to win 0.5% of the vote. Of course, this rule of thumb is influenced by the specific election system used in a jurisdiction: there may be a legal minimum threshold (which would increase the vote required to win at least one seat); voters may be divided into multiple constituencies (which would usually increase the threshold required); votes may be transferable and cast by ranking candidates (which would usually decrease the threshold required); and so on. For our analysis, we estimate a rough ballpark threshold for each legislature based on previous elections in that legislature (combined with any legal thresholds that may exist).

Now, how can we figure out if a new animal party might exceed the threshold necessary to win a seat? This requires making a prediction about what vote a new animal party might receive. Basically, the most agnostic way to predict a new party's vote is to look at the votes that have been received in the past by animal parties around the world.

The following graphs show the votes received by all animal parties around the world in elections that use proportional representation. We give rough percentages for the frequency with which votes are received in each interval. We have been quite aggressive in rounding these percentages, as we want to emphasise the fact that our forecasts are quite coarse in precision.

The top graph shows the raw data. For example, animal parties have received a vote between 0% and 1% in around ~20% of elections in our dataset.

However, there is one anomaly. The animal party in the Netherlands (Party for the Animals) has been extremely successful. This party has built its profile and support over time, and it now frequently receives votes that are unrealistic for new parties to expect.

So, the bottom graph shows the same raw data but excluding elections in the Netherlands. In this more modest dataset, animal parties have received a vote between 0% and 1% in around ~35% of elections.

We do think that it is worthwhile giving some weight to the elections from the Netherlands in our data set. So, for our forecasts for future elections, we basically average the numbers in the above two graphs. This is equivalent to placing a weighting of 0.5 on all data points from the Netherlands, and a weighting of 1 on all other data points.

Our forecasts are summarised below in Table 2. The top half of the table shows the average of the numbers from the above graphs. The bottom half of the table turns these numbers into forecasts. For example, we would expect perhaps ~30% of elections to yield a vote for an animal party between 0% and 1%. This means that around ~70% of elections would yield a vote above 1%.

Therefore, if we imagine that animal parties ran in 10 independent elections, we would expect to see:

  • 4 elections where the animal parties receive less than 1% of the vote

  • 3 elections where the animal parties receive between 1% and 2% of the vote

  • 1 election where the animal party receives between 2% and 3% of the vote

  • 1 election where the animal party receives between 3% and 4% of the vote

  • 1 election where the animal party receives between 4% and 5% of the vote

Imagine that a country runs an election that uses proportional representation and has a threshold of 1%. This means that any party receiving 1% of the vote will receive at least one seat. Our data shows that animal parties exceed 1% of the vote about 70% of the time. So, if an animal party contested this election, there would be a 70% chance of receiving a seat. This means that running in this election yields the movement around 0.7 expected seats.

We do not adjust this forecast up or down based on local considerations. This is the biggest limitation of our forecasting method. However, in the report sections below, we do flag where we think the forecast should be adjusted slightly up or down.

This simple calculation does exclude the possibility of receiving multiple seats. This means that our "expected seats" numbers could be slight underestimates. However, we suspect that receiving multiple seats on the first go is unlikely in practice. Other factors - such as limitations in our simple dataset - are far more important for the accuracy of our forecasts.

Table 2: How we convert past election results from existing animal parties to future forecasts for new animal parties.

5.3 Results: Our predicted chances of winning a seat for existing parties

The following table lists all animal parties that exist in countries with proportionally-represented legislatures, including those parties that have not yet won a seat. The table also gives an idea of whether those parties are running in all available proportionally-represented elections (including all regional/state elections rather than solely national elections).

Based on this analysis, the countries that seem most promising are:

  • Brazil

  • Chile

  • Israel

  • Switzerland

Table 3: Countries that use proportional representation and have an existing animal party.

LH = lower house; UH = upper house; UC = unicameral

*Tasmania is the exception, where the lower house is the one elected using proportional representation.

**New Zealand's Animal Justice Party is a new party. We have been in contact with them, and they plan to contest the 2023 general election.

⬆ denotes that our forecast would probably be higher than the stated percentage, given local considerations (e.g. support for animal welfare in Israel)

🔽 denotes that our forecast would probably be lower than the stated percentage, given local considerations (e.g. observed elections within that country)

6. Future Parties: Where Could Future Animal Parties Be Established?

6.1 Where do animal parties not yet exist?

We looked at all countries where animal parties do not yet exist. For each of those countries, we asked whether it would be worthwhile to form a new animal party.

We limited our analysis to countries ranked as "Full democracy" or "Flawed democracy" in The Economist Democracy Index (25). We only included legislatures that use some form of proportional representation. We attempted to capture all national and subnational legislatures. For subnational legislatures, we attempted to find all subnational legislatures that are genuine regional/state legislatures rather than city councils. The difference is not always clear cut. We found subnational legislatures in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, Switzerland, the United States, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Africa, and Portugal (though only some of those legislatures use proportional representation). We decided against including the subnational bodies in Taiwan and New Zealand (which appear closer to city councils), Greece (which do not seem to have their own legislatures), and Indonesia (where we were limited by information).

6.2 Results: Our predicted chances of winning a seat for future parties

Based on this analysis, the countries that seem most promising are as follows, roughly ordered from most promising to least promising:

  • South Africa

  • Argentina

  • Japan

  • Norway

  • Albania

  • Colombia

  • Sri Lanka

  • Dominican Republic

Table 4: Countries that use proportional representation and do not have an animal party.

LH = lower house; UH = upper house; UC = unicameral

🔽 denotes that our forecast would probably be lower than the stated percentage, given local considerations (e.g. limited track record of animal parties in the region; or a constituency-specific requirement)

⬆ denotes that our forecast would probably be higher than the stated percentage, given local considerations (e.g. solid track record of animal parties in countries with similar demographics)

7. European Parliament: Could Animal Parties Win More Seats in the European Parliament?

Could it be worthwhile to give greater assistance to animal parties contesting seats in the European Parliament? The European Parliament is a special case. In elections to the European Parliament, minor parties often receive disproportionately higher votes compared to their respective national parliaments (26,27). Also, many Member States have existing animal parties and/or high public support for animal welfare.

Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any low-hanging fruit for animal parties in the European Parliament. In all Member States where animal parties are not already contesting European Parliament elections, the minimum vote required to win a seat is quite high.

In the European Parliament, there are a number of animal parties that already hold seats. The parties from Germany (Human Environment Animal Welfare Party), the Netherlands (Party for the Animals), and Portugal (People-Animals-Nature) have won representation in this body.

Members are elected using proportional representation. Many Member States have legal thresholds, and other Member States have de facto thresholds given the relatively small number of seats contested in each Member State.

There are some Member States where a vote of ~5% is enough to win a seat (e.g. Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, and so on). These may be the most promising Member States in which to run, and we certainly encourage animal parties to contest these elections. However, the forecasted probability of winning seats even in these Member States appears insufficient to justify the immediate investment of resources.

Table 5: Elections to the European Parliament.

* denotes Member States that divide their electorate into multiple constituencies. This sometimes has the effect of increasing the de facto threshold necessary to win at least one seat, though this depends on the type of proportional representation used by the Member State to distribute seats.

**appears to be dominated in practice by two major parties

8. Track Record of Existing Parties

In this section, we focus on the five countries where an animal party has won election to a national or regional legislature: Australia, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. We examine what impact these animal parties might be having on policy, as well as any important strategic considerations that we can identify.

8.1 Australia: Animal Justice Party (New South Wales)

We conducted an interview with Emma Hurst, who sits as a Member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales. This state, one of eight states and territories (see note 1) in Australia, has about 8 million people (30% of the population of Australia). The Legislative Council is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of New South Wales. The Legislative Council has 42 Members, and typically 21 of these are elected at a time. The Legislative Council contains a diverse collection of parties and has similar power to introduce and amend legislation to the lower house (see note 2). Hurst was elected in the 2019 election, representing the Animal Justice Party and receiving 1.95% of the first-preference vote (see note 3). The Animal Justice Party also has representatives in the Victorian state legislature, but our interview focused solely on the party's activity in New South Wales.

Hurst identifies her key policy wins as:

  • The creation in June 2023 of an Animal Welfare Committee, with Hurst as the Chair, by a proposal from the ruling Labor party. This Committee will, for the duration of the current term of Parliament, "inquire into and report on matters relating to the welfare and protection of animals in New South Wales" (28)

  • Higher penalties for people convicted of animal cruelty

  • Outlawing the use of cetaceans in entertainment, meaning that businesses like Seaworld can never set up in NSW

  • A requirement that animal shelters must make efforts to rehome animals before euthanizing them

  • A requirement for cats and dogs used in scientific experimentation to be rehomed rather than killed once the experimentation is finished

  • Over $60 million in Government funding towards rescue organisations, greyhound rescues, Lucy's Project (an organisation that supports people with animals experiencing domestic violence), and the enforcement of animal cruelty laws

  • Changing the laws around violent fetish videos and around bestiality, i.e. an automatic ban on keeping further animals for people found guilty of these crimes. Likewise, people guilty of serious animal cruelty can no longer work with animals (e.g. zoos) or pass working-with-children checks (required for jobs and volunteer roles involving children)

Hurst has also been a Chair, Deputy Chair, or Member in a number of other parliamentary committees (29).

Our interview also identified some other key points, which are as follows:

  • Hurst has had success in both proposing and amending legislation. For proposing legislation, this is most successful when Hurst can identify which government MPs may be most sympathetic to the proposed law, as those MPs can then advocate for the proposed law within the ruling party. In other cases, Hurst has proposed legislation and launched a strong media campaign. If there is sufficient support for the proposed legislation among the Legislative Council and the public, the government is incentivised to propose a near-identical piece of legislation in the Legislative Assembly, which results in the success of the policy. Amending proposed legislation can also be a successful strategy, because if an amendment to a Government Bill is agreed to by a majority of members in the Legislative Council, the Government is forced to either accept that amendment, or they may not be able to pass their own Bill. In this way, passing an amendment to a Bill can convince the Government to come to the table and negotiate on an issue.

  • The biggest roadblock limiting Hurst's work is the power of the animal agribusiness industry and their lobby groups. Another roadblock is the fact that the animal welfare portfolio is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Agriculture, which significantly hinders policy reform (see our detailed report on this challenge here). These two roadblocks make it very challenging for Hurst to secure ambitious, large-scale reforms for farmed animal welfare. Nevertheless, Hurst does campaign for some specific farmed animal welfare issues. Hurst sees value in the attention that these campaigns draw in both the media and in parliament, which can gradually help to build support among the public and other MPs in the long-run.

  • Hurst has no data on whether, or by how much, advertising during election campaigns helps the Animal Justice Party's vote. She does report that the party's vote has increased in New South Wales over time. She also feels that advertising for specific campaigns has directly led to policy wins in those campaign areas before.

  • Hurst reports that being an elected MP is an enormous help in securing media attention. She now finds it much easier to get stories into the media than in her previous roles in animal advocacy organisations.

  • When asked if she would like the animal advocacy movement to do anything differently, Hurst spoke strongly about the movement's need to become more involved in political lobbying. Hurst has witnessed a disproportionately low amount of lobbying for animal issues compared to other issues in Australia. This is true for lobbying legislators to both propose pro-animal legislation and support pro-animal legislation proposed by other legislators. Hurst hopes this trend will change with the establishment of the new Australian Alliance for Animals, who have a focus on political lobbying.

8.2 Belgium: Victoria Austraet, Independent

We conducted an interview with Victoria Austraet, who sits as an independent deputy in the opposition of the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region. This region is one of three in Belgium and has about 1.2 million people, 11% of the population of Belgium. The 89 deputies in this Parliament are elected using proportional representation, and the Parliament has a multi-party system. Austraet was elected in the 2019 election, where she represented the party DierAnimal and received 1.32% of the vote. Austraet subsequently left the party and now sits as an independent.

The key findings from our interview are as follows:

  • Since the Brussels Parliament has a multi-party system, Austraet can propose both laws and resolutions and have a good chance of them successfully passing. Passing any proposal requires discussions with the other parties to ensure support before the text is written. (This point may seem trivial to European readers, but in many majoritarian, two-party systems like Australia, it is extremely rare for a bill to pass unless it was submitted by the government.)

  • When we asked about Austraet's concrete policy wins, the two main examples she cited were: a new law that bans the capture and killing of wild pigeons; and a resolution to ask the minister to pressure EU policymakers to ban long-distance transport of farmed animals.

  • However, Austraet independently made the point that her most significant work is to simply raise animal welfare and veganism as issues in Parliament. Raising animal issues on the agenda makes them more legitimate as issues and encourages the other deputies (and the Minister) to shift in the right direction over time. Austraet felt strongly that while this effect is difficult to measure, it is real and important.

  • Austraet emphasises that it is essential to develop good relationships with other parties and with the Minister responsible for animal welfare. In particular, being an independent deputy enables Austraet to develop these relationships without the interference of a party label or a party apparatus.

  • Austraet has encountered a few key roadblocks during her term as a deputy. 1) Firstly, the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare has a large amount of control over the details of animal welfare laws and even how proposed laws are discussed. 2) Secondly, the Minister has stated that he will soon release a new, overarching welfare code, and many parties are reluctant to support Austraet's proposals while the details of the Minister's code remain unknown. This compounds a general reluctance from the other deputies to support animal welfare reforms. 3) Thirdly, Austraet is part of the opposition, rather than the government coalition. The first of these roadblocks (1) is a specific feature of the Brussels political system. The second (2) and third (3) of these roadblocks are specific features of the current policy agenda and makeup of Parliament, and may not necessarily interfere with progress in future sessions of Parliament.

  • Despite these roadblocks, we discussed with Austraet the role of party politics in animal advocacy in general. At the end of our interview, Austraet emphatically argued: "People in animal welfare should really go into politics. [...] We have to be there."

8.3 France: Ecological Revolution for the Living (REV)

We conducted an interview with Victor Pailhac, who is a staff member of France's party REV (Ecological Revolution for the Living). The REV has one elected representative, Aymeric Caron, in France's National Assembly (the lower house of a bicameral legislature). Caron won election in 2022 as part of the left-wing political alliance NUPES (Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale), receiving 45.05% (first round) and 51.65% (second round) of the vote in France's two-round runoff system. Victor Pailhac, who responded to our questions via email, works for REV and has also run as a candidate in elections.

The key findings from our interview are:

  • REV considers its main victories so far to be shifting the political discourse and moving "antispeciesism" and "radical ecology" from eccentric topics to terms regularly used by other politicians and the media.

  • REV has made progress in the abolition of bullfighting and intends to complete this campaign to abolish bullfighting in France.

  • REV's main strategy involves disseminating information, argumentation, and public education, which they see as the only way to convince politicians and citizens to listen. REV also unites with political partners, such as the left-wing party La France Insoumise (also part of NUPES) to make short-term progress. For example, the alliance with La France Insoumise is an important part of the campaign against bullfighting.

  • The main roadblocks facing REV is the lack of financial resources. Other roadblocks include the power of lobbies, certain government policies perceived as anti-democratic, and negative media coverage of the far-left (by political opponents).

8.4 Netherlands: Party for the Animals

For the Party for the Animals in the Netherlands, we have derived a list of main policy achievements from the party's website (30). We have not checked how these policies have been implemented/enforced or whether any of these would have happened even without the party's involvement. This list is a subset from the larger list on the party's website - we simply chose the achievements that seem to us like fairly high-impact.

  • More frequent monitoring of animal welfare on farms (2006)

  • Ban on enriched cage (before farmers had invested in enriched cages) (2006)

  • Recording of scientific tests conducted on invertebrates (2006)

  • Inclusion of animal welfare in the criteria for Corporate Social Responsibility (2007)

  • Mandatory CCTV surveillance in livestock markets (2008)

  • National moratorium on "mega stalls" (2011)

  • Ban on killing eels in a salt bath without stunning (2011)

  • Ban on fur farming (2012)

  • Enforcement of the ban on beak trimming of chickens (2012)

  • Stricter regulations on animal testing (2013)

  • End of export of calves to Turkey (2013)

  • End of tail docking of piglets (2014)

  • Ban on neonicotinoid pesticides (2014)

  • Ban on electric shocks to tethered cows (2014)

  • Ban on killing geese for carnival games (2014)

  • Inclusion of animal welfare as a responsibility for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (2014)

  • Ban on slaughtering chickens using live hanging lines (2014)

  • Installation of CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses (2017)

  • Mandatory grazing for cows (2017)

  • Council-provided catering must be vegetarian by default in Amsterdam (and later in Zutphen and Eindhoven) (2019)

  • Ban on mink breeding for fur (2020)

  • Decrease in pace of slaughter in slaughterhouses (2020)

  • Ban on mutilations of farmed animals and a requirement for animals to be able to express natural behaviour (2021)

  • Requirement for chickens to have permanent access to water (2021)

  • Stricter control and enforcement at reptile fairs and markets (2021)

  • Ban on hunting hares and rabbits for pleasure (2021)

  • Ban on branding of cows (2022)

  • Requirement for the minister to oppose the live transport of animals to non-EU countries (2023)

  • Ban on hunting for any reason in Groningen (2023)

Also, Otjes (3) calculated that the party's entry into parliament roughly doubled the amount of attention given to animal welfare and animal agricultural issues in motions and parliamentary speeches by other parties (this excludes the considerable attention given to these issues by the party's own prolific MPs). This is a meaningful result that may contribute to pro-animal policies gaining greater support in the longer term. The importance of salience inside the legislature is supported by the above three interviews from Australia, Belgium and France, and we emphasise that this is an important source of impact in our cost-effectiveness analysis below.

8.5 Portugal: People-Animals-Nature (PAN)

For the party PAN (People-Animals-Nature) in Portugal, the main policy achievements are provided in the dissertation by Sandler (31). Sandler lists the party's achievements starting from winning their first seat in the unicameral Assembly of the Republic up until mid-2021. Here, we list all of the achievements listed by Sandler. We order these achievements according to our rough expectation about their impact, from most impactful to least impactful:

  • Allocation of nine million Euros to kennels and animal protection organisations, added to the 2020 state budget (two million Euros) and the 2021 state budget (seven million Euros)

  • Requirement for all public canteens to have at least one vegan option, specifically covering "public schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, municipal buildings, and places of social services of public administration", passed in Parliament on 3 March 2017

  • Ban on kill-shelters in Portugal, effective from September 2018

  • Change in income tax law to allow people to claim pet medication as a deduction on their personal income tax, added to the 2020 state budget

  • Establishment of a national strategy for stray animals, added to the 2020 state budget

  • Change in the Civil Code to assign animals a "third legal" status, between legal things and legal persons, effective from 1 May 2017

  • Ban on the practice of shooting birds as targets in captivity, passed in March 2021

  • Ban on circuses using wild animals in Portugal, approved in October 2018 with a six-year transition period

  • Higher fees for tickets to bullfighting shows, added to the 2020 state budget

  • Ban on circuses using animals in the city of Funchal, passed at the end of 2014

  • Stronger punishments for crimes against companion animals, approved in July 2020

  • Law allowing companion animals to enter commercial establishments (subject to the permission of the business owner), effective from July 2018

This list excludes any policy achievements from mid-2021 to today. PAN also has a number of representatives at lower levels of government (e.g., municipal councils), so there may be small but meaningful policies that are missing from the above list.

9. Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

9.1 Costs: Parties often pay for themselves

For launching or supporting a minor political party, the most important financial support will be the first grant. Ongoing support from foundations is rarely necessary.

Firstly, political parties have multiple sources of income (Table 6). The party would typically begin to receive income from these sources after running in the first election - the most important gap is therefore the money and other resources required to support the party during the first election. After that election, the party will have an easier time paying for itself. These sources of income include:

  • Government funding for election campaigns. It is common for democratic countries to fund or reimburse political parties for election campaigns, though in some countries, receiving this funding is conditional on receiving a certain number of votes. All of our high-priority countries except for Switzerland provide government funding for election campaigns, though this typically requires surpassing 1% or 1.5% of the vote.

  • Government funding for party expenses. When parties win seats, it is common for the government to fund both the salary of the parliamentarians and any expenses (e.g. staff salaries, travel expenses). All of our high-priority countries provide government funding for party expenses.

  • Membership fees. The importance of membership fees depends on the party and the country. Most developed countries have witnessed a decline in party membership over time, and some countries have strict laws around private funding of political parties (e.g. Israel). On the other hand, Australia's Animal Justice Party has a disproportionately high number of members compared to its vote, perhaps suggesting that animal parties can attract a core of committed, paying members.

Table 6 shows whether these sources of income exist in each of our high-priority countries. The table does not include membership fees, as the importance of membership fees varies strongly from party to party.

Secondly, minor political parties are often run by volunteers - paid staff are usually limited to elected parliamentarians and their small teams, plus perhaps one or two executive or administrative staff hired by the party.

However, contesting an election and running a campaign costs money. Some important costs are:

  • Salary for campaign staff if they need to take time away from paid work.

  • Campaign expenses, such as travel costs and advertising fees.

  • The fee or deposit required by the government to contest an election (Table 6). Among our high-priority countries, the only countries where electoral deposits are required are Japan and Sri Lanka, with the latter being very cheap (32). It is unclear if there are election deposits required to contest elections in Brazil and Chile, though we have searched and found no suggestion of election deposits in these two countries.

Due to Japan's prohibitively high deposit, and our projection that a party in Japan would win only ~1 seat, we do not consider Japan further. Japan has an extremely high deposit of 6 million yen (roughly $40,000 USD), which must be paid in order to compete for a seat in Japan's proportionally-represented House of Councillors (national upper house) (33). The deposit in Japan is returned to the party if the party wins a seat; otherwise, the deposit is lost (34). Japan's high deposit is an anomaly among developed countries, which typically either do not require a deposit or require a deposit of only a few hundred dollars (34).

For our analysis of the cost-effectiveness of minor political parties, we assume that the main costs would be the first two items on that list, i.e.:

  • Salary. The salaries required would be for a small campaign and administrative team (e.g. two people) to work full time for the couple of months immediately before the election. This would vary by country depending on living expenses. For example, in Israel, roughly $18,000 USD would be sufficient for two people working full-time for two months (as Israel has a GDP per capita of around $55,000 USD).

  • Campaign expenses. Again, different countries would require different amounts of money for travel, advertising, an online presence, and so on. Conservatively, we think that around $15,000 USD would be plenty, and many parties would be able to get away with much less.

This means that an initial grant somewhere in the ballpark of $30,000 USD would probably be sufficient for one election. If a party contests multiple elections (e.g. national and regional), additional money may be required. The costs of subsequent elections would probably be lower than this initial grant, as a) the parties would have some income from having run in elections already, and b) the party would already have a website, some advertising resources, and so on. For reference, Australia's Animal Justice Party spent around $75,000 USD in the 2022 South Australian state election (2), though that campaign involved deposits for 12 candidates (an expense that would not be required in our priority countries) and an ambitious and expensive advertising plan (an expense that we think is unnecessary, as argued in this report in section 3.2).

Table 6: Election funding system in the high-priority countries.

Source: IDEA (32)

9.2 Impact: Our rough back-of-the-envelope calculation

Here, we conduct some simple, back-of-the-envelope calculations to illustrate what the impact of winning a seat might look like. We will model the impact as follows: we assume that a new animal party is launched, and that party contests one election and has a ~70% probability of winning one seat in a legislature. We assume that party holds the seat for one legislative term (say, four years) and then never holds a seat ever again.

We think that this is a reasonable, conservative assumption for modelling purposes, as it lets us examine the effects of winning a single seat in a legislature - an achievable and meaningful outcome. However, we emphasise this assumption is highly conservative: in practice, an animal party that wins a seat will usually hold the seat at future elections. The vote is unlikely to decline, so a party that is elected once will probably be elected again. If anything, holding a seat makes it more likely to win additional seats in future elections, as has been shown in academic research (20) and has happened for the animal party in the Netherlands. Each of those subsequent legislative terms would generate additional impact. Some countries have multiple legislatures, and subsequent elections in different legislatures would be both cheaper (as the party would have an income and some existing online presence) and more successful (as the party's public profile would benefit from having a seat in one legislature already).

One challenge with modelling the impact of a seat in a legislature is that the benefits for animals hinges on which policies the legislator pursues. A legislator's choice of policy is sometimes constrained by the political agenda and policy windows. Animal parties have pursued policies that are both high-impact and low-impact (the latter often, though not always, for strategic reasons).

Therefore, we model the impact as the sum of three types of policy. For each type of policy, we assume that the policy would be comparable to a particular type of welfare improvement.

  1. Big policy wins. Whether a party can achieve big policy wins depends on the context, makeup of the legislature, political agenda, and so on. These are somewhat rare. We assume that a big policy win would have an impact similar to a one-off welfare improvement for one group of farmed animals in a medium-sized country (e.g. banning mutilations for pigs; banning a particular slaughter method for fish; reducing stocking densities for chickens).

  2. Small policy wins. Parties will usually, but not always, be able to achieve smaller policy wins. These are more common, but affect smaller populations of animals. We assume that a small policy win would have an impact similar to banning the hunting of one group of wild animals in a medium-sized country (e.g. capturing and killing pigeons; hunting pheasants).

  3. Extra funding in the government budget. A couple of animal parties have been able to secure funding for local animal welfare organisations during the negotiations that set the government budget (e.g. ~$10 million USD in Portugal; ~$3.5 million USD in Australia). While these are large sums of money, they are typically limited to local organisations focused on companion animals.

There are at least three additional sources of impact that are real and important but that we do not include in the model:

  1. Salience. Holding a seat in a legislature causes a significant increase in the salience of animal issues both in the legislature and in the media. This means that both policymakers and the general public pay greater attention to animal issues. As Victoria Austraet in Belgium emphasised during our interview, we expect that greater salience would cause more pro-animal policies to be passed over time, but this effect is long-term and notoriously difficult to measure. For salience in the legislature, Otjes et al (3) calculated that the entry of the Party for the Animals into the Netherlands legislature caused the amount of discussion on animal issues to roughly triple. For salience in the media, the Australian Animal Justice Party legislator Emma Hurst confirmed in our interview that, since being elected to parliament, it is much easier to get media attention for her campaigns.

  2. Long-term policies. Parties often succeed in passing policies that make institutional or political conditions more favourable to future animal advocacy, but it is difficult to measure the impact of these policies in the short-term. Two examples are: 1) Emma Hurst secured from the New South Wales government the creation of an Animal Welfare Committee, with herself as the Chair; and 2) Victoria Austraet in Belgium passed a resolution that pressures the minister to, in turn, pressure EU policymakers to ban long-distance transport of farmed animals.

  3. Capitalising on the non-legislative benefits of being a legislator. This can include joining parliamentary committees, using allocated budgets to conduct campaigns outside of parliament, and so on.

So, for this report, we model the impact of a seat in parliament as the sum of big policy wins, small policy wins, and extra funding in the government budget. We emphasise that the true impact would include factors that we cannot model. We also make no attempt to consider counterfactual effects, knock-on impacts, and so on, as these are very complex to understand even for simple policies - however, we emphasise that these may be either immense or small and either good or bad.

True impact = (modelled impact) +

(non-modelled impact) + (knock-on and counterfactual effects)

Modelled impact = (big policy wins) + (small policy wins) + (extra funding in the government budget)

The assumptions and results of our model are listed below in Table 7. For the full rationale behind each assumption, please request access to our Guesstimate model.

The key results of our model are:

  1. Big policy wins: In our model and under our assumptions, we predict that this component of impact is expected to help roughly 1.7 billion animals (8.1 million to 9.1 billion). From a funder's perspective, this represents 57,000 animals helped per dollar (270 to 300,000). Of course, this estimate should not be taken literally - compared to more rigorous cost-effectiveness analyses for animal advocacy campaigns, this result is quite silly. The useful piece of information expressed by this result is that sometimes, when conditions are favourable, a legislator will be able to pass highly impactful policies that benefit farmed animals across the jurisdiction.

  2. Small policy wins: In our model and under our assumptions, we predict that this component of impact is expected to help roughly 6,700 animals (1,000 to 24,000). From a funder's perspective, this represents an additional 0.22 animals helped per dollar (0.033 to 0.79). The useful piece of information here is that legislators will usually be able to help thousands or tens of thousands of companion or wild animals.

  3. Extra funding in the government budget: In our model and under our assumptions, we predict that this component of impact is expected to help roughly 5,100 animals (2,500 to 9,300). From a funder's perspective, this represents an additional 0.17 animals helped per dollar (0.085 to 0.31). Again, the useful piece of information here is that legislators will usually be able to help thousands or tens of thousands of companion or wild animals.

With these tentative results in mind, our belief about the impact of helping animal parties contest seats in legislators is:

  • Sometimes, the animal party will strike it big, and will be able to pass meaningful farmed animal welfare reforms. This represents a small chance of helping millions or billions of animals.

  • In most cases, the animal party will be able to pass modest policies or obtain funding to improve the lives of companion animals and/or wild animals. This represents a large chance of helping thousands of animals. Our model predicts that this might correspond to roughly 6,700 + 5,100 = ~12,000 animals, or 0.22 + 0.17 = 0.39 animals per dollar.

  • In most cases, the animal party will also deliver longer-term benefits, such as improving institutional conditions for future advocacy and increasing the salience of animal welfare among the policymakers and the public. The animal party will also obtain benefits that can help animal advocacy campaigns outside of the legislature, such as travel budgets and public stature. It is difficult to model these benefits, but we believe that they are large and meaningful.

Therefore, it might be wise to view animal parties as a hits-based approach to animal advocacy, with the caveat that parties would constantly be able to obtain modest policy wins plus meaningful longer-term benefits.

Table 7. Summary of our cost-effectiveness analysis

All dollar values are in USD.

Brackets give the range of estimates in the full Guesstimate model.

10. Academic Literature

10.1 What do studies tell us about animal parties?

Turning towards the academic literature, there have been a handful of enlightening papers published in the last decade. Most of these focus on the level of success of animal parties in the Netherlands and the European Union.

  • Otjes and Krouwel (13) ask whether animal parties attract different voters than green parties. The authors examine the voter niches to which each type of party appeals, using the cases of the Netherlands and Germany. They find that green parties appeal to voters "from the traditional Green niche: those with egalitarian, cosmopolitan, environmentalist, and libertarian values." In contrast, animal parties appeal to a different type of green voter, those who have "significantly less cosmopolitan and evinc[e] lower levels of political trust" and those who "take more extreme positions on animal issues".

  • Otjes (3) traces the history of the animal party in the Netherlands, Partij voor de Dieren. The author argues that the party's creation seems to have caused a marked increase in the political salience of animal welfare and agricultural issues, even among other parties.

  • Otten and Gremmen (35) also examine Partij voor de Dieren in the Netherlands, with a particular interest comparing how the party addresses issues relating to domestic animals to that of wild animals.

  • Morini (15) examines animal parties in the European Union's Member States. The author summarises the policy platforms of these parties and argues that animal parties constitute a new party family. The author points out that the seven parties under study can be classified into three categories: single-issue parties; parties which also include green issues; and parties with broader, left-wing policies.

  • Abbey (22) conducts interviews with members of Australia's Animal Justice Party. The study focuses on questions of gender in politics, showing that feminist ethics of care are highly relevant to members' support of the party. The author also explores the role of women and men in animal parties.

  • In a subsequent paper, Abbey (36) analyses the views of members of Australia's Animal Justice Party on veganism. Abbey points out that "a political party that appealed only or even primarily to vegan voters could not garner a very large proportion of the overall vote. Although Australia’s vegan population is growing, it is only around 2%." While almost all of Abbey's interviewees identified as vegan, "these party members exhibited a welcoming approach to nonvegan party members. This could, of course, be a pragmatic viewpoint from those who want the party to increase its electoral gains and thereby its influence on Australian politics and policy-making. However, what came through their answers was less a calculation about maximising votes and more akin to compassion and support for individuals who were learning more about animal suffering through their participation in the party and who would, hopefully, come to reduce or resist animal consumption."

  • Lucardie (37) analyses the ideology of animal parties by examining parties' programmes from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Portugal, and Spain. The author concludes that the parties are moving past single-issue politics and "developing a new ideology based on the core concept of compassion and adjacent concepts of equality, intrinsic value and interdependence."

  • The dissertation by Sandler (31) describes, from the perspective of critical theory, the evolution of minor animal parties. They provide an overview of the academic research on minor parties, emphasising that these parties often emerge from social movements, focus on neglected issues, and are not easily located along the class-dominated left/right axis. They also provide a detailed analysis of Portugal's animal party (PAN) with emphasis on its evolution, platform, and many policy successes. These policy successes include successfully passed bills and securing millions of Euros for animal welfare in state budgets.

  • Backlund and Jungar (14) ask why the radical right cares so much about animals. The authors focus on a radical right party in Sweden and find that the party strongly supports animal advocacy for three main reasons: nativism (arguing that Swedes care more about animal welfare than non-Swedes), authoritarianism (stronger laws for animal cruelty), and populism (reforming laws to better reflect the will of the people). Radical right parties pursue a paternalistic agenda towards animals, which differs from the true animal parties (as we have defined them here) that pursue egalitarian and rights-based principles.

  • Oh (38) examines Partij voor de Dieren in the Netherlands. The author argues that the reason for the party's growth is that the party succeeded in mobilising antipathy against established politics via the issue of animal rights. The author also points out that the party is also presenting broader social and environmental policies, which risks the party's ability to maintain its identity.

10.2 How do minor parties influence policy?

There is a rich body of academic knowledge on the electoral successes and policy impacts of minor parties. Here, we summarise just ten of these many publications, focusing on the findings that can assist us the most in understanding the potential impact that animal parties may have.

  • Meguid (39), in a seminal publication that draws on data from elections in Western Europe, argues that "party tactics work by altering the salience and ownership of issues for political competition, not just party issue positions." That is, both minor and mainstream parties compete for which issues are on the political agenda in the first place. Voters support the "most credible proponent of an issue" that those voters care about. The author also argues that minor parties, even without any electoral success, can succeed in influencing policy by forcing mainstream policies to give attention to the minor party's issue: "By adopting either an accommodative or an adversarial strategy, the mainstream party is prioritising the niche party’s issue dimension and including it within the mainstream political debate. [...] The 'success' of the niche party’s issue is distinct from niche party electoral success."

  • Cowell-Meyeres (40) begins by summarising the literature on how minor parties can influence mainstream parties to adopt the minor parties' policy issues. The author then demonstrates this with a case study of women's parties: "Merely the emergence of women’s parties can draw attention to women’s issues but where women’s parties win seats, or appear poised to win even a small number of seats, they can trigger a process of contagion. [...] Thus, women’s parties may be useful tools for women’s movements because they provide a means to expand the opportunities for the movements to pressure larger political parties." The author also points out that social movements that establish political parties can "gain institutional resources accorded to such parties and, thus, expand their repertoires of contention."

  • Lindstam (26,27) addresses the long-standing observation that minor parties often receive better votes at subnational (e.g. local) and supranational (e.g. European) elections, rather than national elections. Using data from the UK and Germany, the author finds that voters are more likely to switch from mainstream parties to minor parties when those voters "perceive a mismatch between the party they feel close to and the party perceived as best able to handle an issue of importance to them, as well as when they believe less is at stake and when they place much importance on an overlooked issue." In other words, precisely because voters care less about subnational and supranational elections, voters use those opportunities to signal the importance of particular issues to mainstream parties by voting for minor parties focused on those issues. We find this quite interesting because agricultural policy in many countries is set at the subnational level (e.g. regional/state parliaments) or influenced by supranational policy (e.g. EU regulations).

  • Donovan (41), using data from elections in the Australian Senate (the proportionally-represented upper house), argues that minor parties take advantage of institutional conditions that favour them (e.g. when the quota necessary for winning seats is low) or when there is discontent with mainstream parties (e.g. economic downturn).

  • Gauja (42) provides an instructive case study of one successful minor party: the Australian Democrats, which was represented in Australia's national legislature from 1977 to 2008. The Democrats either held or shared the balance of power in Australia's Senate from 1981 to 2005, giving this party a powerful influence over legislation when bargaining with mainstream parties. Though the Democrats have since faced a decline, their legacy is concretely relevant to this day in Australian voters' expectations that "there is an option beyond the major parties" and that the Senate is an important forum for keeping the government accountable. We also note that the Democrats were led by a former minister from a mainstream party, which is consistent with broader observations about the importance of credibility and name recognition in electoral politics (24).

  • Basile (43) analyses the impact of a minor party on mainstream party strategies, using data from Italy. The results contrast with previous research (including some papers listed above): the author finds that "niche party influence on mainstream party strategies is limited, at least when compared with the influence of other systemic variables". The author finds, contrary to previous understanding, that minor parties can be launched with a focus even on issues that are already present in political debate. The author also highlights that minor parties can exercise influence through rhetoric; one Italian party "introduced a new language into political debate [...] which has required rival parties to react by reframing and redefining these issues differently from the past."

  • Dinas et al (20), using data from all democracies after the Second World War, show that when small parties enter a legislature, they can expect to experience a subsequent increase in their vote. This is because entering a legislature "signals organisational capacity and candidates’ appeal, and reduces uncertainty about parties’ ideological profile".

  • Farrer (44) further explores minor party performance in the context of national, supranational, and subnational elections. The author finds that results in subnational (e.g. regional/provincial) legislatures are correlated with subsequent national election results, suggesting that minor parties can build their support locally first before seeking representation in national legislatures. In contrast, the author finds that minor party performance in the European Parliament does not predict party performance in subsequent national elections.

  • Abou-Chadi (45) provides further nuance on how mainstream parties respond to the emergence of minor parties. Using data from elections in 16 Western European countries from 1980 to 2011 and focusing on green and radical right parties, the author finds the the strategic responses of mainstream parties "vary with ideological position and the past electoral performance of the established parties." In other words, a successful minor party will have different effects than an unsuccessful minor party, and right-wing mainstream parties will respond differently than left-wing mainstream parties. Minor parties are not always successful in placing their issue on the political agenda, as "mainstream parties react strategically and assess the possible effect that politicisation of a certain issue will have on their future electoral performance." The two major theories that have been explored in the literature - issue competition and spatial/left-right dynamics - are both important in explaining when and how mainstream parties respond to the emergence of minor parties.

  • Blings (46) looks at how the success of a minor party can be bolstered by the social movement from which that minor party originally emerged. The author argues "that movement roots can help niche parties achieve both vote- and policy-seeking goals by keeping core issues salient, bolstering issue ownership and securing allies in civil society."

  • There is also the question of how minor parties compare to interest groups (which can include charities and non-profit organisations). This question has been studied in the sophisticated and nuanced work by Farrer (47). Asking the question of when to form an interest group versus a political party, Farrer proposes a theoretical model and tests it using empirical data from the environmental movement. Farrer's model begins with the assumption that advocates are policy-motivated and are simply searching for the best way to pursue their policies. In contrast, mainstream politicians are motivated to win and keep office. Thus, under Farrer's model, advocates choose the strategy that sends the strongest electoral threat to politicians. This threat can be sent by forming a party or by forming an interest group (or by some other strategy, such as direct action) - these are substitutable strategies. The best option depends on institutional conditions, as institutions govern both how costly it is for advocates to pick a particular strategy and how costly it is for mainstream politicians to respond to that strategy. Farrer makes two points that are particularly illuminating. Firstly, the formation of interest groups and the formation of political parties are substitutable strategies. In other words, these are both potential pathways to the goal of policy influence. Secondly, the best strategy depends on the context, including the type of political system. Specifically, new parties tend to have an easier time in obtaining policy concessions where decentralisation is high (i.e., where political power is devolved to smaller units like regions) and corporatism is low (i.e., where governments more readily listen to smaller interests). Elections that use proportional representation make it easier for new parties to enter, but proportional representation also make it a bit more challenging for new parties to obtain concessions from major parties (as the major parties find it more costly to grant concessions).

10.3 What is the relationship between elections, veg*n voters, and animal welfare?

We searched for studies on the ability of social groups in general to act as voting blocs, but we could not find any studies that were sufficiently high-quality and generalisable. Instead, we found a studies posing a few related questions relating to how veg*ns engage with elections and how animal welfare is treated as a topic during elections.

A few studies have asked whether and how veg*ns engage with politics:

  • Nezlek and Forstell (48) examine the relationship between vegetarianism and voting behaviour. This study uses a convenience sample of American undergraduate students, so the results are probably not representative of trends across the American voter population. Veg*ns, compared to omnivores, identified as more progressive, identified more closely with the Democratic party, and reported lower approval of Donald Trump's performance. Only 1.3% of veg*n respondents, compared to 19% of omnivore respondents, reported voting for Trump in the 2016 US presidential election.

  • Kalte (49), using a survey of 648 vegans in Switzerland. (For context, about 1.4% of people in Switzerland identify as vegan.) The author finds that "vegans are highly engaged in a broad variety of political activities". 91% of vegan respondents had participated in a vote in the past 12 months, 83% had signed a referendum, and 80% had signed a petition. The authors argue that these numbers are higher than for the Swiss electorate as a whole, citing previous studies. Interestingly, 71% of the study's vegan respondents reported avoiding animal suffering (as opposed to environmental protection, reducing world hunger, etc) as the most important reason to be vegan.

  • Martinelli and Berkmanienė (12) conduct a qualitative Facebook survey and find that "vegans are likely to see veganism as a political issue, and in general their interest towards politics is pretty high".

Two studies find that (mainstream) political parties tend to play a small role in animal welfare policy in the US and Norway:

  • Vogeler (50) analyses animal welfare in politics in the US. They find that (mainstream) political parties seem to play a limited role, while public ballot initiatives and relationships between stakeholders were more important in advancing animal welfare policy.

  • Hårstad and Vik (51) conduct a similar study in Norway, and this study also finds that (mainstream) political parties play a minimal role in animal welfare policy.

In contrast, two studies showed that manifesto commitments for animal welfare policy have increased over time in the UK, the Netherlands, and Belgium:

  • Chaney et al (52) analyse manifestos of political parties in the UK between 1998 and 2017. The authors show that the devolution of the UK has led to a higher salience of animal welfare policy in country-level (i.e. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) elections. However, it was less common for manifestos to mention farmed animals than wild animals or animal-related criminal justice measures. The authors also discuss the dynamics of party competition on topics of animal welfare.

  • Hus and McCulloch (53) examine party manifestos in the Netherlands and Belgium between 2010 and 2021. The authors show that, over time, animal protection has become more salient in manifestos and has been discussed in more positive terms. The focus (e.g. unnecessary suffering vs. intensive agriculture vs. wildlife) varied across countries and regions. Left-wing parties were more likely to have animal-friendly policies, while right-wing parties prioritised economic prosperity.

11. An Alternative Strategy: Voting Blocs

Beyond forming minor political parties, we considered one additional strategy: voting blocs. Many interest groups have successfully organised as voting blocs in order to get their special interests prioritised by politicians. Essentially, this approach involves forming a group of voters who are willing to vote for a particular party (e.g. in a two-party system, voting for one major party rather than other). This places pressure on politicians to adopt policies amenable to the voter bloc and makes it more likely for politicians with such policies to be elected. Note that "voting blocs", the strategy we describe in this section, is not to be confused with "block voting", which is an electoral system.

The strength of this approach is that elections may be decided on very narrow margins. This is especially true if the voting block would otherwise vote for the largest opposition party if the demands are not met. When this happens, a voting bloc with (say) 2% of the electorate effectively makes a difference of 4% swing in the outcome of the election.

Across many countries, farmers are a very common voting bloc. Even in wealthier countries where farmers often represent only a small proportion of the total population, they are often successful in achieving concessions from politicians (54). In addition to the power of their votes, farmers have often been highly successful in lobbying efforts. Farmers often receive a large amount of subsidies, sometimes amounting to a significant proportion of the total income. One strength of farmers as a voting bloc may be their ability to get the public on their side. Farmers are typically perceived as trustworthy and virtuous. People also tend to find food to be emotionally significant and this may be turned into a kind of nationalistic drive to protect local agriculture producers (55). Additionally, governments may have an interest in having strong domestic production of agriculture to increase their food security in cases of disaster or trade disruptions. Animal advocates may have a hard time replicating this level of societal sympathy.

Could voting blocs work for animal advocacy? Here, we imagine voting blocs mostly in plurality elections - a group of voters could coordinate to act as kingmaker between the two major parties in a two-party system, thereby demanding pro-animal policy concessions from both parties. While not yet a very large proportion of society, vegans, vegetarians, and other animal advocates may represent a large enough portion of society to influence elections if they voted consistently along animal welfare lines. In addition to voting behaviour, the animal advocacy voting bloc could also be influenced to perform other political actions that could further amplify their political voice, such as contacting local politicians or protests.

Unfortunately, we do not think this approach is well-suited to animal advocacy. We prefer forming and supporting minor animal parties (as analysed in this approach) or working directly with mainstream parties (which we will analyse in an upcoming report).

The most important consideration is how much of the veg*n and animal advocacy community can be politically mobilised in this way. How many veg*ns and/or animal advocates are there to begin with? The votes received by minor parties are typically in the ballpark of 0 - 4%, which gives some indication. This is similar to the approximate range in which surveys estimate the prevalence of veganism in the population in many Western countries. Therefore, we suspect that this 0 - 4% is close to the upper ceiling of the size of a voting bloc. A voting bloc of even 2% could plausibly act as kingmaker in many closely contested elections.

However, we are sceptical that this many people would be happy to participate in a voting bloc. For a veg*n or animal advocate to participate in a voting bloc, that voter must satisfy all three of these criteria at once:

  • The voter must be aware of the voting bloc.

    • This requires a level of political engagement and community participation that is rare. Even animal parties with large advertising budgets and a place on the ballot often have trouble building awareness among voters who are otherwise supportive.

  • Animal advocacy must be more important to the voter than any other political issue.

    • However, veg*ns and animal advocates usually care about many issues. Abbate (56) points out that "there are several different motivations for becoming vegan that are compatible with speciesist attitudes, such as concern for one’s personal health and concern for the environment [...] Indeed, many people choose veganism or reduce their consumption of animal products even though they embrace speciesist ideologies." This would indicate that it might not be common for veg*ns to be concerned for animal welfare, let alone willing to take political action on behalf of animals. As the author argues, "only a small fraction of vegans participates in animal rights activism." Even where a voter is explicitly anti-speciesist, they may also be passionate about other causes like environmentalism and so may not be a single-issue voter.

  • The voter must be happy to vote strategically, even for a party that they may otherwise dislike and even at the expense of voting for a party that is visibly aligned with animal advocacy (e.g. an animal party or a green party).

    • Wright (57) argues that veganism, as an ideology, "does not constitute a unified social movement". In the author's words, "vegans tend not to constitute a unified group in possession of a cohesive ideological mandate; they tend not to be joiners."

    • Furthermore, we have observed strong backlash from within the membership of centre-left minor animal parties when those parties reach public agreements with centre-right mainstream parties. This suggests that many voters who are supportive of animal advocacy are not willing to vote for a party that supports a different ideology to the voter.

The number of people who vote for animal parties may overestimate the potential level of support for voter blocs. Voting for a party with the "animal" label strikes us as psychologically easier than voting for a mainstream party because of a calculated strategy by the leader of a voter bloc. Furthermore, animal parties receive meaningful levels of support even from people whose position on animal protection is lukewarm. For example, animal parties capture many votes from:

  • People who are disinterested in the election and vote for parties whose names sound nice, funny or interesting. In Australia as an example, people with low levels of political engagement might vote for the Australian Sex Party, Legalise Cannabis Australia, or the Family First Party simply on the basis of their names without paying any attention to the ideological position or broader policy platforms of those parties. We suspect that this is also true for animal parties, as many people simply like animals.

  • People who vote for minor parties as a way to express their dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties (protest vote). In Australia, which has preferential voting, there is a surprisingly high number of voters who give their first preference to the Animal Justice Party and their second preference to the minor party Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. It would be difficult to explain this behaviour as motivated by genuine and simultaneous support for both of these parties.

  • People who are indeed loyal to a mainstream party during national elections but vote for an animal party in sub- and supranational elections as a low-risk way of expressing their support for animal welfare policies (26,27).

  • People in districts where the animal party is, purely by chance, listed first on the ballot. In Australia, where voting is compulsory, the Animal Justice Party tends to receive more votes when it is listed first on the ballot.

The rates of veg*nism estimated by surveys may also be an overestimate. Many of these studies simply ask people to report whether or not they are vegetarian or vegan, and many people do not understand what these terms mean. Surveys that instead ask more specific questions such as whether or not the person has eaten the meat of an animal in the last week.

Considering all of these factors, we are sceptical that a voting bloc focused on animal advocacy could attract sufficient support to be influential during elections.


1. For our purposes, we are most concerned with Australia's six states and two main internal territories. There are also a number of external territories and one additional internal territory, none of which have separate legislatures like the six states and two main internal territories.

2. In New South Wales, the lower house is the Legislative Assembly. This house has a two-party system and is where the government is formed.

3. The Legislative Council is elected using preferential voting, in which a voter casts their vote by ranking the available candidates.


We are grateful to Victoria Austraet, Emma Hurst, and Victor Pailhac and their teams for participating in interviews. We are also grateful for the assistance provided by Louise Pfeiffer.


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